On May 2nd, Shout! Factory announced the Region A (North America / Canada) release of The Six Million Dollar Man: The Complete Series on Blu-ray, dubbing it the Collector's Edition. And while the prospect of "Six Mill" coming to HD is certainly great news, it's not altogether unexpected. In fact, we've been expecting it for quite some time.
Elephant Films has been promising it since at least 2017. But perhaps as far back as the Spring of 2018 we saw real evidence: the HBO Andre the Giant documentary used pristine-looking HD clips from the Six Mill episode, "The Secret of Bigfoot." And then, of course, Germany's Turbine released it in November of that year. So, a domestic release was inevitable.
But the real question was always the distributor; would Universal do it themselves—or license out as with Turbine? And that's the real thrilling news! Shout! Factory has a well-earned reputation for releasing (and re-releasing) films and television shows, often with new, exclusive bonus features and fun, fan-friendly extras. What does this mean for The Six Million Dollar Man?
Well, they've already stated that they're using masters provided by Universal. And we know that Turbine also got their masters from Universal. Simply put: if they're the same masters, we're in for a truly spectacular visual experience. Here's what fellow Bionic fan Joe Burns had to say about the visual quality of the Turbine release back in 2018:
UPDATE: Shout! Factory adds this information to their pre-order page: "The 3 pilot films and all 99 episodes were transferred in 2015 from new interpositive film elements struck in 2011 from the original negatives."
(Wow! No wonder the German episodes look so damned good! Shame the interpositives were struck in 2011 — a year AFTER Time-Life received their masters from Universal. Imagine how much better the DVDs would have looked had they been been transferred from interpositive sources! Sigh.)
You can read Joe's full review here. You can also find him on the bonus features of the coveted 2010 Time-Life DVD Collection. And he was part of our small group of Bionic fans who offered guidance to Time-Life in developing what would become the most fan-friendly Six Mill collection of its time — led by fellow Bionic die-hard Matt Hankinson, who served as Time-Life's Chief Creative Consultant.
One of the fantastic things about Shout! Factory is that, in addition to their own, exclusive bonus features, they typically carry over all bonus material from previous releases. And the bonus content on the Time-Life release was superlative — we made sure of it. From cast and crew sit-down interviews to episode commentaries and deep-dives into the Bionic toys, season overviews, guest-star celebrations, and tons more.
Stay tuned 👀— Shout! Factory (@ShoutFactory) May 2, 2022
05/30/22 UPDATE: Shout! Factory has released package art for their Bionic Woman Blu-ray Collector's Edition at $127.98. I'll have more to say as they release their details coming soon. But for now, read on, as much of my post concerns Bionic Woman . . .
But where do we stand on The Six Million Dollar Man? Well, I think we're in for an amazing release. Thanks to gorgeous Universal source material, combined with Shout! Factory's commitment to excellence — and to the fans! And that's a real comfort since this is most-likely the last run for Steve Austin on physical media. Jaime Sommers, too.
Which brings us to the stuff that STILL needs to be addressed — mostly Bionic Woman-related (see now why I had to establish that she's coming soon?). It's a list of needs and wants. But if we only get the Needs, I'll consider it a win. And these Shout! Factory releases of The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman will truly be definitive:
12 years ago Matt Hankinson worked tirelessly with Time-Life to make sure they acquired from Universal only unedited, uncut, original broadcast versions of all movies and episodes. And while the syndicated 2-part versions of the pilot movies were added as bonus content, the 90-min originals were also secured—as were the 90-min original versions of "The Bionic Boy," "The Thunderbird Connection," and "The Lost Island." Shout! Factory must get these movie-length episodes.
The "Jaime" vs. "Jamie" spelling mix-up is notorious in Bionic fandom. The correct spelling is J-A-I-M-E, but sometimes the more common J-A-M-I-E pops up. The most infamous is was when it appeared in her own main title intro! But only for the first 3 episodes, then it was corrected. Hey, it was a brand new show that was rushed into production, so we can forgive it — even have fun with it.
It's one of many such idiosyncrasies about these two shows that we've grown to appreciate and even celebrate for almost 50 years. Even Bionic Woman creator, Kenneth Johnson is amused by it and talks about it in one of his audio commentaries. So you can imagine our shock when Universal released the Season One DVDs in 2010 and we saw that the name had been . . . "fixed." Yes! After 34 years, Universal changed "Jamie" to "Jaime."
But that's not all; the "fixed" main title was pasted over the intros for ALL season one episodes! Huh?-Why? To maintain the fix? By the 4th episode back in '76 the name was corrected to "Jaime" anyway! So they needn't have bothered. Also, as a result of this action, a prominently displayed onscreen text element that only appeared in the first two episodes ("Second Bionic Replacement Complete") now appears on every season one episode!
|The "FIX" Cut and Paste.|
Quite the cut-and-paste job. "Fixing" old errors and introducing new ones. And it didn't end with the 2010 DVDs. All subsequent domestic re-issues and foreign market DVDs would carry it. Worse still, it followed the show to all the streaming platforms in the 20-teens: including Amazon, Google, and Tubi — all of which offered season one in 1080p for a limited time — the first time the show had ever been offered in HD!
And it looked gorgeous! But seeing the "Jaime fix" and "Second Bionic Replacement Complete," on every first season episode — in HD! — well, it was heartbreaking. So, please, Shout! Factory, restore The Bionic Woman season one main titles to their original state. If only to make her creator, the Great Kenneth Johnson, not sound unwell when he mentions an infamous historical onscreen error — and it's not there.
If visual discrepancies aren't your thing, how about audio problems? The Bionic Woman DVDs introduced a bunch. The most egregious was on season two's "Deadly Ringer." The first 9 minutes were so muffled that Universal offered to replace the disc! The other issues were not deemed as important, including the season two premiere which was the second part of a Six Million Dollar Man crossover, "The Return of Bigfoot Part II."
From the moment it begins, the audio sounds as if you're hearing it through a winter blanket. It's there. And you can make everything out. But it's not crisp, it's not bright, and it doesn't sound real. It's especially sad because "The Return of Bigfoot Part II" boasts a fantastic score by Joe Harnell (The Incredible Hulk, V, Alien Nation) which culminates into a counterpoint of Steve and Jaime's themes.
If Shout! Factory can acquire this alternate audio track for the episode — and it's out there! — they will have delivered Christmas to Bionic fans everywhere.
|Me, playing with dolls on the Time-Life bonus feature, "Bionic Action . . .Figures!!!"|
UPDATE: Shout! Factory has announced the bonus material for this release and it looks like a bunch of extras didn't carry over from Time-Life. Here's a LINK to my full comparison.
The crossover episodes suffered in syndication. If your station aired Six Mill but not Bionic Woman, chances are you never saw Steve Austin battle two Fembots in the episode, "Kill Oscar Part II" nor, indeed, any of the Kill Oscar Trilogy. Why? Because it originated on Bionic Woman. So, even though Part 2 is a SMDM episode, it was packaged with BW for reruns. They gave it a BW main title and even swapped out the Lindsay Wagner guest-star credit for Lee Majors!
|Original vs. Syndication.|
It's the typeface of the supers (the onscreen credits at the start of the story after the main title) that betray the episode's true identity; they are still "Eurostile" — SMDM's typeface. (Ironically, the only super that isn't Eurostile is the one they had to change, Lee's!—see above) And even if you weren't a Bionic-eyed observer of fonts, the end titles served as almost a wink to the audience — because it wasn't changed at all! It's still the Six Million Dollar Man end title!
The reverse is true for the aforementioned, audio-hampered, "The Return of Bigfoot Part II" — a BW episode that was packaged with SMDM for reruns because the story started on Six Mill. (If your market carried Jaime's show but not Steve's, then you likely never saw her fight Sasquatch! Oh, the humanity!) It received the same main title swap and it again kept the original supers typeface — but his time, they didn't change the guest-star credit, so Lee gets credited twice! Poor Lindsay.
Back in 2010, part of our efforts to make sure Time-Life acquired original, uncut, unedited movies and episodes (read: no syndication) included being extra vocal about the Bionic Woman crossovers. And again, Time-Life came through, securing the original version of "The Return of Bigfoot Part II" (something that most of us hadn't seen since its first run, 34 years prior) and adding "Kill Oscar" Parts 1 and 3 as "bonus episodes." Audio issues notwithstanding, we were over the moon.
(Incidentally, in 2011, Universal followed suit by including the original version of "Kill Oscar Part II" and adding "The Return of Bigfoot" Part 1 as a "bonus episode.")
Shout! Factory must do the same for SMDM and BW. Please!
The one guy that we asked for but didn't get — and not for lack of Time-Life trying — was the other surviving "Rudy," the legendary, Alan Oppenheimer. Alan took over the role of Dr. Rudy Wells from Martin Balsam and played the character in the 2nd and 3rd pilot movies, Wine, Women and War and The Solid Gold Kidnapping respectively. And then in episodes, "Dr. Wells Is Missing," "The Pioneers," "The Pal-Mir Escort," "The Seven Million Dollar Man," "The Bionic Woman" Parts 1 and 2," and "The Bionic Criminal."
Criminal is unique because it's a third season episode and Oppenheimer had already been replaced by Martin E. Brooks in both shows! But so integral to the journey of Barney Miller/Hiller that he was asked to come back — at least that's what we like to believe. And we would have loved to put the question to him in an interview. But it was not to be. Alan ultimately deferred to Marty Brooks on any Bionic inquiries.
BUT that was before he started making the rounds on the convention circuit! He's become a popular booking thanks to renewed appreciation for his voice work in animation and many pop culture appearances. So he may now be up for it! We would love for Shout! Factory to reach out to him and request an interview. He's the last of the Six Million Dollar Man "originators" that hasn't graced a Bionic retrospective of any kind.
The other actor who has left an indelible mark on the world of Six Mill and Bionic Woman is Jennifer Darling as Oscar Goldman's capable and engaging personal secretary, Peggy Callahan — or just Callahan, thank-you-very-much. Petite in stature with a wide smile and raspy voice, Callahan often finds herself in the middle of the action — sometimes willingly — most times, not! And sometimes she's causing the action — as a Fembot!
Jennifer has guest-starred in 11 episodes of SMDM and BW, and has stolen the show in a lot of them. Most notable are the Fembot episodes of "Kill Oscar" and "Fembots in Las Vegas." But she shines in "The Winning Smile," "Brain Wash," "Which One Is Jaime," and her debut appearance in "Steve Austin, Fugitive." But it was hard to nail down an interview with Darling 12 years ago. Perhaps it would be easier today. Shout! Factory would complete the list of principals if they secured her.
UPDATE: The only new interview we're getting is with Bryan Cranston in a segment called, "Bryan Cranston Gives It To Us Straight – The Actor Talks About His Time On The Return Of The Six Million Dollar Man And The Bionic Woman." His "time" referring to his playing a doctor who treats Michael Austin in a scene lasting about a minute and half. Hey, I love Cranston! But really? This is the only new interview?
This is a NO-BRAINER! The three reunion movies in 1080p would be great!—and truly complete the transition to HD for ALL Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman adventures! At the very least, restore the stereo soundtrack for Bionic Showdown — which was inexplicably presented in mono on the Time-Life set. All reunions were originally broadcast in stereo.
We have some fantastic audio commentaries on the Time-Life and Universal sets. But with this new HD release(s) Shout! Factory has an Bionic opportunity to offer more!— something they're so good at, in my opinion. And I've got a list of folks from whom we'd love to hear!—and a corresponding list of episodes on which we'd love to hear them comment.
The Six Million Dollar Man (pilot)
The Secret of Bigfoot
One of Our Running Backs Is Missing
Day of the Robot
The Seven Million Dollar Man
The Bionic Woman
A Bionic Christmas Carol
The Bionic Woman (episode)
Doomsday Is TomorrowOn the RunWelcome Home, JaimeKill OscarBlack MagicSister Jaime
Steve Austin, Fugitive
The Winning Smile
Fembots in Las Vegas
Dr. Wells Is Missing
The Seven Million Dollar Man
Over the years, at various fan gatherings, Rita Egleston — stunt double for Lindsay Wagner — has shared with fans many stories from her time on The Bionic Woman. It would be wonderful to hear her accounts on episodes with heavy stunt work.
TOM SCHANLEY — Reunion #1
Back in 2014, actor Tom Schanley was our guest on the Cyborgs Podcast and he shared lots of fun stories from his time as Steve Austin's son, "Michael" in 1987's The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman (excerpt below). And I am 1000% certain he would entertain fans with an audio commentary. He's still a working actor — seen most recently in a chameleon performance from last year's critically acclaimed, Charming the Hearts of Men. Please hit him up at his official website: TomSchanley.com
The Secret of Bigfoot
VINCENT VAN PATTEN
The Bionic Boy
The Seven Million Dollar Man
The Return of the Bionic Woman
Doomsday and CountingDeath Probe
dir. ALAN J. LEVI
The Deadly Missiles
Road to Nashville
Angel of Mercy
I had the honor and privilege of participating in the bonus features for the Time-Life release back in 2010. I was interviewed about the show and hosted the Bionic Toys featurette. I also wrote the liner notes for the Season 3 clamshell insert. But there are a lot of knowledgeable fans still out there from which an audio commentary would benefit fan-favorite episodes on this new release(s).
Folks like the aforementioned Bionic experts, Matt Hankinson and Joe Burns. But also important female perspectives from the likes of Betsy Dodd and Elizabeth Goddard. Betsy was a frequent guest on the Cyborgs podcast and she is the web author of the acclaimed Bionic Woman review site, BionicBlonde.com. Elizabeth waxes nostalgic about BW as a co-host of the popular Facebook Live OSI Files Podcast.
Speaking of The OSI Files, the two other co-hosts from that show are John S. Drew and Gerald Lange. Gerald is an illustrator whose work has been published by Image Comics, Visions Art Group, Ferret Press, and IDW. He joins John as they examine the adventures of the Six Million Dollar Man. But John Drew has been expressing his Bionic fandom for decades, from the written word to audio podcasting, and finally to video podcasting.
Shout! Factory could do far worse than invite the hosts of the only current, ongoing, and very popular, OSI Files Podcast to come and discuss Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman with infectious enthusiasm. Same goes for James Sherrard of TheBionicWomanFiles.com, the longest-running website devoted to Jaime Sommers. Jim shared his unparalleled BW knowledge in an audio commentary for the episode, "Brain Wash" on the Universal DVD set. But he has so much more to offer if given the chance.
Some of Shout! Factory's previous releases have included some fun extras, like posters, pins, vinyls, lithographs, patches, and more! I can dream up all kinds of fun little things that would add that final touch to what will likely be the last physical media release of these two iconic TV shows. How about duplicates of the NASA patches found on the jacket Steve wore in The Solid Gold Kidnapping? Or maybe replicas of his famous belt buckle and Jaime's pendent! Or replicas of their wrist bracelets!
I know!—posters of some iconic moments! Or a lithograph of each shows' title card! How about poster-size duplicates of those amazing Alex Ross comic book covers from Dynamite's Season Six series? Also, Shout! Factory sometimes creates new fan-friendly packaging art OR restores original, familiar art for the purists. Perhaps they should do that for the eye-sore of a design they have now, which is a modified version of the dreadful design Universal used for their 2015 DVD release.
What about you? What fun extras can YOU dream up? In any event, all will be revealed when they releases the full details in the coming weeks. And July 12th is just around the corner! So hold on to your Bionic hats!—it's gonna be a fast summer! — pkb