A poll that shows which of the new fall series viewers are most interested in has consistently ranked NBC's "Bionic Woman" (9 tonight, WPXI) near the top of the "must-see" list. That's what using a familiar brand will do for a series, but anyone expecting remnants of the 1970s Lindsay Wagner show beyond the title will be sorely disappointed.
This new "Bionic Woman," from executive producers David Eick (the new "Battlestar Galactica") and Jason Smilovic ("Kidnapped"), is as dark and dreary as its unnamed rain-soaked locale. Gone are the "nun-nun-nun-nun-nun" bionic sound effects, caring boss Oscar Goldman and boyfriend Steve Austin.
Instead, we get 24-year-old bartender Jaime Sommers (Michelle Ryan, "EastEnders"), caretaker of a rebellious younger sister (Lucy Kate Hale). Jaime dates college professor/surgeon Will (Chris Bowers), who secretly works for some shadowy group that's endowing grievously injured humans with technology that enables the person to become a futuristic super-soldier.
When Jaime and Will are in a car accident, he gives her bionics to save her life, but that also draws her into the organization that oversees the bionics, led by flinty boss Jonas (Miguel Ferrer, "Crossing Jordan"), second-in-command Ruth (Molly Price, "Third Watch") and Jae (Will Yun Lee), the special ops leader.
"Everyone has to sing for their supper around here," Jonas says. There's no such thing as a free bionic makeover, so Jaime will have to do some work in exchange for her new $50 million body.
This "Bionic Woman" pilot is a downbeat drag, but buried somewhere beneath all the moping is an intriguing show that might yet emerge.
Will's father, Dr. Anthony Anthros (Mark Sheppard), creator of the bionic technology, is in prison, but no explanation for how he ended up there is given. There's also the first bionic woman, Sarah Corvis (Katee Sackhoff, "Battlestar Galactica"), who's on the loose and out to kill Jaime for reasons not yet clear. And Jaime herself, with a sealed court record from nine years ago, has secrets of her own.
Some of the line readings in the "Bionic Woman" premiere are weak (Price's, in particular) and hints of Ryan's natural British accent emerge on occasion.
But a bigger hurdle may simply be that Sackhoff's evil character, by virtue of being more mysterious and due to her superior performance, is more intriguing than Jaime Sommers.