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The Six Million Dollar Man
Sixmilliondollar1
Genre
Starring Lee Majors
Richard Anderson
Martin E. Brooks
Composer(s) Jerry Fielding
Stu Philips
Mike Post
Mark Snow
Gil Mellé
Oliver Nelson
Benny Golson
J.J. Johnson
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 5
No. of episodes 99 + 6 TV movies (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Harve Bennett
Producer(s) Kenneth Johnson
Running time 60 minutes
Distributor MCA TV
(1978–1979)
NBCUniversal Television Distribution
Broadcast
Original channel ABC
Original run March 7, 1973 (1973-03-07) – March 6, 1978 (1978-03-06)

The Six Million Dollar Man is an American science fiction and action television series about a former astronaut, Colonel Steve Austin, portrayed by American actor Lee Majors. Austin has superhuman strength due to bionic implants and is employed as a secret agent by a fictional U.S. government office titled OSI. The series 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 television series aired on the ABC network as a regular episodic series for five seasons from 1974 to 1978. Steve Austin became a pop culture icon of the 1970s.

A spin-off television series, The Bionic Woman, featuring the lead female character Jaime Sommers, ran from 1976 to 1978. Three television movies featuring both bionic characters were also produced from 1987 to 1994.

Plot

Original series

When NASA astronaut Colonel Steve Austin is severely injured in the crash of an experimental lifting body aircraft, he is "rebuilt" in an operation that costs $6 million (equivalent to $29 million in 2016). 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 over 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. He uses his enhanced abilities to work for the OSI (Office of Scientific Intelligence) as a secret agent.

Caidin's novel Cyborg was a best-seller when it was published in 1972. He followed it up with three sequels, Operation Nuke, High Crystal, and Cyborg IV, respectively about a black market in nuclear weapons, a Chariots of the Gods? scenario, and fusing Austin's bionic hardware to a spaceplane.

In March 1973, Cyborg was loosely adapted as a made-for-TV movie titled The Six Million Dollar Man starring Majors as Austin. The producers first choice was Monte Markham. (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 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 Movie of the Week 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 (played by 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. The character was very popular, however, 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, though the two series were on different networks when their final seasons aired.

Television movie reunions

Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers returned in three subsequent made-for-television movies: The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman (1987), Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman (1989) which featured Sandra Bullock in an early role as a new bionic woman; and Bionic Ever After? (1994) in which Austin and Sommers finally marry. Majors reprised the role of Steve Austin in all three productions, which also featured Richard Anderson and Martin E. Brooks, and Lindsay Wagner reprising the role of Jaime Sommers. The reunion films addressed the partial amnesia Sommers had suffered during the original series, and all three featured Majors' son, Lee Majors II, as OSI agent Jim Castillian. The first two movies were written in the anticipation of creating new bionic characters in their own series, but nothing further was seen of the new characters introduced in those produced. The third TV movie was intended as a finale.

Film

On November 6, 2014, it was announced that a feature film, tentatively titled The Six Billion Dollar Man, would go into production. Mark Wahlberg was set to play Colonel Steve Austin, and Peter Berg as director. Filming was to begin in early 2015, for a theatrical release the following year. On November 2, 2015 it was reported that Berg had left the film and had been replaced by Damian Szifron, who will also write the film. Filming was to begin in September 2016 with a December 22, 2017 release date. In December 2017, The Weinstein Company sold the film's rights to Warner Bros. Warner Bros. hopes to start filming the movie in mid 2018. Warner Bros. has set an early to mid 2019 release for the film.

Cast

  • Steve Austin (played by Lee Majors), the lead character
  • Oscar Goldman (played by Richard Anderson), Director of the OSI
  • Dr. Rudy Wells (played by Martin Balsam in pilot; Alan Oppenheimer, seasons 1 & 2; Martin E. Brooks, seasons 3–5, as well as on The Bionic Woman and in three movies), Austin's physician and primary overseer of the medical aspects of bionic technology
  • Jaime Sommers (played by Lindsay Wagner—recurring)
  • Peggy Callahan (played by Jennifer Darling—recurring), secretary to Oscar Goldman
  • Oliver Spencer (played by Darren McGavin), Director of the OSO in the pilot

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