Friday, 9 December 2011

Remembering Oscar Goldman

Oscar Goldman was a character created by Martin Caidin and introduced in his 1972 novel Cyborg. In the 1970s, he was portrayed by Richard Anderson in both The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman TV series. which were based upon Cyborg. He served as the bionic heroes', Steve Austin and Jaime Somers, immediate superior.

When Cyborg was adapted for television in 1973, the character of Oscar Goldman was replaced by that of Oliver Spencer, played by Darren McGavin. When this television film, titled The Six Million Dollar Man, proved to be a hit, ABC commissioned a sequel, Wine, Women & War (an original story not based on a Caidin work) which aired on October 23, 1973. McGavin and Spencer were dropped and the agency was renamed the Office of Scientific Inteligence (OSI), a fictitious organization not to be confused with the real-life Office of Scientific Inteligence that operated under the Central Inteligence Agency. The character of Oscar Goldman was reinstated, with Richard Anderson cast in the role. (The opening credits to Wine, Women & War perform retconning, establishing that it was Goldman, not Spencer, who authorized the operation to turn Austin into a Cyborg.)

Anderson's portrayal of Goldman was that of a warm, fatherly figure—though he could also be a calculating bureaucrat when the need arose. (This differed from McGavin's portrayal of Oliver Spencer who was cold hearted and referred to as little more than a robot by Austin.) Following a third TV film, The Six Million Dollar Man became a weekly series in 1974 and Anderson remained with the show throughout its run. He also played the role in the subsequent Bionic Woman spin-off series. Richard Anderson is one of the few actors to portray the same character in two different television series running concurrently on two different networks, when Bionic Woman was moved to a rival network, NBC.

During the series, Goldman and Austin develop a close, if occasionally testy friendship, with Goldman frequently referring to Austin as "pal". Perhaps the ultimate illustration of the men's friendship occurred when Goldman agreed to his friend's request to have bionic surgery performed on Jaime Sommers in order to save her life, despite the cost involved (although this friendship was tested soon after when Austin resisted Goldman's orders that Sommers subsequently be recruited by the OSI). Despite sending Sommers on dangerous missions, Goldman was particularly protective of her, and bristled when a Senator repeatedly mispronounced her name. Goldman usually referred to Sommers as "babe". Goldman's position within the OSI was considered so important that Goldman arranged standing orders to be killed in the event he was captured to prevent him from being interrogated or converted into a double agent if he was released or rescued (these orders were revealed in the three-part Six Million Dollar Man/Bionic Woman crossover arc, "Kill Oscar"). However when this situation arose, Steve Austin disobeyed the order and rescued Goldman, unaware that he actually extracted an android imposter. Eventually after the imposter was discovered and defeated, the real Goldman was rescued in defiance of his own orders.

Oscar Goldman was a snappy dresser, who had a propensity for loud patterns (which were in style at the time). His briefcase featured in many episodes, as he would often just open it to produce a solution to various problems. Goldman, who served as head of the OSI under six presidents, wielded considerable influence in the Federal government, and was able to get the Secretary of State on the telephone on short notice.

Although never explicitly stated during either series, it was implied that Oscar is Jewish. In one episode of The Bionic Woman, he used a pseudonym when travelling to a Middle Eastern country because he thought the “Goldman” name would not make him any friends. In another episode, the king of the fictional El Alamein told Sommers he would never deal with a man named “Goldman”.

Anderson reprised the role of Oscar Goldman in three highly rated two-hour TV movie sequels to the series that aired in the late 1980s and early 1990s: The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, Bionic Showdown, and Bionic Ever After, indicating that, in the Six Million Dollar Man universe, Goldman remained in a high-ranking position with the OSI well into the 1990s.

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