Lindsay Wagner: The Bionic Woman, Then and Now

By | June 19, 2020

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Lindsay Wagner starred as TV's Bionic Woman from 1976-78, a spin-off character and show that sometimes rivaled its source, The Six Million Dollar Man. Up until the mid-'70s, there had been a dearth of female action heroes on TV, but Wagner was part of a wave that included Angie Dickinson (Police Woman), Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman) and the Angels of Charlie's Angels. Wagner's character of Jaime Sommers was the childhood sweetheart of Steve Austin (Lee Majors), who gets life-saving bionic implants and, like Austin, becomes a government agent.

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A breakthrough spin off for a lead woman doesn't happen too often. Especially back in the day. (blog.sitcomsonline)

Wagner had a promising TV career in the early '70s, having appeared on numerous shows, most notably The Rockford Files (twice) and Marcus Welby, MD (six times). With her on-screen charisma and looks, she was obviously leading-role material. On March 16, 1975, she appeared on The Six Million Dollar Man in the episode "The Bionic Woman," and audiences loved her from the start. 

In the episode, Steve Austin reunites with Sommers, an old flame and professional tennis player. But a skydiving accident leaves Sommers crippled -- Austin convinces his boss to restore Sommers with similar bionic implants -- and so is born the Bionic Woman. In the two-part episode, Wagner made such an impression on viewers that producers greenlit The Bionic Woman just a year later as a midseason replacement for a flagging show.