Sunday, January 13, 2013

Six Million Things To Watch For

Every January in Los Angeles, another digital sub-channel appears with a slate of reruns from a quarter century ago. I have gotten used to THIS-TV and ME-TV and ANTENNA-TV. Now I'm shocked to see a new one, nestled just under NBC-4: COZI-TV. Like the other stations is basically an outlet for a particular studio library. THIS TV is mostly MGM, Antenna is Columbia product. Cozi serves up Universal Studios properties. And it was on it that last night I became reacquainted with Steve Austin, a man barely alive, rebuilt; made better than he was. Better, stronger, faster. The Six Million Dollar Man.

Your enjoyment of Six Million Dollar Man episodes may be enhanced by this fun guide of things to watch out for in each episode.

Harve Bennett. Bennett produced the show; he was also associated with the early Star Trek movies. Star Trek and he are pretty bundled up, which is probably why so many TOS actors wound up doing guest shots on 6MDM. Shatner, for example, played an astronaut with a mysterious brain problem in Burning Bright; George Takei appeared in The Coward. It's also Harve Bennet's voice you hear in the credits, intoning "Steve Austin: a man barely alive". The story is they added the line when Richard Anderson wasn't available.

Universal Studios. Even if the show hadn't been a hit, Universal might have kept it going as a way to amortize already used assets. Just about every inch of the Universal backlot wound up as an exterior in some episode. In one particularly egregious case, the studio had built a rotating ice tunnel for a section of the tour based on The Eiger Sanction. 6MDM wrote an episode around the tunnel, featuring perhaps the only character that was bigger on lunchboxes at the time than Steve Austin. Bigfoot! Bigfoot was played by Andre the Giant. And why not.

Lee Majors - can he act? Depends on the episode. Sometimes he can, sometimes not. Sometimes it matters, usually it's completely beside the point. My best guess is he could act but only if everyone involved thought it was necessary.

Dude always dressed like an action figure
Adults or Kids? Like Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, 6MDM was conceived as serious science fiction but gradually drifted into kiddie show territory as the numbers came in. It's fun to watch them dancing around who they think their audience is THIS time. Pro tip: the Bigfoot episode probably isn't for adults, so much.

Physics. This is old ground but it still bugs me. I can understand the Bionic eye, sure. But if you take that little computer diagram in the credits as accurate, Steve Austin had a super strong bionic arm and leg installed. Which is fine until he attempts to throw a  Range Rover at someone. Because he DOESN'T HAVE A BIONIC PELVIS AND SPINE. You'd expect those things to snap like a twig, right?  And how much more would it have cost to spruce up the ol' johnson, know what I mean? It's not like it wasn't damaged in the crash. That kind of accident would tear up a guy's schmeckel pretty good, I bet. Well, you only saw him once a week... maybe they dealt with this question on one of the other six days.

What Would He Cost Now? Interesting question, my friend. CNN asked that question in 2008 and determined that he would be the Up-To-100-million-dollar man. While it's true that inflation would indicate a $26 million price tag, don't forget that none of this stuff is off the shelf parts. R&D ain't cheap


  1. Have you watched the original movie/pilot recently? It had Darren McGavin playing Oscar Goldman as a cold calculating manipulative son of a bitch. And in the spirit of crossovers, Daren and Richard Anderson also crossed paths in the second Kolchak movie, "The Night Strangler", with Anderson as an undying doctor living in the underground city of Seattle, coming to the surface periodically for brain juice to make his immortality elixir. As to the physics, I often had images as a kid of Steve stopping something/lifting something heavy, and his arm shearing right off, or wondering if they sacrificed a healthy leg because it would look silly to see him hopping along on one bionic leg.

  2. I hope everyone had a chance to take the Universal Studio Tour in the 1970s. 1. indeed, everything you ever saw on 6MDM and then some could be seen from the tram. 2. the soundstage tour usually went through hot sets (I remember seeing Marcus Welby, M.D.'s office, his house interior, his house exterior, and James Brolin waved at the tram). No rides or dumb crap like that.

  3. I never got to the old studio tour - I only had your stories of it. Parts of the old tour survive, and yep, totally spotted a number of "tableaus" from tv - the "scary" collapsing bridge, the 3rd world street that floods, Cabot Cove (ne Amity Harbor from Jaws), etc. I spent some time on the Universal lot professionally (for BSG), which was fun, and as a tourist on Halloween Horror Nights, which was depressing and nerve wracking (you wander the amusement park which has been dressed for Halloween, complete with choking smoke machines, and costumed monsters who would sneak up behind you with a rattle can or a fake chainsaw. It would also include a walking backlot tour, redressed again for Halloween, and filled with more monsters with loud noise making devices (one year it was redundantly scary clowns, the next it was... I want to say the nightmare nazi monsters from American Werewolf). I seem to recall that the twirly tunnel is still there.