70’s TV Shows - The Six Million Dollar Man

six million dollar man, bionic man, steve austin, lee majors
“Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world's first bionic man.”

It’s time for another blast from the past as we take a look at another of the great TV shows from the 1970’s, The Bionic Man. Yep, the astronaut, Steve Austin, who had two bionic legs, a bionic right arm and a bionic left eye that made weird noises when he peered into the distance, was prime time viewing in British TV in the mid 1970’s. The show, which starred Lee Majors in the Leading role of Steve Austin, first appeared as three made-for-TV movies that were shown on 1973, and then aired for five regular series between 1974 and 1978. Despite the fact that, even as a kid, I wondered how his back could take the weight of the heavy things he lifted with his one bionic arm, it was still a great show and one that we used to sit glued to every weekend. 

So, as a tribute to the bionic man, in the time honoured way of the internet, here are ten facts that you may not have known about Steve Austin, the world first bionic man, The Six Million Dollar Man.

1. Do you remember the slow motion sequences?
It’s funny how you forget things, but the slow motion that was used to indicate to viewers that Steve Austin was using his bionic powers, had completely slipped my mind until I started to research for this post.  Now, though I remember how, as kids, we copied that and we pretended to lift up something heavy in slow motion. I digress though, back to the facts! The slow motion wasn’t used in the original made-for-TV movies; it was only introduced in the TV series.

2. The opening crash scene was real
The sequence that is shown in the opening credits of The Six Million Dollar Man, when Steve Austin’s craft crashes to the ground, is real footage of an accident that occurred in 1967 when test pilot Bruce Peterson’s aircraft hit the ground at a speed of 250 miles per hour. The dialogue that Austin speaks in the sequence is exactly the same that Peterson spoke just before he crashed. Peterson survived the real crash, but he did lose an eye through an infection after the accident.

six million dollar man, bionic man, steve austin3. Steve Austin’s powers were strictly limited
The producers could have had The Six Million Dollar Man doing all kinds of incredible things, but they deliberately limited his abilities to keep the show ‘plausible’. The producer of the show, Kenneth Johnson, set strict guidelines as to what Steve Austin could, and could not do. He could, for example, jump up two stories, but no more, and his speed was limited to 60mph.

4. There were a lot of memorable guest stars on The Six Million Dollar Man
There were many well-known faces that appeared as guest stars on The Six Million Dollar Man, one of whom was of course Farrah Fawcett, who was married to Lee Majors from 1973 to 1982. As well as Farrah Fawcett, other big names who made appearances in the show included William Shatner, Sonny Bono, Stefanie Powers and George Takei.

5. Lee Majors was in a legal battle with the studio that produced The Six Million Dollar Man
In 1977, Lee Majors tried to renegotiate his contract with Universal Television, allegedly asking for more money. Universal Studio responded with a lawsuit that required Majors to turn up for work. The show was still very popular then, so when Majors failed to turn up for work, the studio relented. Shortly after that, in 1978, ratings dropped off and the show was axed.

6. Lee majors doesn’t earn a great deal now from The Six Million Dollar Man
Back then when The Six Million Dollar Man was made, no one had even dreamt up box set DVD’s and actors just didn’t negotiate syndication rights. Apparently, Lee Majors makes very little money out of the re-runs and DVD sales, although he does still make appearances at conventions.

six million dollar man, steve austin, lee majors7. No one got killed in The Six Million Dollar Man
The Six Million Dollar Man was designed from the outset to be a family show and that was a big part of what made it such a success. Just like the A Team in the eighties, although there was a lot of fighting, no one actually got killed and the baddies could always get up and walk away after Steve Austin had dealt with them.

8. Lee Majors did a lot of his own stunts
Lee Major did quite a lot of his own stunts on The Six Million Dollar Man. He worked closely with his stuntman, Roger Vivier, who choreographed all of the stunts that Major did himself.

9. Lee Majors was worried that the Bionic Man would be a camp character
When Majors was first considering taking the role of Steve Austin, he had concerns that the character would be a camp one. He said that the big hits of the time were shows like Batman, where Adam West played a very camp superhero. Majors told the Studio that, if Steve Austin was to be like that, he didn’t want to know.

10. There may be a movie coming soon
There is a lot of talk of there being a reboot movie based on The Six Million Dollar Man, which is to be called The Six Billion Dollar Man and will star Mark Wahlberg as the new Steve Austin. The word is that this new movie should be with us sometime in 2016.

You may also like: