Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bionic Woman: Brilliant!

Credit where credit's due time: that was a pretty good episode of "Bionic Woman" last night. Spoilers coming up just as soon as I enjoy a hidden cookie...

While the series as a whole still has numerous problems, there was a five minute or so sequence -- Jamie at the party and then busting into the lab with running commentary from Nathan the tech guy -- last night that had me thinking, "If the show could be like this all the time, I'd really enjoy it." It was fun, it moved, and both Jamie and Nathan seemed like real people instead of grouchy plot devices.

Now, I don't know how much of the credit for that goes to the undercover device that let Michelle Ryan use her native accent for once. We all assume that all these Brit actors are so talented that they can just slip on our accent and deliver an amazing performance without breaking a sweat. But maintaining an accent is work, and not ever actor can multi-task as well as Hugh Laurie or Damian Lewis. The scenes where Jamie was pretending to be a Brit were the first time Michelle Ryan had the spark she showed off in "Jekyll," and you could tell the producers recognized it as well, with the "method actor" contrivance that had her continuing to speak British even when it was just her and Nathan on the phone. Frankly, I was hoping that the Jordan Bridges character either wouldn't find out she was an American or else would make some flirty request at the end for her to break out the other accent from time to time, because for once I wasn't whining about how much better Katee Sackhoff is.

And as Nathan, Kevin Rankin (aka Herc from "Friday Night Lights") is more entertaining than the rest of the supporting cast combined. Dump Isaiah, Molly Price, maybe even Miguel Ferrer (though somebody has to be the Exposition Boss), keep Will Yun Lee around only for those obligatory scenes where the special forces guys show up to provide Jamie with backup, and the show would be significantly improved.

Not sure I buy Bridges as a super-spy just yet (though, admittedly, he only slipped into that role near the end of the episode and will get to spend a lot of time in a tux next episode), but he and Ryan had good chemistry. Maybe that, as much as the accent, helped draw her out of that dull shell she'd been stuck in for the first batch of episodes.

There hasn't been a lot of new product this fall that has me excited, but this is the first episode of a disappointing rookie to make me glad I didn't bail after the pilot. One-time aberration, or sign of a future rise in quality?

17 comments:

Niffer said...

Of course the first ep I blow-off turns out to be decent... I guess I'll have to catch it on nbc.com or as a repeat somewhere on basic cable.

Alan Sepinwall said...

And, of course, it turns out to have by far the lowest ratings of the series (no doubt hurt by World Series Game One).

If they had just let Jamie be British from the start, think how many more people might have stuck around after that big pilot tune-in. Too little, too late.

Dark Tyler said...

Btw NBC replaced Jason Katims as a showrunner with some other Jason, a former Sopranos writer, I think.

How can there be a coherent vision for the show, when NBC keeps shuffling the producers every 2-3 episodes?

Dark Tyler said...

Sorry, I meant Jason Smilovic. Katims is just a consulting producer.

Anonymous said...

I was so glad to check your blog today and find out you enjoyed this episode as much as I did. I think you're spot on -- Ryan really sparkled when she used her natural accent.

I didn't even realize until later that Sackhoff wasn't in the ep -- it was that good. I too am hopeful that this is a sign of things to come, but I'm afraid it is too late for most people. The time slot is a bit of a loser anyway (up against PP, which gets good ratings for no good reason).

~R

Alan Sepinwall said...

Sorry, I meant Jason Smilovic. Katims is just a consulting producer.

Well, there was an Ain't It cool News story (with all the caveats that implies) a few weeks ago saying that Smilovic had pretty much bailed and that Katims was the de facto showrunner. And the Hollywood Reporter story today about Jason Cahill taking over says Katims has been running the writer's room for about a month.

I don't know how much of this constant producer shuffle (let's not forget the departure of Glen Morgan, which no doubt will deprive us of a Darin Morgan-penned script) is on NBC and how much is just people bailing from what seemed to be a sinking ship from early on. "Bionic Woman," even with the promise of this latest episode, is a mess, and some people may not have wanted to be involved with it anymore.

BigTed said...

I thought Ryan was much better in this episode too, and not just because of the accent. They're finally allowing her character to be more confident, both in her powers and as a secret agent. She's more Jennifer Garner in "Alias," and less naive Sarah Connor at the beginning of the first Terminator movie. She may do romance better than action (the key point of her character in "Jekyll" was that she was in love with the doctor even though she was spying on him), and it's about time the show acknowledged that Jamie is a beautiful woman as well as a powerhouse.

The repartee between Jamie and Nathan really was fun -- just as in "Alias," the comic-relief nerdy tech guys can add a lot to the enjoyment of the show. But the conceit that they have to use cell phones to communicated, despite the fact that he can see out of her eyes and even remotely give her an earache, is just ridiculous. Do they think we won't understand that two people are talking unless they're holding phones to their ears? We do know -- just as we'd realize that she's using her superpowers when she leaps to the top of a building, even if they didn't bring back that "chunka-chunka" sound effect.

Nicole said...

I thought this episode was fun too. Why couldn't she just have a British accent from the start? It wouldn't have been that hard to say that she moved here from England as a teen.

Anyway, I was glad that I kept watching it, up until this week it was mostly because there was nothing else on at the same time. (I tuned out Private Practice because I just don't care about any of them, and I used to like Addison, but maybe that was because she was the best character in a group of whiny navel-gazers... )

Kensington said...

"Of course the first ep I blow-off turns out to be decent... I guess I'll have to catch it on nbc.com or as a repeat somewhere on basic cable."

Isn't that great, though? Remember when missing an episode meant you were just SOL unless it was re-run somewhere down the line?

This is a great time we're living in.

cgeye said...

You know, this would be an immeasurably better series if they embraced their fascism.

Let's pretend the only thing holding back Jamie's Evil Mad Scientist Boyfriend from tranking her ass, amputating the weak bits and soldiering her up is consent, informed or otherwise. Also, let's say what EMSB was working on before he died was deep cyborg brainwashing, on the B5/Talia level: No longer a need for an agent to strain maintaining covers, just reboot her and she's your UK hottie superspy.

Now imagine that a lab capable of creating working cyborgs and healing nanobots wouldn't let their best scientist out of the pit without some of those there healing thingies in his blood, as insurance he won't stray far, since those thingies also have an expiration date. And, now picture a company so ruthless that it builds private assassins, and considers them property. Improbable, I know.

So. The EMSB, alive, completes his mind control program. Sarah, the first guinea pig, didn't work out, so he moves on to Jamie. The sister? Tempted by a bright, shiny laptop and The Wrong Crowd, she does the hacking, gets put in indefinite incommunicado jail, we don't see her again (champagne is brought out...). Jamie is made to fail enough to allow more surgery -- and the real work begins to make her so versatile and strong a spy that Jack Bristow considers to shed bits of Rambaldi sci-magic, as dandruff.

We get a spy show with punch, no moping, no insipid girl rock as shorthand for the introspection no one really wants to see, but was necessary for the fem demos, to sell the network. We get the asskicking. And, we get Sarah in her rightful place, as rogue conscience, as the armed monk who slaps satori into Jaime at regular intervals, because the poor sap, an improved as she is, no longer remembers what she's lost, anymore.

And, we get the keep the British accent, because the tech boys think it's hot.

cgeye said...

Um, typing fast is Bad, kids.

First, the EMSB died from a shoulder wound. Right. Still think we could see him again, even without anthrocites vitamins.

And, "Jack Bristow considers her ready to shed bits of Rambaldi sci-magic, as dandruff."

Toby said...

Like, niffer, I watched the Sox take the first game. (Sorry, Alan - Sox fan deep in enemy territory!) Worst, though, I dvr'd it and then decided to erase it without watching, since it wasn't doing anything for me up to that point.

Maybe I'll check it out online....

Undercover Asian Man said...

Praising this particular episode as great is like praising a particular airplane meal for not giving you stomach pains. Our expectations are so low that anything unoffensive seems like magic.

It's still a jumbled mess. It's still a villain of the week formula that is as uninteresting as "Reaper". It's still emotionally hollow, as Jamie starts to mack on every guy she sees on every episode - it's a surprise that her recent (terminated) pregnancy was her first, seeing as she jumps guys in bathrooms and any TA available.

Who knew that it took so much effort to maintain an American accent that it just cripples Michelle Ryan's acting ability to do so? She actually seemed like a real person this episode when she didn't have to think so hard. Too bad she will revert to robot Ryan - perhaps they can emphasize the nanotechnology affecting her brain now and justify her otherwise stiff acting.

This show is a boring dog. The fight scenes are all the same, the 'danger' is always the same, and how many times do we need to zoom into the inner ear and eye of the Bionic Woman to be hammer-to-the-head reminded about her abilities before it gets old (hint - < 3 seems right)?

This show is Experiment Lab 60 on the Sunset Strip - all hype, no show.

Matt said...

I haven't yet watched the episode, but am I the only one that thinks Jordan Bridges bears more than a slight resemblance to Sean Maher (Simon from "Firefly"/"Serenity")?

The number of levels on which Bionic Woman went wrong can't be counted. The biggest was probably the timeslot. Had they put it out of Heroes, would probably not have hemhorraged viewers as badly (that Wednesday slot is just nasty, with CBS and ABC offering strong commercial competition, and CW offering something that does well in its demo). Contrast with Monday at 10, where, really, all you're going up against is Caruso.

Neena said...

'One-time aberration, or sign of a future rise in quality?'

IDK tbh - it could go either way with BW. Maybe things will improve, but i'm not holding my breath. This ep was good and MR's performance was not flat for once. But it still has a long way to go.

I enjoyed ep5, i liked the humour in it. Both the CIA guy and the Tech guy were great. The Tech guy's role needs to be increased. He actually made me laugh. I'll keep watching and see what happens.

As for the drop in ratings, unfortunately quite a few people have bailed on BW and haven't given it a chance. Hopefully the audience figures won't drop when BW returns in two weeks.

Kristin said...

I, too, wish they would dump the whole Berkut Group and just have her and Nathan. Perhaps fight guy b/c of his past relationship with bad bionic woman.

What would have been so much more interesting, is to have the Berkut Group destroyed...lab, people, stuff...in the pilot and leave Jamie out in the cold with only Nathan, the lowly tech guy, to help her navigate her bionics. And then it would be more interesting. She would have 'mechanical' problems and they would have to slap something together out of leftover parts and pieces Nathan could retrieve from the destroyed Berkut Group hideout. Or something where she had a harder time with understanding, using, and maintaining her bionic self.

It would raise the stakes and make the whole show more interesting. Kind of like "Battlestar Galactica" where they were forced to survive and make do without a home planet.

But this was a MUCH better episode, and I was glad to see that "Tom" (did we learn his real name?) will be showing up from time to time. Or maybe all the time? She needed a romantic foil of some sort. I also liked the funky Asian roommate. But I wanted more of the messed up humans with chips implanted in them. That first scene was really good.

cgeye said...

I just realized... messed-up soldiers w/ chips in them = new skool fembots. Boybots?

Chips that complex don't get made in a small lab -- some chip factory has a side business, and some new evil mastermind's got the market cornered. Sending them out under the cover of conventional terrorists is just a test run....

BW dudes... if you want an intriguing arc w/o heavy Corvus presence, here it is.