Thursday, 26 July 2007

Jamie Sommers vs Sarah Connor

I've just seen the pilots for the new Bionic Woman and The Sarah Connor Chronicles, they both made for interesting viewing and there's enough common ground between them to invite some comparisons.

The 21st century Bionic Woman doesn't share much DNA with her 1970s ancestor. Our Jamie tends bar for a living, dates a professor, Will, ten years her senior and looks after her younger deaf sister. The sister's part will be rewritten for transmission, this was a pre-air copy we were reviewing, and she probably won't be deaf. 

I started off writing a plot synopsis but they'll be all over the 'net by now, so let's get to the real deal and find out if it's any good.

Watching this I got the feeling it was trying to epic. It was a small to medium story being stretched over a big canvas. David Eick and Glen Morgan have a track record of producing darkly epic stories, this one's certainly dark, well gritty anyway, but the stage is a little small for the epic grandeur of Battlestar Galactica or the quasi-mythology of the X-Files / Millennium.

That's not to say it was bad, I enjoyed it, but I wanted more and not in a good way. In the background of Jamie's tale of coming to terms with what she's become, shadowy players moved across a murky chessboard. There's a lot of backstory to be revealed here and Jamie doesn't know any of it which makes it hard for the audience to empathise with her situation. This is a story that tugs the brain and not the heart, that might well be it's undoing.

The mysterious machinations rumble on but the 'A' plot basically has Jamie in what boils down to a bionic powered catfight with Sara Corvus, the first bionic woman who's now gone rogue. It's trying to be epic, but it's not.

I think GEP have forgotten that part of the appeal of the 70s Bionic Family was its sense of fun. No matter preachy or patriotic they got, Austin and Sommers always got to flex their bionics and give some bad guys an ass kickin'.

Perversely I do like this show and would dearly like to see its various plot strands unwind to clarity. Jamie's rite of passage was the hook that got me watching but it's the backstory that'll keep me following the show.


Now we come to the Sarah Connor Chronicles. I was expecting to be a tad frustrated with this show, how wrong I was.

Like all three films in the Terminator series it adjusts its dates to conform with the times its viewed in, fanboys may weep but this makes sense to keep the franchise current. As the story's set between the 2nd and 3rd movies there wouldn't seem to be a lot of room for plot development so I wasn't really looking forward to this.

Kudos then to Josh Friedman who managed to write a plausible story that'll keep all but most anal of fans happy and bring a newly revived Terminator story bang up to date.  I'm sooo tempted to reveal how he does this, but if you ain't seen it yet I'm afraid it would be too much of a spoiler.

Fanboys aside this is a joyous romp through the Terminator universe. Some nice homages to the movies are there along with some iconic moments the series is making on it's own. Summer Glau, Lena Headey and Thomas Dekker sitting side by side, naked, in a pickup truck is just one. This is fun and yet it manages to hold a sense pf being an epic story without really trying, if you ignore the slightly annoying monologues from Headey / Connor that is.


Bionic Woman felt as though it was trying to be credible and struggled to be so. Sarah Connor on the other hand just feels like the creators are asking the audience to join their party and manages credibility in spite of that. I hope Bionic Woman lives long enough at least to last out a full season, Michelle Ryan is deeply impressive as Jamie Sommers and the supporting cast are almost pitch perfect.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles though might well be lightning in a bottle. I'm looking forward to Jamie's further adventures but I'm champing at the bit to see Sarah's.


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