The three seasons of the Wonder Woman TV show have been on discount this year, so I figured I should give the first one a try. This was the World War II-set season, and the DVD box set consists of the first TV movie, starring Lynda Carter as the title hero, and the 13 episodes that followed it on three double-sided discs.
The pilot movie has commentary by Carter and producer Douglas S. Cramer. There’s also a making-of featurette called “Beauty, Brawn, and Bulletproof Bracelets”. That retrospective runs about 20 minutes and features Carter, Cramer, Les Daniels, and Alex Ross providing some nice background information.
Like many shows from the era, Wonder Woman (these originally aired 1975-1977) is slow and talky, with our imaginations making the episodes better than they were. When I told KC, “they talk a lot more than I remembered,” he said, “Cheaper than the power effects sequences.”
I had no idea Mom Hippolyta (at least in the pilot film) was Cloris Leachman, who when we meet her is almost literally chewing the scenery of filmy drapes. (They’re remote Amazons, but they invented polyester nightdresses, which is all anyone wears. And Cloris appears to subscribe to the “I must touch every prop in the scene” method of acting.) When we return to Paradise Island to meet Wonder Girl (Debra Winger) in a two-part episode in which the Nazis invade the Amazon homeland, Mom has become Carolyn Jones, and the outfits have become elasticized leotards and see-through dance skirts. Winger returns in the final episode of the season, set in Hollywood.
I don’t think I’ve seen many of these episodes before. The young Lynda Carter is quite likable, if a bit stiff when asked to deliver the chunks of exposition that often passed for writing here. She’s a great choice for the innocent side of the hero, though. Gorgeous hair, too. I’m still wondering how they faked the various scenes of her picking up unconscious men and carrying them around, because she clearly can’t lift 180 pounds. (Apparently, it involved a hidden board and a couple of crew members off-screen.)
The plots aren’t particularly memorable, as they’re usually fighting Nazi spies. Those that stand out are
- the “going undercover at a beauty pageant” one, because Lynda’s blonde wig and the period swimsuits are goofy
- the really ridiculous one with a fake gorilla where she keeps complaining about how if the animal had been raised on Paradise Island instead of by Nazis he’d be nicer
- the two-parter with aliens judging Earth. In that case, it’s only because the lead extraterrestrial is played by the guy who hung around with Twiki and Dr. Theopolis on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Tim O’Connor.
Roy Rogers shows up in a Western episode where Diana gets a more covered costume of red shirt and white pants, the better to hang out with war orphans. Probably more comfortable when riding horses, too.
I was surprised to see Robert Reed (Mr. Brady) playing an international mercenary known as the Falcon in one episode, since he doesn’t come across as either menacing or deadly. Maybe it’s that 70s perm. Speaking of which, the 40s period uniforms look better than the 70s-style suits with huge lapels on many of the characters.
The set is nicely indexed so you can skip hearing the theme song over the opening and closing credit sequences if you’re watching a bunch at once — although better to space them out. I love the song, but hear it too often, and it’ll be stuck in your head for days.