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Bionics for Baby Boomers [May. 7th, 2009|11:24 am]
When the Bond boom went into high gear after Goldfinger, one element was center-stage in the formula—Q and his gadgets. Ever after, the Bond films, the TV series inspired by them, etc. etc. all tried to be cutting edge with the use of technology that even got the CIA interested. Back then, they had one agent watching Mission: Impossible each week so he could answer the inevitable questions after every broadcast—“Can we do that?”

Then came the 1970s, and TV producers took technology to the next logical step. Beginning with The Champions in 1969, the trend was to make super-spies the gadgets themselves. We got Steve Austin with his bionic enhancements, and yes he was a TV spy. He worked for the O.S.I., remember, sent out on all his missions by Oscar Goldman. Then came a bionic woman, a bionic boy and his dog, several invisible men, and even Wonder Woman. Yes, she too was a TV spy--Diana Prince was an agent for I.A.D.C. (Inter-Agency Defense Command).

Thereafter, comic-book spies became a genre that continued through VR5, Jake 2.O, and the current Chuck. But all that gadgetry had lost much of its allure. As noted by many observers, high-tech had become a commonplace part of everyday life from Blackberries to Blue Tooth to IPods . . . you don’t need to be Napoleon Solo anymore to annoy fellow drivers or shoppers with your progress reports on when you’re leaving the grocery store, when you’re stopping by Aunt Lil’s, when you’re contacting your handler. By the time Daniel Craig took on the 007 mantle, the first two films went by with a noticeable lack of toys and the toymaster who dispensed them.

Today, I saw another sign of the times. It’s impossible not to feel old when seeing a new ad featuring Lee Majors promoting his new super-recharging “Bionic Ear” hearing aid. Joining all the other aging actors touting diabetes testing equipment, Depends, life insurance from AARP, Steve Austin is now championing useful technology that no longer cost six million dollars. No longer is he the hero of children hungrey for bionic action toys or lunchboxes—he’s helping hopeful retirees from ending up calling out “Eh? Eh?” when getting instructions from spouses or grand-children.