Superheroine. Awesome Costume. Illustrious History. Especially in the wake of successful comic book movies like “The Dark Knight” trilogy and TV series like “Smallville,” bringing the world’s most famous Amazon to the small screen should be a snap, right? And for three years in the 1970s, it actually happened, in a very big and successful way that spawned legions of fans and a pretty kick-ass doll line.
But besides the cult TV show starring Lynda Carter, other attempts to make a Wonder Woman series had less success. With recent news that the CW is contemplating another show based on the character — this time called “Amazon” and following her early years — I think it’s time to take a look back at Wonder Woman in TV:
The WTF 1960s Wonder Woman Pilot
For example, consider this 1967 pilot called “Who’s Afraid Of Diana Prince?”:
If you actually managed to sit through the entire five minutes or so of that dreck, Hera bless you.
What happened? “Who’s Afraid Of Diana Prince?” piggybacked on the fame of the “Batman” TV series, and tried to emulate the show’s “camp” elements — producing more of a comedy than an action series. Diana Prince is no Amazon princess or military professional in this pilot: instead, as portrayed by Ellie Walker, she’s a neurotic woman with chronic low self-esteem and an overbearing mother. “You don’t know how it feels to be the mother of an unmarried daughter YOUR age,” the older lady (certainly no Hippolyta) laments, as Diana miserably eats her soup.
For those who consider Wonder Woman to be a feminist paragon, exceptional warrior-woman, and all-around awesome superheroine, “Who’s Afraid Of Diana Prince” is collosally offensive, presenting the character as a man-crazy buffoon. An extended sequence where she admires herself in the mirror is actually done to burlesque music. The producers of this pilot completely missed the point of the comic book, and thankfully their vision extended no further than this blurry YouTube dupe.
That TV Movie With A Blond Wonder Woman
1974’s “Wonder Woman,” a TV movie for ABC, was somewhat better…even if Diana inexplicably traded her famous jet-black hair for a blonde look courtesy of future “That’s Incredible!” host Cathy Lee Crosby. “Wonder Woman” barely had any superhero elements — emulating WW’s “I Ching” period in the comics — and was more of a straight-up spy action-thriller than anything else. But at least she wasn’t a buffoon; that was progress. More importantly, the TV movie paved the way for…
The Awesome Lynda Carter Series
To several generations of fans, Lynda Carter was Wonder Woman — inspiring countless girls to emulate her trademark twirl in the hopes that they too would turn into a superhero. Originally taking place in World War II during 1975’s first season, the producers wanted a more “now” feel and soon the show featured a disco beat, skateboards, and many new costume variations (did I mention that really cool doll line?). She also had Wonder Girl — named named Druscilla! –as a sidekick for a few episodes, played by Debra Winger.
While the show was popular at the time, riding the crest of a wave of superhero TV shows and movies, the show was cancelled in 1979.
Super Friends Wonder Woman
I’m including Wonder Woman’s portrayal in the long-running Super Friends TV series because it ran concurrently with the Lynda Carter TV show and is, in some ways, just as well-remembered. With her always-perfect “helmet hair” and an authoritative voice by Shannon Farnon, this animated version of the character was frequently the team’s Most Valuable Player — and a great role-model!
Wonder Woman and the Star Riders
Don’t remember this She-Ra- inspired animated series? Well, with good reason: it never saw the light of day! Announced at 1993’s Toy Fair, the show was supposed to tie-in with a line of (ultimately, unproduced) action figures from Mattel. The concept featured Wonder Woman and a bunch of her “Sparkling Super Heroine” friends…and, basically, was very much like She-Ra. There’s a cereal tie-in comic floating around somewhere, if you want to learn more, as well as photos of the toy prototypes.
Point is: I feel the people who wanted to make this toy line and the animated series were as clueless about what made Wonder Woman=Wonder Woman as those who made the 1967 pilot. It’s a case of assuming what females “wanted” to see in their Wonder Woman TV series…all soap-opera and sparkling fashion accessories. Whereas the best way to approach WW is to just make great stories — more on that later!
Justice League The Animated Series Wonder Woman
Continuing the stellar work and style of the” Batman: Animated Series” cartoons, Wonder Woman was in good hands during this acclaimed series. Some people (and publishers/producers) forget that for an entire generation of young fans, this is the version of the Justice League — and Wonder Woman — they remember and identify with. Just some food for thought.
The “Wonder Woman In Pants” Pilot
This 2011 TV pilot appeared to have everything going for it — penned by noted TV writer/producer David E. Kelley, starring the stunning Adrianne Palicki, and boasting a theme song sung by Christina Aguilera. But this Wonder Woman also had Something Extra…and I’m talking about pants.
While there were various criticisms about this aborted attempt at another live-action Wonder Woman TV series, it is my firm belief that the negative fan buzz about her shiny pants killed the show.
Will this latest attempt at a viable Wonder Woman TV show succeed? Again — I think that depends on if the producers concentrate on making a kick-ass show, and not just a show that they “think” will appeal to female viewers. “Xena: Warrior Princess” lasted for six seasons and featured no-holds-barred action and adventure. There is no reason a Wonder Woman TV show — much less a movie! — in this day and age can’t do the same.