The Six Million Dollar Man: Lee Majors was stronger, faster, better in this classic 70s TV show

Six Million Dollar Man TV show intro (2)

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Lee Majors starred in the Six Million Dollar Man TV series as astronaut Steve Austin, who, after a crash that nearly killed him, was remade in a bionic man – essentially a cyborg – and turned into a government agent.

Six Million Dollar Man TV show premieres (1973)

Dayton Daily News (Ohio) October 20, 1973

Lee Majors stars in this monthly TV series as Steve Austin, who, while testing a “lifting body,” launched from a B-52, incurs a devastating accident that leaves him as a “human scrap.”

He is ‘remade’ through the medical science of bionics by Dr Rudy Wells (series co-star Allen Oppenheimer) into a man with superhuman strength.

Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson) arranges for the six million dollars to repair Austin, in order to use him as a special agent in his government intelligence agency.

In this premiere episode, Austin, working with the O.S.O. (Office of Strategic Operations), works to discover the source of a black market operation in nuclear weapons. Britt Ekland, David McCallum and Earl Holliman guest star.

Lee Majors - TV's first cyborg

Six Million Dollar Man toys: The action figure doll

Six Million Dollar Man Steve Austin doll and toys - UK 1977

6 Million Dollar Man Mission Control Center playset

Inflatable dome 26″ wide — 17″ high — secret escape hatch — Communications console with plug-in cables, command chair, and headset

The Six Million Dollar Man action figure doll and toys

Six Million Dollar Man winning viewers (1974)

From the Daily Reporter (Dover, Ohio) August 9, 1974

TV sleuths come in all shapes and sizes this season. You can be bald or fat, black or beautiful, white-haired or wrinkled it doesn’t matter. The trick is to be different.

Using this line of reasoning the folks at ABC appear to have captured viewers with a way-out hero, “The Six Million Dollar Man,” who disposes of villains in James Bond fashion for our government in a series that began in the fall on a once-a-month schedule but it now has been stepped up as a Friday night fixture.

Hero Steve Austin, played by Lee Majors, looks like any other Hollywood western lead. He’s rugged, handsome and has an easy country drawl. But that’s all front.

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Austin is video’s first cyborg, a semi-mechanical man, a test pilot put together again on the operating table after totaling an experimental plane. Both legs and arm are synthetic mechanisms, and one rebuilt eye would make a hawk envious.

In addition, Austin never tires. Popeye would envy his strength. He is Clark Kent without the cloak, and he likes girls as much as Joe Namath.

Six Million Dollar Man TV show intro (4)

The role of a cyborg calls for a well-coordinated actor who appears to be in good shape, and the part fits Lee Majors nicely. For Majors happens to be a midwestern football star who came west with the idea of a high school coaching career.

In his job of playground supervisor for the Los Angeles Park Department, Lee began playing touch football with actors on weekends, and grew interested in the business. Soon he was doing the cowboy act on “The Big Valley,” performing his own horse stunts to boot. Lee even learned how to rope and tie down a calf properly.

The quiet-spoken, easy-going Lee is just a natural athlete. His current minuscule role of lawyer Jess Brandon on the weekly “Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law” leaves plenty of free time, so Majors took up golf ten months ago and had one lesson.

He was able to shoot in the mid-80s, and he boomed long drives down the fairways in celebrity affairs around the country. Then came the demands for his time in his weekly series.

Richard Anderson and Lee Majors - Six Million Dollar Man TV show actors

Lee’s need for movement and the outdoor life is shared by his new bride, actress Farrah Fawcett from Houston, Texas.

“We’ve been going together for five years,” Majors said. ‘I took her hunting and Farrah turned into a dead eye. I took her fishing, and now she outfishes me, knowing just where the suckers will bite. She’s gotten into golf, and is hooked just like I am. I tell you, I’ve never met a girl as pretty who is such good company.

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The only sport Farrah ignores is the weekly touch football game at the playground with the fellows. That’s still Majors territory, his tie with coaching and kids. He’s one of those Hollywood rarities who doesn’t cut loose, or put down the past.

Acting is fine and all that, but Majors claims he would be just as happy coaching high school kids. Lucky Farrah has found herself a man, one who enjoys his six-million dollar price tag.

The Six Million Dollar Man Season 2

The Six Million Dollar Man TV show opening theme & credits (show ran from 1973-1978)

YouTube video

Words in short opening credits (in place of lyrics)

It looks good at NASA One.

BCS arm switch is on.
Okay, Victor.
Lining rocket arm switch is on… Here comes the throttle. Circuit breakers in.
We have separation.
Inboard and outboards are on… I’m comin’ to port with the sideslip.
Looks good.
Ah, Roger.
I’ve got a blow-out — damper three!
Get your pitch to zero.
Pitch is out! I can’t hold altitude!
Correction, alpha hold is off, turn selectors — Emergency!
Flight Com! I can’t hold it! She’s breaking up, she’s break…

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.

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The Six Million Dollar Man View-Master reel

The Six Million Dollar Man View-Master

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Lee Majors is wonderful! Just ask him (1975)

By Frank Swertlow via the Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan) January 19, 1975

ABC’s Lee Majors thinks he’s the hottest thing ever to come roaring out of Kentucky — Abraham Lincoln, Secretariat and Col. Sanders notwithstanding.

“It’s kind of hard going back home,” said Majors, ABC’s “Six Million Dollar Man.” “It’s like being in Boston airport, and everybody knows you’re coming. When I go home, I can’t leave the phone on the hook. There’s a parade around the house 24 hours a day.

“Yeah, I’m the biggest thing to come out of Kentucky.”

Now, this might sound like the words of a braggart, but the “Six Million Dollar Man” was a hit for ABC last year, and that means a lot of folks in Kentucky were watching.

This year, however, the show is wobbling in the ratings, and Majors blames ABC for the flop, and not his talent.

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“ABC never won a Friday night, and I gave them a winner last year,” he said. “This year, they gave me a lousy lead-in show, ‘Kodiak.’

“It’s a shame that ABC, which doesn’t have very many hit shows, decided to put me in a graveyard. I don’t know if the spot where they are moving the show — Sundays at 7:30 p.m. — will be any better.”

The Six Million Dollar Man Season 3

Majors, who says he is a very private man, is now doing a promotional trip for his ailing show, and he hates it.

Before Majors reached the point of promo trips, his dream was to coach football. But something must have clicked for him because he was chosen out of 400 actors to play a role in the TV show “The Big Valley.”

His next spot was on “The Man from Shiloh,” followed by “Owen Marshall, Counselor-at-Law.” That’s a total of four series in 10 years, he points out, with a touch of pride.

You pause a moment and realize that if Lee Majors was a shade less attractive or less talented, he might be a carhop.

Before Majors can utter another word, you interrupt him and point out that the former Israeli defense minister, Gen. Moshe Dayan, is dining at a nearby table.

“Oh, you think he knows I’m here?” said Majors.

Dynamite Magazine - Six Million Dollar Man 1975

It looks like TV’s bionic beings are headed for the scrap metal heap

By Frank Swertlow via the Miami News (Florida) March 17, 1978

The batteries of the bionic era are dying.

ABC’s “Six Million Dollar Man” and NBC’s “Bionic Woman,” two of the more mindless series on the air, are on the skids. Don’t be surprised if the weekly sagas of the mechanical man and the metal woman are not around next fall.

Six Million Dollar Man Annual 1977 - Book based on the TV show

“I think that the bionic man has had his day,” said an ABC official. “It’s reached the end of its cycle. I’m amazed that it has lasted this long. Sure, there’s a possibility that it might be back. But it’s a limited possibility. With our new products coming in, it has to be listed in the doubtful category.”

The latest Nielsen charts support the idea that ABC executives should yank the plug of the rusting “Six Million Dollar Man,” which stars Lee Majors.

Last week, the ABC show had a 21 percent share of the audience and wound up the 54th showing a field of 66. The previous weeks’ shares were 22, 21 and 27 percent.

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Comments on this story

One Response

  1. Along with “Happy Days,” “The Six Million Dollar Man” was THE can’t-miss show if you were a kid in the ’70s. I and everyone I knew had the action figure, and “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him!” became one of the catch phrases of the era. And who can forget the “chee-chee-chee-chee” sound that accompanied Steve Austin doing something cool with his bionic powers? The show (I suspect) helped popularize tracks suits, and I had a friend who begged his parents to get him a leisure suit so he could dress like Steve Austin.

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