Monday, November 23, 2015

A Bionic Christmas Carol

It being the end of year Holiday season (don't deny it - the ads cannot be avoided!) I have been watching a few genre related Christmas tales. Encouraged by my buddy John Davis' mad collection of such things I convinced him to check out something I haven't seen since its original broadcast back on December 12th 1976. Yes, we watched A Bionic Christmas Carol from the fourth season of The Six Million Dollar Man! Of course this much beloved (by me) series made a version of A Christmas Carol! This was the 1970's when it seemed that every single damned TV series was required by law to craft an episode adapting Dickens' yuletide classic so that even Col. Steve Austin had to find a Scrooge stand-in to set right. Never was the story so bizarrely bent to a concept!

But one of the joys I have found of revisiting this series is getting to see interesting guest stars pop up to add to the novelty. Here we have the great Ray Walston as the Scrooge character and Dick Sargent (the famed second Darren of TV sitcom Bewitched) as the Cratchit stand-in. Walston plays Horton Budge, a cost cutting businessman staying just barely on the legal side of his government contract until his miserly ways nearly get an employee killed - and on Christmas Eve too! Sargent is his nephew who owes the old man thousands of dollars used to pay for his wife's medical treatments. When the Christmas Eve accident threatens delays in the progress of Budge's project he forces his workers to come in on December the 25th to keep costs down. What's a Six Million Dollar Man to do? Why, dress up as Santa Claus and take advantage of Budge's health problems to scare him into being a better person, of course! I love the 70's.

I'm not going to claim this episode is very good but it isn't without its charms. The cast is game and the scenario is rock solid so there is little chance of making a truly bad version of this tale. I'm not sure a non-fan of the series would get more than a passing bit of Holiday entertainment from A Bionic Christmas Carol but I'm glad to have been able to see it again. Oh! One of the great things about seeing these as an adult is being able to spot some sly humor in the show including two neat jokes slid into the proceedings. The first is a carefully framed shot of Austin in a toy store in which the at the time very hot Six Million Dollar Man action figure can be seen on a shelf just to the left of the character's face. Nice! The second actually took me half the episode to catch on to- the project Ray Walston's company is working on for the space program is a Martian exploration experiment. Yes- My Favorite Martian was trying to get folks to his home planet! Very cool.

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