WORTH EVERY PENNY

The Six Million Dollar Man is still the coolest series ever, even if Lee Majors is now slumming on Walker, Texas Ranger
by John Sellers

Forget about Mission: Impossible, MacGyver, The Man From UNCLE, and Manimal—the coolest series ever created was The Six Million Dollar Man.

This kick-ass show about a leisure suit wearin' special ops cyborg named Col. Steve Austin introduced the world to the secretive OSI (Office of Scientific Information) director Oscar Goldman, the sexy sweet Jaime Sommers, and the scarier-than-hell Sasquatch. But it also gave every kid in America the perfect noise to make while straining to open sticky jars of mayo. Those bitchin' bionic sound effects Austin made while bending metal had everyone feeling like six million bucks.

For irrefutable proof of the show's ultracoolness, look no further than its amazing opening credit sequence. While a military drum beat ominously keeps time and primitive computer technobabble scrawls across the screen, we see astronaut Austin piloting an experimental spacecraft. He inexplicably says, "I'm coming forward with the sidestick," but then begins to lose control of the vessel. "I can't hold her," he exclaims as the spy plane goes down. "She's breaking up, she's breaking up…" Cut to an operating room, where doctors are struggling to save Austin's life. Looking on the grim scene is Oscar Goldman, who explains the series' premise as superbly as humanly possible: "Colonel Steve Austin— a man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to create the world's first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster." As Goldman finishes his dramatic speech, the music quickens and the O.R. scene is replaced by clips of Austin trying out his newfound powers, such as running on a treadmill at 60 miles per hour. That's 10 miles per hour for every million dollars spent—quite a worthwhile investment.

The show's success with boys of all ages can be attributed to Cold War and post-lunar landing hysteria—as well as to babelicious guest stars, perky interstitial music and some of the best writing on television. Who could ever forget the classic rumble in the jungle that pitted the Bionic Man against the Bigfoot also known as Sasquatch? Or when Austin took on the Seven Million Dollar Man and won, despite inferior strength, speed, and stamina? Even the icky love story between Jaime and Steve was acceptable due to the fact that the two were both cyborgs. But you had to wonder what sex with bionics is like. I mean, talk about a quickie!

The driving force behind the series was Lee Majors, husband of sexpot Farrah Fawcett and all-around Handsome Man. Like every other boy in the country, I wanted to be Lee Majors when I grew up. The burly actor infused Austin with playboy charm and became a national icon for portraying television's first real superhero. He was Evel Knievel with superpowers, the Fonz with the ability to run as fast as a motorcycle. Majors, who later starred in the also-cool stuntman series The Fall Guy, did everything while wearing butterfly collars and a belt with a massive buckle. Secret agent, muscular marvel, fashion plate—there was just nothing wrong with that guy.

Majors resurfaces this week on Walker, Texas Ranger, a show that owes a great deal to The Six Million Dollar Man. Chuck Norris' lone man on a mission is a direct descendent of Steve Austin, filtered through the Man From Atlantis, Knight Rider, and MacGyver. And how does Norris repay Majors in the episode? By casting the legend as a villainous bionics-free sheriff who eventually gets his butt stomped by that wuss Cordell Walker. Somebody ought to call in Sasquatch to take that rascally ranger out. I'd like to see how tough Norris is after the 800-pound behemoth rips both of the Texas lawman's arms out of their sockets. That'd be some real lone star justice

"UltimateTV.com" December 1998