Back in the 1970s, Lynda Carter became a household name when she slipped on a star-spangled bustier and deflected bullets with her silver bracelets. Wonder Woman in the 1970s revolutionized TV much like Batman in the 60s and Superman in 50s had done so before her. She was everywhere.
Looking back at that show today it is full of cheese, some implied domination & submission and well the radiance of the show’s star. But because it was cheesy and never took itself seriously it fit right in with the other hits of that decade such as “The Bionic Woman” and “Six Million Dollar Man”. These shows were outright fantasy and that is what made them so much fun.
Flashforward four decades later and a world tarnished by 9/11, how do you take a character like “Wonder Woman” and make her credible in today’s world?
NBC wanted to jump on the superhero bandwagon. They had success with their first season of Heroes but that show lost it’s way. They brought out the Heroes replacement series “The Cape” which in any person’s book was very laughable. NBC was in desperate need of a hit so they turned to “Ally McBeal” and “Boston Legal” creator David E Kelley. They trusted in David to find a way to bring the lasso-wielding heroine into the modern age.
Kelley has always been very gifted with creating quirky, well-written characters from James Spader’s Alan Shore to Peter MacNicol’s John Cage. His dialogue, character development and depiction of women has kept him as one of Hollywood’s hottest showrunner/creators since the mid-80’s with L.A. Law.
Kelley’s Wonder Woman pilot is kind of like a little kid lost in the woods. It screams for its mommy, it’s filled with unanswered questions, and well it doesn’t know what to do about the big bear in the room.
It’s mommy is David E Kelley and the bear is all the things the writer avoided and didn’t even bother addressing. Like how did Diana come to the world of men? Does Paradise Island even exist? The pilot tells no origin at all!
In the pilot, Wonder Woman is a corporation. WW sells products and most importantly Barbie Dolls to fund her crime stopping missions. Then because living in the lap of luxury is totally horrible, WW becomes Diana Prince who lives in a deadbeat apartment where she eats bon-bons and cries at newscasts with her kitty.
On top of all this the pilot’s main plot has Wonder Woman thwarting the evil mastermind became a cosmetics firm headed by Liz Hurley.
If I know David E Kelley, his quirkiest character on this show if it went to series was going to be WW’s CEO and basically confidante played by Cary Elwes. That character was all Kelley unfortunately nothing else in this pilot was.
I liked that they tried to blend WW into the real world and some of the pilot does show that transition is possible but no one, I mean no one, who was involved with this project knew anything about the character and that is plainly obvious.
There are lots of great actresses out there who could play Wonder Woman (Bridget Regan, I am still talking about you!) and it is no wonder so many of them refused to play the character when she was written this bad and all over the place. Adrianne Palicki, who plays WW in the pilot, isn’t at fault here. The concept is just all out of whack.
WW’s origin is kind of a cool one. Start there next time, make WW rebellious against her people and has to defend man. Make her strong, opinionated and have a presence. Make her costume more adaptable. Have more than one for different occasions. There have been more practical WW designs in the past and establish it early that the uniform is from Paradise Island.
Anyway it was really interesting to see what went wrong and how they tackled each question. I would have done it differently but I am a comic geek.