Six Million Dollar Man (1973) TV Review

By: Karl Stern (@wiwcool,

One of my favorite television shows of all time was filmed in 1973 and launched in 1974- The Six Million Dollar Man. As a young kid I loved the Six Million Dollar Man, I started reading comic books at a very young age, in fact, I learned to read from comic books so, in a sense, Steve Austin (Lee Majors) was the first live action superhero I knew in my life. I was also at just the right age to play with all the Six Million Dollar Man action figures. I was a little too young to have gotten in on the large size G.I. Joe action figures but since the Six Million Dollar Man action figures came along a few years later in the same scale they became the first real toys that I became deeply enamored with.

Recently, we began polling our Patreons about what content they wanted more of at When It Was Cool and retro TV and movie reviews topped the list. This made my heart glad because that gives me an excuse to go back and relive great shows like the Six Million Dollar Man.

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For our audio reviews in the digital download section I general try to review either the pilot episode or season one episode one and that’s what I recently did with the Six Million Dollar Man. The episode was titled The Moon and the Desert where we learn the back story to Col. Steve Austin. I remembered that Steve Austin was an astronaut and an experimental Air Force test pilot but I had forgotten that he was also a multi-time moon walker who had been reassigned to the experimental aircraft division of the Air Force after having completed three moon landing missions.

The story tells us that Steve Austin is an astronaut who has made three moon landings, however, a test flight accident in an experimental aircraft caused by a malfunctioning center stick results in his right arm being severed, his left eye blinded, and both legs surgically amputated. Steve Austin’s NASA physician, Dr. Rudy Wells (Martin Balsam) is an expert in the field of bionics and rebuilds Steve Austin with the installation of bionic parts. He is persuaded by an OSI (Office of Scientific Intelligence) agent to reconstruct Steve Austin with the understanding that he will subsequently work for the OSI as a field operative- basically a super spy. Dr. Wells tells Steve Austin of the plan but is met with resistance at first but ultimately relents. Following surgery and rehabilitation, Steve Austin accepts an assignment to rescue a hostage in Saudi Arabia.

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Steve Austin’s bionics enabled him with multiple superhuman powers including:

  • A bionic left eye that has a 20.2:1 zoom lens and a night vision function. It can also detect heat and has the ability to view objects moving too fast for a normal eye to see.

  • Bionic legs allowing him to run at fast speeds and make huge leaps. Austin's upper speed limit was never firmly established although a speed of 60 mph is commonly quoted since this figure is shown on a speed gauge during the opening credits. There were later suggestions that his top speed might be near 100 mph.

  • A bionic right arm stated in the first episode to have strength equivalent to a bulldozer.

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The Six Million Dollar Man was such a fun TV show with so much 1970s goodness throughout the five season run. Eventually, Steve Austin would face off against such foes as a Soviet Venus Probe, a rouge cyborg, and even Bigfoot (who himself turns out to be a bionic Bigfoot played originally by Andre the Giant and later Ted Cassidy).

The Six Million Dollar Man was a wonderful show that spun off wonder action figures and became a huge pop culture success. You might also enjoy our review of the Six Million Dollar Man enemy action figure Maskatron. Be sure to listen to our audio podcast review of the Six Million Dollar Man available to Patreon supporters of $1 or more. Join us today!

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