Saturday, June 23, 2012


By late 1972 DC Comics had abandoned their experiment with the WONDER WOMAN title, in which the Amazing Amazon lost her super-powers and had to fight evil with the use of mundane martial arts.  Thus the super-powered heroine had been back on comics-racks for over a year when ABC-TV debuted the first live-action version of the character.

There had been one earlier attempt to film Wonder Woman as a live-action TV-show pilot in 1967, co-written by Stanley Ralph Ross of the BATMAN teleseries fame.  The short pilot, which played the heroine for lowbrow comedy, was never broadcast but has been since been exhumed on sites like You Tube.  The 1974 TV-movie WONDER WOMAN, also intended as a pilot for a never-realized teleseries, treated the character seriously but took the same approach as the DC experiment.  Thus this incarnation of the heroine (played by former tennis pro Cathy Lee Crosby) was also a former inhabitant of Paradise Island who had left her otherworldly culture behind in order to fight evil in man's world with essentially down-to-earth weapons and abilities.  One may speculate that the telemovie's production team (including STAR TREK alumnus John D.F. Black) chose this approach less because of DC's short-lived Wonder Woman experiment but because the mundane approach was cheaper.  Crosby did adequately in the role and the telemovie was allegedly a ratings success, but its only effect was to encourage the development of a new series, more in tune with the super-powered heroine as seen in the current comics and the SUPER FRIENDS TV show.

Stanley Ralph Ross was brought in once more, this time for a considerably "straighter" version of Wonder Woman (albeit with more than a few of the farcical touches found in BATMAN); in addition, a new production team, including Douglas "DYNASTY" Cramer, took over the filming of the telemovie pilot THE NEW ORIGINAL WONDER WOMAN.  Viewer response for the series was again favorable, so that in 1976 ABC released 11 more episodes of a WONDER WOMAN series (set in the WWII era of the original Marston series).  The series' expense discouraged ABC from continuing the project, but CBS picked it up for two more seasons, cutting costs by setting the immortal Amazon's adventures in the present day.

The TV-show's scripts were rarely better than average, and in that respect were far inferior to the original Marston comics.  The show's use of FX and fight-choreography was better, but only just.  What keeps the show alive for fans today is the perfect casting of statuesque Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, who embodied the bright-eyed, not-qutie-naive innocence of the juvenile heroine-ideal.  As if this writing, no further live-action adaptations of the Amazon have been officially broadcast, though segments of a 2011 David E. Kelley pilot, starring Adrienne Palicki, have surfaced on the Internet. 

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