The Bionic Woman: In the 70s, Lindsay Wagner’s Jaime Sommers was America’s bionic sweetheart

The Bionic Woman TV show from the 1970s

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Capitalizing on the success of The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman was a spin-off that ran for three seasons between ABC and NBC from 1976 to 1978.

The show starred actress Lindsay Wagner in the title role of Jaime Sommers, who received her bionic implants after being severely injured in a skydiving accident.

The show was very favorably received, becoming the fifth most-watched TV program in its first season, and landing Wagner an Emmy award for her performance in the episode “Deadly Ringer.”

You can find out much more about Lindsay and the series below — plus see several photos from the show, along with the super-70s-style opening credits.

The Bionic Woman - Lindsay Wagner as Jaime Sommers

Alas, the Bionic Woman’s adventures didn’t last as long as those of her counterpart, Steve Austin’s Six Million Dollar Man.

At the end of the second season, ABC decided to drop the show, apparently feeling that it wasn’t attracting the demographic they wanted. NBC picked it up for a final run of 22 episodes, and Jaime’s bionic series run ended on May 13, 1978.

Lindsay’s Jaime would, however, re-emerge for three TV movies: 1987’s The Return of the Six-Million-Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman (which you can get on DVD), Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman (which also starred a young Sandra Bullock) in 1989, and finally Bionic Ever After? in 1994.

Bionic Woman - actress Lindsay Wagner (1970s)

Bionic Chicken: Lindsay Wagner prefers the easy life (1976)

From the Lexington Herald-Leader (Kentucky) November 24, 1976

Facing the room, stunt woman Rita Egleston teeters on the narrow window ledge as though preparing to do a back flip into a pool. Then she calmly steps backward and plummets feet first into an airbag filled with kapok. The crew applauds as she lands gracefully 20 feet below.

Immediately afterwards, the TV tape of the fall is reversed, and that simple kind of television magic will be enough to convince 30 million avid viewers of “The Bionic Woman” that they’re watching Lindsay Wagner leap from the ground to the window ledge.

Bionic Woman - Lindsay Wagner (c1977)

Actually, it’s hilarious to think of Lindsay involved in anything even remotely suggesting unusual agility. She’s the non-athletic type, the kind of klutzy woman who gets looped merely walking around. And she displays about as much enthusiasm for strenuous sports as Orson Welles would.

Still, most strangers instantly identify Lindsay as an “outdoors girl.” With her long ash-blond hair, healthy glow and California look (she was born In Los Angeles) she would seem in her element riding horseback, hitting a golf ball, hiking for miles.

Yet she doesn’t participate in any of those activities, even though the series depicts her as an ex-professional tennis star.

“I’d rather sit home concentrating on my music and art,” she says. “The only physical thing I do these days is take an occasional dip in my pool.”

TV Guide 1978 Lindsay Wagner of The Bionic Woman

Her big problem is she lacks the energy required for any vigorous endeavor. She’s constantly dragging. It’s as though someone had sabotaged the circuits in her bionic setup.

Maybe the scientific geniuses behind “The Bionic Woman” should have pumped her full of Geritol instead of all those electronic doodads.

“This show exhausts me,” she says. “I get up each morning at 4:40 and often work until midnight. When I arrive at the studio each day, I stagger into the makeup department. One of these days, they’re actually going to have to feed me while putting on the makeup. I’m so tired.”

Her idea of paradise is to snooze 14 hours or more a day. Sometimes it’s possible on a Saturday, but more often she’s laboring over a hot bionic stove that day, too.

There’s no denying that the heavy workload is affecting Lindsay. She’s much thinner than she appears on television. In fact, if she gets any skinnier, her battlers and wires will show.

“I used to diet before I got this role,” she says. “Now it’s completely unnecessary. But I’m not fretting over the fact that I’m lean. Television adds 10 pounds to your figure, and that’s just about right for mine.”

She shrugs off the fatigue, too, since she is compensated so handsomely. Besides the million dollars that lands in her bank account, she also has the option of making a major motion picture every year.

Vintage toy - The Bionic Woman Fembot action figure

In addition, there will soon be a bionic doll resembling Lindsay, and the actress will share in its sale as well as all other “Bionic Woman” marketing items.

It’s not true, incidentally, that if you wind the doll it says: “I hate Lee Majors!” though it is certainly true that she and Lee aren’t overly fond of one another.

Starting on “Six Million Dollar Man”

Few people had ever heard of Lindsay Wagner prior to her two appearances on Lee’s “Six Million Dollar Man” series.

She had been featured in a couple of films, “Two People” and “The Paper Chase,” without attracting notice. Her guest shots on TV had been unsensational.

And so when she was given the role of Jamie Sommers on “Six Million Dollar Man,” not much was supposed to come from it.

1970s Bionic Woman opening credits - Jaime Sommers stats

She’d play Lee’s girlfriend, who is turned into a bionic woman after suffering a near-fatal skydiving accident. A bionic malfunction would occur in the second installment, and she would die, and that would be the end of Jamie Sommers and Lindsay Wagner.


But TV audiences loved the concept, and adored Lindsay. They didn’t want her dead, and they let television stations around the country know it.

Bringing her back to life didn’t pose any problem to the writers. They would revive her, and explain that she hadn’t really perished but been into a deep coma.

Universal executives rubbed their hands over the intriguing prospect, but their joy was premature. Lindsay refused to come back as the bionic woman unless given many inducements, including a fantastic salary, freedom to make movies, and a slice of marketing profits.

Universal had no choice. They had released Lindsay following her stint on “Six Million Dollar Man,” and now they needed her.

They agreed to Lindsay’s terms, and as it turned out, her salary topped Lee Majors. She also wrangled a better off-TV deal.

According to insiders, Majors was infuriated by the news. His contract has since been renegotiated, reportedly to bring it more in line with his bionic counterpart.

Bionic Woman and Six Million Dollar Man - 1970s TV shows
Bionic Woman and Six Million Dollar Man – Lindsay Wagner and Lee Majors

Up to now, Lindsay hasn’t had the time to go on spending sprees, though she purchased an expensive house on Mulholland Drive (complete with pool, of course). And after she crashed her MGB into a tree some months ago, she bought a new Jaguar.

“I don’t think you need money to be happy,” she says. “Of course, it gives you a certain mobility. The fact that I have money will let me look for acting roles I really like. I want to undergo experiences on screen that people can identify with for themselves.”

1970s Bionic Woman opening credits (1)


The Bionic Woman TV show opening credits/theme


The Bionic Woman brought back to life

By Mary Wood, The Cincinnati Post (Ohio) January 14, 1976

Television has almost as many “begats” as The Bible — the TV networks call them spinoffs — and tonight on ABC (8 p.m. on CH. 12), “The Six Million Dollar Man” begets “The Bionic Woman.”

Lindsay Wagner, whom you may know as “Jaime Sommers,” beloved of “Steve Austin,” the incredible “Six Million Dollar Man,” has the dubious distinction of being the world’s first bionic woman, having been snatched from the jaws of death by medical science after a sky-diving disaster.

September Bionic and Beautiful - TV show newspaper ad 1977

“I WANT ‘JAIME’ to be a warm, sympathetic human being who just happens to have two bionic legs, a bionic arm and a bionic ear,” said Lindsay when we met in New York recently. “Let’s say I’ll try,” she added with a grin.

Lindsay explained that “Jaime” and “Steve” (Lee Majors) had been engaged before the accident, but now “Jaime” has no memory of being in love with “Steve.” It is hoped that she might regain her memory in the future.

“Jaime” is a grade-school teacher who moonlights as a top-secret agent for the OSI, the same government agency for which “Steve” works.

Bionic Woman Black Magic episode - Vincent Price with Lindsay Wagner (1976)
Bionic Woman Black Magic episode – Vincent Price with Lindsay Wagner (1976)

“MY SERIES IS different from ‘Six Million Dollar Man’ because there is very little violence,” said Lindsay. “I’m not just a crime fighter or a wonder woman, so we’ll concentrate more on human interest stories.”

One of “Jaime’s” more amazing attributes is her bionic ear, which enables her to hear even a whisper a mile away.

The ear is also a source of embarrassment to Lindsay. “There is nothing more embarrassing than having a close-up of your ear, which the makeup man paints and powders up so it will stand out,” laughed Lindsay. “Unlike your face, there is nothing dramatic you can do with an ear. I can’t even wiggle mine.”

The Bionic Woman TV show

NOW 26, LINDSAY began her career as a model when she was 13, but didn’t become an actress until a few years ago when she appeared on “Marcus Welby,” which led to guest roles on other Universal TV series. Several guest shots on “Six Million Dollar Man” led to “Bionic Woman.”

“I also did commercials and worked with a rock group before I was signed to a Universal contract five years ago,” she said. “I still sing, and will sing on the show in a couple of episodes.”

Lindsay is divorced but has no children. She says she has no plans to marry again, but her steady beau is Michael Brandon, a talented young actor.

LINDSAY INSISTS that “The Bionic Woman” isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds.

Bionics is an actual science, and the experts are working on it at UCLA,” she said. “I imagine it is terribly expensive because ‘Steve’ cost $6 million. So far, Universal has avoided saying how much I cost.”

Well, if “The Bionic Woman” becomes as popular as “The Six Million Dollar Man,” she’ll be worth every penny of it.


Dynamite magazine: Catching up with The Bionic Woman

SEE MORE: Remember Dynamite magazine, with 70s & 80s stars kids loved? See 60 classic covers here!

Dynamite magazine with Lindsay Wagner of The Bionic Woman


Steve Austin & Jaime Sommers parodied in Mad Magazine (January 1977)

ALSO SEE: Mad world: See 30+ vintage MAD magazine covers, and find out the magazine’s history

Mad Magazine - January 1977 - Bionic Woman & 6 Million Dollar Man

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