Top 20 TV Theme Songs from Genre Series, part 1 of 2

I think you will agree…

Sometimes, the music in a TV series can make a good series great or a great series even better. (Or, even a bad series tolerable.) This is especially true with the opening theme, which sets the mood for what the audience is about to watch. In fact, beyond the opening and closing credits, you might only ever notice any real music during transitional shots. But, those few times can make all the difference.

In this post and the next, I want to focus on the theme music from some of my favorite shows — from stuff already in syndication during my early childhood to new stuff currently airing. My first criterion was, of course, that the series had to fall under the sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure banner that this blog is about. The theme couldn’t be taken from a movie (e.g., “The Highlander” series borrowed Queen’s “Princes of the Universe” from the original movie). And, the theme had to be — to my mind, at least — particularly catchy or otherwise memorable.

How many of these can you remember before playing the video clips? I have likely left out some of your favorites, but you’ll probably agree that these are among the best of genre theme songs. Moving in chronological order…

1) The Lone Ranger (1949-1957)

2) Peter Gunn (1958-1961)

3) Star Trek: TOS (1966-1969)

4) Mission: Impossible (1966-1973)

5) Batman (1966-1968)

6) Hawaii Five-O (1968-1980)

7) The Six Million Dollar Man (1974-1978)

8) Wonder Woman (1975-1979)

9) The Bionic Woman (1976-1978)

10) Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979)

That was fun! Did I get to your faves, yet? I hear you humming something….

Stay tuned until next week, when we continue the nostalgia trip into the 1980s and beyond!

P.S.  Just for the record, #s 1 & 2 were before my time, and #s 3 thru 6 I only ever saw in re-runs. I’m not that old!

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Real-World Bionics

“Steve Austin, astronaut, a man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world’s first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better… stronger… faster… ”  — Oscar Goldman(?), from intro to “The Six Million Dollar Man” TV series

When I realized that other things were probably going to take up too much of my time this week to finish my planned fan-cast post, I needed to come up with something relatively easy to put together. Fortunately, I had just published something at “A View from the Right” the other day that was thematically related to this blog. In previous posts, I’ve mentioned how much I loved the old “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Bionic Woman” TV series of the 1970s. And, of course, there is the new “The Six Billion Dollar Man” movie being developed for a 2016 release. Well, this post is about bionics, but it’s a bit more close to home, more “real world”. It’s titled “Advances in Bionics”, and I hope you like it….

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The Luke Arm

The Luke Arm

Yes, I realize that the title might make you think this post belongs on my “Heroes and Aliens” blog, but this is about the real-world development of “bionic” prostheses and orthoses. Last month, I ran across a list of really cool, recent advances in the field of bionics that I thought would be fun to investigate a bit further and share with my readers. (H/T Dr. Hossein Eslambolchi) I tracked down a few links that will show and explain further the concepts, design, and application of the new tech. It’s some exciting stuff that will be able to help many who have lost (or never had) limbs or have suffered Spinal Cord Injury (SCI). Check it out!

The Luke Arm: After almost eight years of development and testing, the DEKA Arm System has been approved for commercialization by the FDA. Nicknamed the “Luke Arm” (after Luke Skywalker’s bionic limb in the Star Wars sequels) and funded by DARPA, the system was created by Dean Kamen and his DEKA R&D Corp. “What makes the DEKA Arm unique is that it can carry out multiple, simultaneous powered movements, and its wrist and fingers can adjust its positions to perform six different user-selectable grips. In addition, force sensors let the robotic hand precisely control its grasp…. [S]pecial switches on the user’s feet… wirelessly transmit signals to the arm’s computer, allowing the user to control multiple joints simultaneously.”

ReWalk Robotics: Almost a year ago, ReWalk Robotics announced that the FDA had approved the ReWalk Personal System for home and community use. The system is essentially a wearable exoskeleton….

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Follow the link above to read the full post, which includes briefs on nine separate advances in real-world “bionics” that are currently or soon to be commercially available, along with the abovementioned links to further information. No superhuman strength or speed (though that is being considered in some research efforts for military application), yet, and no nuclear battery packs, as far as I can tell. But, it’s pretty cool to see the new advancements being made that will help a lot of people.

Fan-Cast: Bionic Reboot, part 5: Rudy Wells

Alan Oppenheimer as Rudy Wells - smiling, grey suit

Alan Oppenheimer as Rudy Wells

Martin E Brooks as Rudy Wells from opening credits

Martin E. Brooks as Rudy Wells

For our final “Bionic Reboot” fan-cast exercise, we have the primary creator/developer of the bionic technology, good ol’ “Dr. Rudy Wells”. In the original “The Six Million Dollar Man” TV movie, Wells was portrayed by veteran actor Martin Balsam. For the next two TV movies and 7 episodes of “The Six Million Dollar Man” series (including the 2-parter that introduced Jaime Sommers), the role went to voice-over legend (and later Star Trek guest-star) Alan Oppenheimer. He was replaced at the beginning of Season 3 of TSMDM by the wonderful Martin E. Brooks, who is credited in 45 episodes each of TSMDM and TBW, as well as the three subsequent TV reunion movies in the 80s & 90s.

Dr. Rudy Wells was not only adept at designing nuclear-powered, cybernetic prosthetics and their interfaces with organics, he was apparently a damn fine surgeon. Of course, he had an entire surgical team working with him, but Rudy was in charge. Plus, he gave Steve and Jaime their regular physical checkups (including the bionics, of course), so I was always under the impression that he was a physician, too.

Physically, the 3 original actors varied, with Balsam being the oldest (~53), only 5’7″, and a little more… robust. Oppenheimer was fairly trim, balding, about 5’10.5″, and in his mid-40s. Brooks was also trim, not balding (just slightly receding), a tad shorter at 5’10”, and about 49 when he first took over the role. (They were all mustached, too, but that isn’t much in fashion, these days.) I always preferred Brooks’ look and take on the character, but my only physical criterion for a reboot would be that he is still roughly 40-something, maybe 50-ish. As for the kind of person Rudy was, he seemed quite likable and got along well with, and was respected by, everyone. Rudy and Oscar appeared to have a good working relationship. He was kind and truly cared for his patients. True, he really got excited about the bionics and could get lost in his work, but Steve and Jaime (and a few others) were not just experiments to him. As I said before, he was sort of like a slightly eccentric uncle, including the occasional (stereotypical) absentmindedness. I wouldn’t mind if the character was developed a bit more than in the 70s series, but I like the idea of keeping the personality and relationships intact.

In researching candidates for the “Rudy Wells” role, I didn’t come up with as many possibilities as I did for “Oscar Goldman”. Not sure why. But, I did settle on three fine actors for your consideration:

Hill Harper as Sheldon Hawkes

Hill Harper as Dr. Sheldon Hawkes


Hill Harper
(5’9″,b.1966)

Yes, this is an exception to my general rule of keeping the original race of a character. With a name like “Goldman”, I figure Oscar has to be white. But, “Rudy Wells” is much more flexible. So,… Harper is my favorite among these three. Probably best known as Dr. Sheldon Hawkes on “CSI: New York” and more recently as Agent Calder Michaels on “Covert Affairs”, Harper has demonstrated portraying characters that are likable, very intelligent, and intellectually curious, as well as a loyal & dependable friend. Combining the doctor/scientist and federal agent roles — a la “Rudy Wells” — seems a natural fit for Harper. Given the opportunity, he definitely has the chops to make Wells a more complex and well-rounded character, too.

Jon Gries on 2012 Winter TCA Tour Day

Jon Gries

Jon Gries (5’11”,b.1957)

I first remember Gries from the TV series “The Pretender”, in which he played an odd, somewhat nerdy supporting character. He has also appeared in many, many things over the years, including Fright Night Part 2, “Quantum Leap”, “The X-Files”, “Lost”, and “Supernatural”. At 56 (at the time of this writing), Gries is a little older than I would prefer. (He would probably agree.) But, he’s a great, versatile actor, whom I think would do a great job as “Dr. Rudy Wells”. (He even looks a bit like Alan Oppenheimer, dontchathink?)

 

 

 

Rob LaBelle as Dr Frederick Walden

Rob LaBelle as Dr Frederick Walden on Smallville


Rob LaBelle
(5’10”,b.19??)

I can’t find a birthdate for LaBelle on IMDB or anywhere else, but I’m pretty sure he is within our desired parameters. I think the first thing I saw him in was “First Wave” as geeky conspiracy theorist “Crazy Eddie”. Great character! LaBelle has had guest roles in lots of genre shows, including “The X-Files”, “Lois & Clark”, “Sliders”, “Star Trek: Voyager”, “Eureka”, “The 4400”, Watchmen, and “Supernatural”. Though he often plays “out there” characters, even stereotypes, I think LaBelle could bring a sufficient combination of seriousness, humor, and humanity to do “Rudy Wells” justice.

There ya have ’em! Thoughts? Comments?

Thus concludeth this fan-casting series for a possible reboot of “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Bionic Woman”. If we’re gonna do it — and I really think “we” should –, we need to do it right. Right? That means returning to the characters, stories, and themes that made the originals so endearing and enduring. Are you listening, NBC/Universal (or whomever has the rights)?

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2014.

Fan-Cast: Bionic Reboot, part 2: Steve Austin

Six Million Dollar Man montageSteve Austin, the “world’s first bionic man”, was (along with Captain James T. Kirk) one of my favorite TV characters and heroes while growing up. Still is. Not surprisingly, that also meant that Lee Majors was (along with William Shatner) one of my favorite actors. (Loved him in “The Fall Guy”, too.) I personally haven’t seen much of Majors — at least, not in a regular, major role — since the late, lamented “The Raven” (1992/3) and the final bionic TV movie (“Bionic Ever After?” (1994)), though he does appear occasionally on current TV series.

Majors (6′,b.1939) was 33 when the first “The Six Million Dollar Man” TV movie aired in March 1973. As I explained in a previous post, that is roughly the age I would like him to be in my proposed reboot, too. He was also attractive, athletic, with a solid build, all of which make sense for the “Steve Austin” character. Having already attained the rank of Colonel in the U.S. Air Force with experience as an astronaut, we know Steve Austin is a skilled pilot and dedicated to serving his country. He has a certain amount of drive and ambition. (Btw, if the actor chosen is somehow not believable as a Colonel, maybe due to youthful appearance, I figure he could be “demoted” to Major Lee Majors as Steve Austin - on one kneewithout it affecting the story much.)

As I recall from Martin Caidin’s book Cyborg, on which the TV series is based, Austin was somewhat arrogant and full of pride. Fortunately, they toned that down in the series, so that the character was more likable. Once he worked through the physical and psychological trauma of the accident and the subsequent acclimation to having bionic limbs (and an eye), which came with an obligation to work (at least part-time) as an O.S.I. operative, Austin became a good and reliable agent. He developed a respect for and friendship with both his boss, Oscar Goldman, and his “doctor”, Rudy Wells. I seem to remember he also had a decent sense of humor, a strong ethical code, and he could be depended on to fight for his country and bring down the bad guys.

I read something from a few years ago about Bryan Singer being set to direct a new movie version called “The Six Billion Dollar Man”, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. I cannot tell you how wrong that would be. I sincerely pray that it never gets beyond the planning stages.

So,… who do I think should be up for the part in a movie or (hopefully) new TV series?

Alex O'Loughlin on stool - jeans and brown leather jacketAlex O’Loughlin (6’0.75″,b.1976)

If you read my fan-cast post for Batman, you know that O’Loughlin was in the running for that role, too. But, I am even more in favor of him for this role. In fact, he was the first person I thought of. He has the right build, good looks, and is very fit, of course. He also plays an action-prone military officer on “Hawaii Five-O”, so I’m used to thinking of him in that context. My only reservations are a) he is already pushing my preferred age parameters and b) I don’t know if he could portray “Steve Austin” different enough from “Steve McGarrett”, while retaining the qualities I think work for both.

 

 

Tom Welling as Clark Kent on porch - tee-shirt and jacketTom Welling (6’2.75″,b.1977)

Welling pleased a lot of genre fans when he played young Clark Kent in “Smallville” for 10 seasons. (The finale was a bit disappointing, but that’s a whole ‘nother topic.) Welling has proven he can play the “regular”, decent guy who struggles with having unusual abilities and the responsibilities that come with them, makes occasional mistakes but always ends up the hero. Regarding the Steve Austin role, I think it is different enough and can be played differently enough, so that the parallels with Clark Kent would remain only surface-deep. And, of course, he also has the look and build for it.

Brandon Routh - smiling with jacket collar upBrandon Routh (6’2.5″,b.1979)

Coincidentally, the third actor I recommend for the “Steve Austin” role is another former “Clark Kent”. Routh was, of course, the Man of Steel in the somewhat disappointing Superman Returns (2006) movie. He has since popped up here and there in various TV series, including 10 episodes of “Chuck” as Agent Daniel Shaw. Routh is tall, dark, & handsome, and I believe could do a great job as the Bionic Man. He is athletic, very likable, and, as the youngest of these three, he is the best age for the part. Plus, Routh needs a regular role like this to help him establish a new identity for himself as an actor. (Yes, that was a superhero/spy pun.)

 

 

Just for good measure, here are a few others to consider: Channing Tatum (6’1″,b.1980) has the physique, likability factor, and is just barely old enough. (But, he might be “too big” a star for a TV role.) Mike Vogel (5’10”,b.1979) is another possibility. While I usually prefer to stick to the original race/ethnicity of a character, I don’t see why Steve Austin couldn’t be Black, so… I think Lance Gross (6′,b.1981) and Jay Ellis (6’2.5″,b.1981) are potential candidates. They are a tad on the young side, as well, but not enough to make much difference; plus, they have the necessary physical qualities. (I assume they come across as likable guys, too, but I’m not familiar with their work.)

So? Do these guys have the right stuff? (Yes, that was an astronaut joke/reference.) Can you picture any of them as our bionic hero, “The Six Million (Billion?) Dollar Man”? Or, do you prefer someone else? Let’s hear it!

Finally, yes, I know I said last time that I would also fan-cast “Bigfoot” today, but I’ve decided to give the hairy son-of-a-gun his own post. ‘Til then…

 

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2014.

Re-engineering the Bionic Woman

Speaking of cyborgs….

New Bionic_Woman and castA few years ago, I was excited to read that they were “bringing back” the Bionic Woman, Jaime Sommers. I had a bit of a crush on Lindsay Wagner from the original back in the mid-70s, and it was one of my favorite shows. The new show — call it a “reboot”, I suppose — debuted on 9/26/2007, starring Michelle Ryan. I liked it OK but was disappointed that they had changed a number of things for no good reason, as far as I could tell. For example, Jaime herself looked and acted very differently; she was now a bartender, not a tennis pro; she lived with her rebellious, teenage sister; the organization that gave Jaime her “updated” bionics was the Berkut Group, not the Office of Scientific Investigations (O.S.I.); her boss was some jerk named “Jonas Bledsoe”, not the fatherly Oscar Goldman; they gave her a bionic eye, in addition to the legs, arm, & ear; the bionics were now nanite-powered (really? default to nanites?); etc. In some ways, the darker, ethically-questionable, more secretive feel of the series seemed to be trying to capitalize on the popularity of “La Femme Nikita”. This all bugged me a bit, but, as with most things sci-fi, I was still willing to give it a chance.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one disappointed in the series, since it was quickly cancelled and ground to a halt after 8 episodes. So, at the time I decided to jot down a few ideas of what I thought they could do to revive and improve it.

1) Bring back Oscar Goldman, Rudy Wells, and the O.S.I. (Also, minimize any dark, shady aspects. These are the good guys!) Berkut should be renamed, re-organized/re-focused (maybe as a unit within the O.S.I.?), or maybe just disbanded. Jonas and (therapist) Ruth could be killed or reassigned. Not sure whether or not to keep the little sister.

2) Oscar should be a mentor and father figure to Jaime, while Rudy could be somewhat of an absentminded professor/uncle-type. (You know, like in the original series, where they actually liked each other and worked well together?) Maybe Rudy could be a former associate, then rival, of (nemesis) Anthros, who worked on his own version of the bionic technology for either a different government agency or an independent lab. [In fact, I would like to see a totally different approach to the “bionic” technology, blending “old school” with new.]

3) Spend more time training Jaime in espionage, guns, field tactics, etc. Maybe have flashbacks of her learning to control her strength, speed, etc. [This aspect of showing her training with one or more other operatives was one of the things that actually made sense in the reboot.]

4) Borrow from ‘Alias’, where a) there were one or two main opponent organizations whose activities are tracked; and b) operations/assignments should be planned in a briefing room w/ Oscar, Jaime, Rudy(?) and/or Nathan or Jae (assuming they keep those characters), and one or two senior operatives whom she could be alternately paired with on training missions.

Overall, the show seemed to be unfocused (to me, anyway) and in need of better writing. Most of the characters weren’t all that interesting or even likable. For one, I prefer the more lighthearted & fun-loving Jaime of old. (Maybe they would have had her lighten up a bit later on, after grieving for her fiance and “dealing” with the realities of her new life?) On a positive note, casting Katee Sackhoff as Jaime’s troubled, bionic opposite-number, Sarah Corvus, was brilliant! She did a great job, gloating in her superior skills, while also trying to convince Jaime to leave Berkut and join her. It was also a nice homage to Monte Markham’s “Seven Million Dollar Man” character, Barney Hiller/Miller, from “The Six Million Dollar Man”.

This leads me to another way I thought of to improve the show — namely, bring “Col. Steve Austin” into the picture by sort of mirroring the way Jaime Sommers was introduced in the original TSMDM series. I had a couple of background and story ideas back then, which I have fleshed out a little, here.

5) In season two, introduce Steve Austin. Steve and Jaime were high school sweethearts, with Steve being at least a couple years ahead of her. He graduated in 2001 and began attending community college that Fall. Then, one or both of Steve’s parents were killed in the 9/11 attacks. He enlisted, becoming an Air Force pilot. Meanwhile, he & Jaime became estranged and, when he was stationed overseas, they lost touch.

6) Now in 20XX, Steve appears on Jaime’s doorstep. After several tours in the Middle East and a brief stint in the now-defunct NASA Space Shuttle program, the newly-promoted colonel is about to begin working as a test pilot. Over the next few days, they spend a lot of time together and rekindle some old flames. Steve asks Jaime to come watch him on his first flight of a new supersonic jet. As in the original TSMDM, Steve has a terrible accident while landing and is near death. A distraught Jaime manages to convince Oscar to let Rudy operate on Steve and replace various parts with bionic ones. (Steve’s superb military record certainly works in his favor, since Oscar thinks he would make a good O.S.I. operative.)

7) Taking another cue from the original TSMDM/TBW, Steve suffers minor brain damage and doesn’t remember Jaime or their relationship. Nevertheless, he accepts her friendship and assistance in learning to accept (and use) his bionics. This aspect can, of course, be interspersed throughout 2 or 3 or more episodes.

8) At some point, Oscar tries to recruit Steve into working for the O.S.I. If he does it full-time, perhaps he would be assigned to another installation. Or, maybe he could agree to only the occasional assignment while he concentrates on relearning his piloting skills. Or, maybe they work out that he remains in the military for another 2 or 3 years (perhaps training recruits?), before beginning training with the O.S.I.? (Of course, this will be affected by whether or not Steve gets his own show.)

So,… thoughts? I think the old fans (like me) would really appreciate these changes, bringing back both the tone and some familiar characters/elements from the original series. New, younger viewers might like it better, too. As long as the casting and writing were up to snuff, it could be a popular show (or two) once again. And, speaking of casting, that’s what I’ll do in my next post….