20160831

TELEVISION

The political decision to rebuild astronaut Steve Austin into the world's first bionic man following a tragic accident turned 'The Six Million Dollar Man' pilot, first shown in 1973, into the most successful of all made for television science fiction movies. A team of aero-space physicians repaired Steve Austin's human body with mechanical legs, an artificial right arm and the left eye had a 20-1 zoom range, allowing Steve to run 60 miles per hour and performed pole vault some 30 feet high. 

Isobel Silden credited Lee Majors for giving credibility to somewhat unbelievable storylines, pointing out, "Witness the recent (in 1976) artificial gene created at Massachusetts Institute of Technology – and successfully transplanted into a living cell. The August 1976 medical journal, 'Modern Medicine' reported that there are $25,000 worth of spare parts on the shelf, in a catalog as it were, to really assemble a bionic man. 

"Steve's component parts are somewhat inflationary according to the actual costs of replacements. Their price list included the bionic parts and the surgeons' fees. A shoulder costs $1400, an elbow or wrist $2200. A hip good for 25 to 30 years is $1300 and the same price applies to an ankle, but it will hold up only about 20 years." Director Alan Crosland observed, "He (Lee Majors) has an instinct for his character. Lee himself is not too wordy a man; he is aware of the character he's playing and his feelings and he portrays him honestly." 

Lee insisted, "We use the bionic limbs as much as possible, but still keep the human element, so we don’t get compared with 'Batman'. I think you can believe the guy. He has feelings." Alan added, "We keep his feats of strength within the realms of believability." By 1987, Michael Sloan made the point, "There's a '60 Minutes' segment about the work they've been doing with paraplegics, virtually with what I would term bionics. 

"They had wired up this paraplegic’s legs, and the electronic circuitry was so sophisticated that it bypassed the part of the brain that told the legs they had no feeling. The paraplegic, albeit very haltingly, was able to walk a few steps. They’ve been pursuing that line of technology for the last 6 or 7 years (or since 1980). They’re experimenting with this as we speak and have had some success. A hundred years from now, there will be no such thing as paralysis." 

In 1977, Patrick Duffy starred in 'Man From Atlantis', "Aside from the webs and the fact that the man from Atlantis can breathe under water, there aren't too many gimmicks on this show. I mean, we're nothing like the bionic people." Lou Ferrigno believed, "The network really missed the boat with 'Spider-Man' (1978). It could really be done well with Patrick Duffy as Spider-Man. Pat has a natural litheness and sense of movement." Lee Siegel maintained, "'Man From Atlantis' really became Star Trek underwater, which I guess is OK, but I prefer reality. I think it's such a rich area, what goes on in the ocean. It's a way to learn about the Earth, water, and sea creatures." 

Around the time, Lou Ferrigno could be seen on 'The Incredible Hulk'. Bill Bixby argued, "The Hulk is not evil. There is a physical manifestation of its anger, but it is not evil. The Hulk allows us to take a look at anger. The Hulk is first an entertainment show. There is a lot of child in all of us. Have we all forgotten that we all started as children?" Kenneth Johnson told Pat Jankiewicz, "'Hulk' was about facing things inside yourself and learning to deal with them. 

"We always tried to write from a standpoint of, 'What is this about?' No plots, but what is this really about? Is it about greed? Obsession? Our feeling was that the Hulk could be a manifestation of different things to different people. In Banner, anger brought out his demons. In others, it could be alcoholism, drugs, jealousy. We were always looking for thematic ways to have our characters explore their inner demons, and that was how we approached the show." 

Bill Bixby emphasized, "This is not a message show, but we plan to deal with some very interesting subjects … We make the show adults, but we make it so that children can watch too. They're not afraid of the Hulk because in him they can see anger manifested as something tangible. Listen, Carl Jung would have loved this show. Jung would have applauded anger being seen, measured, learned from." 

"We play off the feeling, which most of us have, that we'd like the Hulk to come out of us at times," Kenneth Johnson told Merrill Shindler. "We decided to play it as a classic Jekyll and Hyde story, treating the character as someone who is not just superhuman in ability but has great pathos." Lou Ferrigno told Samuel Maronie, "Everyone has his own 'little Hulk' inside him. By watching the show they (the audience) have a way of releasing their own pent-up frustrations. 

"It's one way to deal with the daily aggravations that can build up and really get to bug you. Anybody could play Darth Vader. Vader is basically just a big guy behind a costume. The character shows no emotion, no nothing! If you really showed the emotional side of 'The Hulk' he could be even hotter than 'Star Wars'. 'Battlestar Galactica' didn't show any feelings and that's the big reason why I think it was canceled." 

Kenneth Johnson remarked, "Literally, Dr. Banner’s thrust is to get the Hulk off his back. It’s obviously a problem. It would be a problem if it was happening to you or me. So I tried to play it as though it was happening to me. We have all, to use the cliché, been 'blind with rage.' I talked to a number of psychologists involved in this to get their ideas of where this anger comes from inside people." 

Nick Corea made known, "We’re really going to confront what it means to change. What it means to go through the metamorphosis. What David has to do to prevent the change. He’s going to confront that in a couple of shows. We never want him to come to the point where he consciously brings the monster up. We want him to be aware of it and resolved to it, but I don’t think he ever will. He wants to be normal again." 

Kenneth Johnson remembered, "Adults who have come to see it have been stunned; I think that’s the best word. They come out going, 'My God, I didn’t have any idea it was going to be like that!’ Everybody I’ve been around who’s seen it has been quite surprised that it’s not just another 'Spider-Man' or 'Wonder Woman' or something like that. It’s something that has a real deep sensitive strength to it. And it's been nice. What we tried to go for was a real Jekyll and Hyde sort of classic treatment to a real heavy-duty psychological problem, and not just do another comic book." 

Dr. Herbert Marshall McLuhan had been described as "the most important thinker since Newton, Darwin, Freud, Einstein and Pavlov." Dr. McLuhan categorized books as "hot" (requiring participation) and television as "cool" (requiring less participation). He ranked the television age as the 4th world and stressed "the medium is the message." 

"The alternative to violence is dialog," Dr. McLuhan explained. "We live in a world in which we have so much power . . . The means of destruction are so vast at our command, war becomes unthinkable so people are cool off by media and by situation which requires dialog than just self expression. Violence is a kind of self expression. The quest for identity - the person who is struggling to find out who am I by all sort of maladjustments, all sort of quarrels, all sort of encounters - is always a violence quest. 

"TV has brought the outside inside. (However) when everybody is deeply involved in everybody else life, all sorts of strange things start to happen. Man is losing his private identity, his private goals, as he gets involved with other people … The loss of identity creates huge violence … It's like inflation … people want to know who is responsible…" 

"One of the peculiarity of (the new media)," Dr. McLuhan noted, "is that it pushes all the unconscious factor up into consciousness … (The new media) has an irresistible force when invisible. When these factors remain ignored and invisible, they have an absolute power over the user … A medium works on you much like a chiropractor or some other masseur and really works you over and doesn’t leave any part of you unaffected.

"The medium is what happens to you and that is the message. TV is remaking us in its own image … The new information environment of our (electronic) time encourages everybody to assume a part in the global theater. The change from industrial economy of products and packages to an (electronic) world of information and images has taken place so suddenly that few have had time to recognize the new demands made on us." 

Dr. McLuhan also made the observation, "Any kind of sport is a dramatization of the typical and accepted form of violence … All these games are huge ways of discovering, dramatizing what the society you are in is all about. By the way, without an audience these games would have no meaning at all. They have to be played in front of a public in order to acquire their meaning … The game requires the public and the public has to resemble a whole cross section of the community." 

"I've made a strange discovery about the rear view mirror," Dr. McLuhan had said, "I've discovered somewhat to my surprise that when you look into the rear view mirror you do not see what has gone pass, you see what is coming. The rear view mirror is the foreseeable future. It is not the past at all." Dr. McLuhan claimed the electronic revolution had turned the world into a global village (because just like a village, anything that happened affected everyone everywhere at the same time). 

"Ours is the first age in which many thousands of the best-trained individual minds have made it a full-time business to get inside the collective public mind. To get inside in order to manipulate, exploit, control is the object now. And to generate heat, not light, is the intention," Dr. McLuhan made the comment. "Nostalgia is the name of the game in every part of our world today including the program 'Roots' (1977) but nostalgia is a kind of rear view mirror if you like but it's also a shape of things to come. 

"When people have been stripped of their private identity they develop huge nostalgia (to voice their grievance) … TV creates involvement. There's very little detail with a low degree of information, something like a cartoon. The viewer fills in and he participates in the process. He tunes in and turns on in the psychedelic sense. It's a cool medium. Hot media like radio and the movies are low in participation. Everything is done for you in a hot medium."

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