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The Six Million Dollar Man is an ABC network sci-fi\action series, starring Lee Majors.
The show first premiered on March 7, 1973 and was based on the Martin Caidin novel "Cyborg" (which was the working title of the series during pre-production).
Following three television pilot movies (which all aired in 1973), "The Six Million Dollar Man" began airing as a regular TV series on January 18, 1974.
The show also produced a spin-off series, The Bionic Woman, starring Lindsay Wagner.
On March 6, 1978, the show ended after 5 seasons and 101 episodes.
After NASA astronaut Steve Austin is severely injured in the crash of an experimental lifting body aircraft, he is "rebuilt" in an operation that costs six million dollars. His right arm, both legs and the left eye are replaced with "bionic" implants that enhance his strength, speed and vision far above human norms: he can run at speeds of 60 mph (97 km/h) and his eye has a 20:1 zoom lens and infrared capabilities, while his bionic limbs all have the equivalent power of a bulldozer.
Steve uses his enhanced abilities to work for the OSI (Office of Scientific Intelligence) as a secret agent.
In March 1973, Martin Caidan's novel "Cyborg" was loosely adapted as a made-for-TV movie titled The Six Million Dollar Man starring Majors as Austin. (When re-edited for the later series, it was re-titled "The Moon and the Desert, Parts I and II".)
The adaptation was done by writer Howard Rodman (working under the pseudonym of Henri Simoun). The film, which was nominated for a Hugo Award, modified Caidin's plot, and notably made Austin a civilian astronaut rather than a colonel in the United States Air Force.
Absent were some of the standard features of the later series: the electronic sound effects, the slow-motion running, and the character of Oscar Goldman. Instead, another character named Oliver Spencer, played by Darren McGavin, was Austin's supervisor, of an organization here called the OSO. (In the novels, "OSO" stood for Office of Special Operations.
The CIA did have an Office of Scientific Intelligence in the 1970s.) The lead scientist involved in implanting Austin's bionic hardware, Dr. Rudy Wells, was played in the pilot by Martin Balsam, then on an occasional basis in the series by Alan Oppenheimer, and, finally, as a series regular, by Martin E. Brooks. Austin did not use the enhanced capabilities of his bionic eye during the first TV movie.
The first "Six Million Dollar Man" movie was a major ratings success and was followed by two more made-for-TV movies in October and November 1973 as part of ABC's rotating "Suspense Theater" series. The first was titled "The Six Million Dollar Man: Wine, Women and War", and the second was titled "The Six Million Dollar Man: The Solid Gold Kidnapping".
The first of these two bore strong resemblances to Caidin's second Cyborg novel, Operation Nuke; the second, however, was an original story. This was followed in January 1974 by the debut of "The Six Million Dollar Man" as a weekly hour-long series.
The last two movies, produced by Glen A. Larson, notably introduced a James Bond flavor to the series and reinstated Austin's status from the novels as an Air Force colonel; the hour-long series, produced by Harve Bennett, dispensed with the James Bond-gloss of the movies, and portrayed a more down-to-earth Austin. (Majors said of Austin, "[He] hates...the whole idea of spying. He finds it repugnant, degrading. If he's a James Bond, he's the most reluctant one we've ever had."
The show was very popular during its run and introduced several pop culture elements of the 1970s, such as the show's opening catchphrase ("We can rebuild him; we have the technology," voiced over by Richard Anderson in his role of Oscar Goldman), the slow motion action sequences, and the accompanying "electronic" sound effects.
The slow motion action sequences were originally referred to as "Kung Fu slow motion" in popular culture (due to its usage in the 1970s martial arts television series).
In 1975, a two-part episode entitled "The Bionic Woman" (written for television by Kenneth Johnson) introduced the lead character Jaime Sommers (Lindsay Wagner), a professional tennis player who rekindled an old romance with Austin, only to experience a parachuting accident that resulted in her being given bionic parts similar to Austin. Ultimately, her body "rejected" her bionic hardware and she died.
However, the character was very popular and the following season, it was revealed that she had actually survived, having been saved by an experimental cryogenic procedure, and she was given her own spin-off series, "The Bionic Woman".
This spin-off ran until 1978 when both it and "The Six Million Dollar Man" were simultaneously cancelled, even though the two series were on different networks at the time their final seasons aired.
- Lee Majors as Steve Austin
- Richard Anderson as Oscar Goldman
- Martin Balsom (pilot)\Alan Oppenheimer (seasons 1-2)\Martin E. Brooks (seasons 3-5) as Dr. Rudy Wells
- Lindsay Wagner as Jaime Sommers (recurring role)
- Jennifer Darling as Peggy Callahan (recurring role)
- Darren McGavin as Oliver Spencer