Saturday, August 12, 2006

A Certain Gross Charm

Lindsay Wagner guest-stars in the ROCKFORD FILES episode “Aura Lee, Farewell,” just two months before making television history by playing Jaime Sommers for the first time in “The Bionic Woman,” a two-part episode of THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN. Wagner played the girlfriend of Six Million Dollar Man Steve Austin (Lee Majors), who was critically injured in a skydiving accident, but was saved when she was given bionic limbs similar to those of Austin. She played Jaime again in “The Return of the Bionic Woman,” and was rewarded with the lead role in the spinoff series, titled imaginatively enough THE BIONIC WOMAN, in 1976. She became the first star of a science fiction/fantasy/horror series to win an Emmy Award for Best Actress in a Drama.

In this ROCKFORD FILES segment, Wagner reprises her role in the pilot of Sara Butler, who hires Jim Rockford (James Garner) to investigate the death of her friend Aura Lee Benton (Melissa Greene). The cops call it an accidental heroin overdose, but Sara believes she was murdered. Rockford’s nose leads him to Senator Evan Murdock (Robert Webber), who picked up a hitchhiking Aura Lee and spent the night with her at a motel before he was involved in an auto accident in which a wino was killed. Murdock was clearly not at fault, but might the mere hint of scandal mar his re-election chances?

She has only a small role, but Greene is a real find, a beautiful and ethereal spirit who holds your attention during the few minutes she’s on-screen. You’re genuinely sorry to hear of her death, and root for Jim to find her killer. Amusing in a guest bit is Bill Mumy, the former child star of LOST IN SPACE, who plays a rotten artist who trades Rockford information for cash. Oddly, Mumy also guest-starred in the other episode Lindsay Wagner was in, the pilot, but he played her brother in that one.

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