RETROSPECULATIVE TV: The Six Million Dollar Man: “Wine, Women and War” (Second Pilot Movie)

Kevin Long
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I recently learned that the word “Godawful” is actually very rude. It’s actually Victorian slang for “God damn awful.” I’ve been saying a horrible thing without realizing it since I was a little kid. I’ll have to stop using that word, or be very judicious with it from here on out.

With that in mind: This is a Godawful movie.

No, seriously: It’s very nearly unwatchable. I haven’t seen this precipitous a dropoff in quality between TV movies since “Man From Atlantis” was followed up by “Man From Atlantis II: The Death Scouts.” Granted, this isn’t QUITE as bad as that, but man, it isn’t good. Pretty much everything good about the pilot is chucked out the window in favor of a half-assed TV version of James Bond with goofy superpowers.

No, really!

Firstly: Cast changes. Darrin McGavin’s character Oliver somethingorother is gone, and in his place is Richard Anderson as Oscar Goldman, a completely new character. Dr. Rudy Wells has been re-cast. The new Rudy is inferior in every way to the old Rudy. Oscar is….complicated. More on that later.

The opening credits are cringingly awful. We’ve got Dusty Springfield (Really) singing a discoey Bondey kinda “He’s the Six Million Dollar man/yeah yeah/that man’s worth six million dollars/baby baby” piece of crap (Written by Stu “Battlestar Galactica” Phillips, which is nothing short of appalling*). Oddly, the opening credits (Which are not the famous ones from the series in any way) show Steve’s plane going out of control, with Richard Anderson’s voice saying “Steve, what’s going on?” and Steve saying “I was hoping you could tell me!” Then the crash, and an explanation that he’s a cyborg. The implication being that Oscar was in the story from the beginning, rather than being introduced here. It’s a very sloppy retcon and poorly filmed.

The plot starts off with Bond---ehm, Steve---wrapping up a mission in Egypt. He’s supposed to steal a catalog from an arms dealer. He’s been undercover for 2 months, and has started knocking boots with a chick named “Tamara.” No, it’s not the one from Tamara and the Scene. I know. I was disappointed, too. This goes badly, the girl is killed, and Steve has to swim 20 miles to a US Submarine, which he does in about six minutes. The crew is instructed to forget everything they’ve seen.

Back in the States, we find that Steve is a colonel in the USAF. What the frack? They made a huge deal in the first movie about him being one of only 12 purely civilian astronauts ever in NASA. We also find out that Steve was either the commander or LMP of Apollo 19. Evidently the space program in the Bionic universe did a little better than the one in our ugly stupid reality, where there were only 17 Apollo missions, though we’d planned more. (Information on the aborted Apollo 19 mission http://www.astronautix.com/flights/apollo19.htm ) Thank you very much, Senator William Proxmire, you miserable anti-scientific cheese-subsidizing son of a bitch!

But I digress: We also find out that Steve has been basically confined to one floor of a hospital for the better part of a year, though he’s evidently run several missions in that time. He’s not allowed to leave, unless he’s undercover. He’s never told any more than he needs to know about the mission. He’s chafing at this. Oscar wants to send him in to take another shot at completing the mission he muffed in Egypt, but Steve’s having no part of it.

Coincidentally, Steve bumps into an Air Force major who just happens to be in the hospital, explaining he’s been transferred to some awful duty after he rented a shack in paradise for two weeks, and if Steve’s not going to use it, it’ll just go to waste. Steve believes this because as you know, all astronaut/secret agents are pretty stupid. Steve breaks out, and takes a jet to the Bahamas or wherever. En route he ends up sitting next to Britt Eklund, whom he accuses of being a prostitute, because, hey, astronaut/secret agents are not known for being suave.

Steve gets to his shack, and one of his Air Force major’s girlfriends happens to be there. She’s got nice breasts, but a voice bad enough to distract from that. She’s just kind of there, and kinda’ hits on Steve, who kinda’ thinks that she’s a prostitute or perhaps one of the Major’s sex-buddies, or whatever. Honestly, it’s the 1970s, so these aren’t as outlandish prospects as they’d appear to us.

As it happens, Steve’s shack is right next to the shack being rented by Brit Eklund and David McCallum. David McCallum is best known for playing Soviet Spy Illya Nikovich Kuryakin in “The Man From U.N.C.L.E,” but here he’s breaking character by playing a Soviet spy named “Ivan” instead. He has an outrageously fake mustache, and evidently hasn’t had a haircut since U.N.C.L.E. went off the air. It’s really long. Surprisingly, it looks good on him. Pity about the mustache, though.

Anyway: he knows Steve from a state visit to Moscow after the Apollo 19 mission, and evidently they got on well. Ivan is basically smarter than Steve and realizes the astronaut’s appearances are not coincidental, but Steve hasn’t figured this out yet. He kidnaps Steve to keep him out of the way, and puts him on a yacht while he (Illya…I mean Ivan, sorry) deals with the arms dealer. On the boat, Brit informs him that if he’s a good little kidnapee, he can have his run of the boat and her as well. He immediately takes advantage of that. I mean how the hell couldn’t he? She’s Brit Eklund, and she hasn’t even married that dude from The Stray Cats yet.

Then he jumps over the side of the boat and swims 30 miles to the Bahamas, or wherever.

There he rendezvouses with his Air Force Major friend, who’s a CIA spook or something, and Voice-is-worse-than-breasts-are-good girl, both of whom explain Oscar needed to con Steve into the mission, and promising him revenge on the entirely forgettable arms dealer villain who killed Tamara in Egypt. I can’t remember the bad guys name, but he looks a bit like George Harrison, so let’s just call him that.

So there’s some tedious running and shouting and Steve infiltrates George Harrison’s evil lair as George is showing nuclear missiles for sale to Ivan. Steve then leaves, rents a plane, and bails out over the area he thinks George Harrison’s lair is located in (A very large, ornate graveyard. Much bigger and nicer than you generally find in the Bahamas, or wherever). The major is sent to board a brand new US sub on a shakedown cruise while George Harrison randomly decides to take Ivan and Brit captive.

George then explains that pretty much the plot we’ve been watching for 80 minutes at this point is all nonsense, his real plan is to capture a US sub and either sell it to the Arabs, or nuke Israel himself. It’s a bit fuzzy. Anyway, he’s going to do this by sending a high-frequency signal at the sub, which will explode a shaving cream can full of nerve gas. Yup. Sure. Why not. The major is on board for no reason. Goodbody badvoice has been utterly forgotten.

Steve saves Brit, but Ivan dies. Steve and Brit rig one of George Harrison’s nuclear missiles to go off when he opens the door of the garage he’s keeping it in. Steve and Brit escape and he runs very fast carrying her. George opens door # 7 looking for them and cue stock footage of a nuclear explosion. This prompted my wife to yell at the TV, “You blew up a nuke IN THE BAHAMAS? What the hell were you thinking?”

The end.

OBSERVATIONS

Well, obviously, it’s shit. Anything beyond that is superfluous.

I get the feeling that Chesty McScreechowl and Major Jackass were intended to be continuing characters, because there’s no other reason for them to be in as much of this movie as they are otherwise. Neither of their parts come to anything.

Oscar is kind of a bastard here. He’s not as much of a bastard as Darrin McGavin was in the pilot, but he’s clearly written closer to that vein. He’s not the Oscar we know and love. New Rudy is barely in this movie at all, and I don’t think he’s the one in the series proper.

Skylab gets mentioned in this ep! I like skylab! My family helped build skylab!

Steve’s eye gets used in this one, but only for night vision.

Seriously, guys, what’s up with all this James Bond shit? This episode plays like a club-footed knockoff of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which is probably intentional given the casting of David McCallum. I don’t know why they’d do that. I also don’t understand the logic of turning an Apollo astronaut into a spy. I mean, spies are supposed to keep a low profile, yes? And Apollo Astronauts would, by definition, be like the 18 most famous people in the world? Not as recognizable as rock stars, perhaps, but certainly not low profile.

Ugh. Just terrible. I was interested in watching more of the series, and the previous TV movie was surprisingly dark and well done. I was actually looking forward to more after that, but this just killed my interest.

There was one more made-for-TV movie, and then the regular series started the next year. I doubt I'll be watching it.

*- Although come to think of it’, he’s responsible for ‘It’s Love, Love, Love’ from the Galactica pilot…

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Kevin Long is super cool, and you should check out his website at http://www.kevin-long.com and buy his books. And who if you do that, who knows? He might even show you some of his unrivaled collection of Scandanavian credit cards...

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