Lee Majors was Steve Austin, astronaut; a man barely alive...... There was nothing Stone Cold about this Steve Austin, except maybe his wardrobe. Lee Majors was quite entertaining as Col. Steve Austin; part James Bond, part Buzz Aldrin/Chuck Yeager, and part Superman. Lee gave Austin a nice mix of serious and fun. Yes, his acting could be as mechanical as his bionics; but, Majors always had a bit of a twinkle in his eye (may have been the lens in the bionic one). He never took himself too seriously in the role, but could convey that emotion when the script called for it.
Richard Anderson was steady as boss and pal Oscar Goldman. Like Majors, he was limited, but well suited to his character. Anderson could be a good supporting actor when he rose to the occasion; and he often did.
I personally preferred Martin E. Brooks to Allan Openheimer, as Dr. Rudy Wells. Brooks came across more as a scientist. The other supporting characters varied in quality from show to show, but Rudy was always an integral part.
The episodes vary in excitement and imagination. The later seasons suffered from repetition, but, the early ones hold up well as good science fiction. Personal favorites include the death probe; the Russian installation with a doomsday device that is accidentally activated; the booby-trapped Liberty Bell; the androids; Steve's return flight in the experimental craft from the pilot movie;the Bionic Woman cross-overs; and, of course, Bigfoot. I preferred the more science fiction oriented stories to the more mundane cops and robbers shows.
The show had quite a mix of guest stars. There were the greats, like William Shatner, Lou Gossett Jr., Guy Doleman (from Thunderball and the Ipcress File), and Ted Cassidy and Andre the Giant as Bigfoot (Andre played him first). There were the so-so, like Farrah Fawcett (Majors), Cathy Rigby, Gary Lockwood, and John Saxon. Then there were the strange, like Sonny Bono and Larry Csonka.
This was the show that caused millions of kids in the 70's to run in slow motion, while making strange noises. It also had the coolest action figure; it came with an engine block that you could cause Steve Austin to lift, by pressing a button on his back. You could also look through the bionic eye, although you had to make your own sound effects. I understand these things go for big bucks on eBay.
Years later, I found a copy of the original novel, Cyborg, by Martin Caidin.
The character was a bit different. He was more of a secret agent than in the series, and the bionics were a bit different. The eye was actually a camera, rather than a telescopic lens. It was explained that Austin's stamina was greater, since his lungs didn't have to provide oxygen to his bionic limbs. He also had special enhancements for the limbs for special missions. In one, he has webbed feet for underwater swimming. The book plays up Austin's intelligence and scientific background more. It was generally well written, and makes a nice contrast to the series.
There have been rumors of an updated movie. At one point, it was pitched as a comedy with Chris Rock. Thankfully, that doesn't seem to be the case right now. It has tremendous potential as and action/sci-fi movie, particularly with advances in special effects. Here's hoping the right script, director, and cast comes along and makes it a reality. Of course, they'll have to adjust it for inflation; 6 million doesn't buy much these days. And defense contractors are notorious for overcharging for substandard work.
While we're waiting, how about a DVD box set?