Sunday, September 02, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: In Praise of Bionic Six

Here's a 'toon that meant a lot to me as a wee one, but it seems like no one but me even remembers. Bionic Six arrived in the late '80s sweet spot between when standbys like He-Man and G.I. Joe were on their way out, and just before Ninja Turtles came in. Think of what would happen if Steve Austin, TV's Six Million Dollar Man, had a bionic brood, and there's the show.

The "six" of the title were the Bennett family (a super, future family, per the theme song), upgraded with cybernetic enhancements after being mortally wounded, and given code names like Bionic-1 (dad Jack), Mother-1 (mom Helen), Sport-1 (athlete son Eric), Karate-1 (martial artist son Bunji), Rock-1 (uh, rock fan daughter Meg), and I.Q. (son J.D., who's smart. And black. Not sure why he didn't get to have a "1" in his name...).

I realize as I'm typing that it sounds kind of lame, but let me assure you that it wasn't, even with the understandable limitations of the format, genre, and era. Here's the intro, totally catchy title theme included at no charge:

Ah, the miracle of modern science. Amazing thing, that science!

Bionic Six came along at a time when there really wasn't much in the way of original adventure programming for kids. And while there was a companion toyline (SOP for '80s kidvid), the show wasn't especially merchandising-driven. It also had a Japanase-influenced animation style that distinguished it from anything that came before (and since, now that I think about it), and the scripts tackled standard comic book/superhero conceits from some fairly interesting angles, with a passel of interesting supporting characters, not to mention main villain Dr. Scarab and his band of baddies.

Bionic Six aired for 65 episodes from '87 to '89, a decent run by any measure, but it's nonetheless remained mired in obscurity, especially stateside, where it came on at such ridiculously early hours that it went ignored by most of its intended audience. I wouldn't have discovered it myself if not for a trip to Canada in summer of '87, where I caught a few eps, and its subsequent airing in Saudi Arabia a few months later, where I saw almost the entire run -- making me one of the few who did, apparently. Although no official DVD release is in the offing, I certainly hope one happens at some point, as it deserves to be rediscovered (or just plain discovered!).


Imad Khan said...

Bionic six is by far the best action cartoon and I believe it was so ahead of its time. I can still watch this everyday. The concept was stolen from other cyborg and genetically engineered stories but it was brilliant. My favorite villain/ anti hero was the perseptor' the blind dark purple super human :) man I love this cartoon.

Imad Khan said...

By the way, there are many episodes on YouTube. I keep searching these.

Zaki said...

It was definitely ahead of its time, that's for sure. I loved Perceptor as well. Cool concept and a cool design.