Thursday, January 17, 2008

Wonder Woman Reviews Episode 1: Pilot, The New Original Wonder Woman

As I am addicted to regular features I've decided to do an ongoing series of reviews/ summaries for every episode of the 70's Wonder Woman television series with Lynda Carter! Yummy!

Now! Before we begin a little history...

For those of you who don't know Lynda Carter was not originally cast as Wonder Woman, no that honor went to the more than dull Cathy Lee Crosby and the first pilot for show was aired in 1974. It failed and anyone whose seen the original pilot can tell you there is just something missing, honestly it's not Worth talking about so I've decided to skip ahead to the second pilot with Lynda Carter.

The second all-star pilot starts off with cheesy narration and an over-the-top montage of black & white photos from WWII and culminates in the narrator's best (but very bad) FDR impersonation saying "The only hope for America is..." he stops talking just as the theme song cuts in with it's cry of "Wonder Woman!" Man this show has one of the best theme songs ever!

We open on what is supposed to be a Nazi castle or something hidden deep within the black jungles of Argentina. Chicago born Kenneth Mars doing yet another German accent plays Col. Oberst Von Blasko who actually asks his minions to "speak English for secrecy" huh? HUH? Why would Nazis in the center of their Nazi fortress need to speak English for secrecy? Yep that's the kind of logic we'll be working with here folks.

In any case Von Blasko and one of his underlings Nickolas played by Henry Gibson are heading an air mission to destroy the Brooklyn Navy Yard where the Americans are hard at work building some vague secret weapon. How the Nazis plan to get an enemy plane over the US during the height of WWII is beyond me but hey these are the Nazis who want to speak English for secrecy... By the way can a fighter plane make it all the way from Argentina to Brooklyn and back without refueling? Yeah...didn't think so.

In any case the Americans get wind of this attack and send their best man Major Steve Trevor brought to life by Carol Burnett show regular and Playgirl's first centerfold; sexy, sexy Lyle Waggoner to take out the Nazi invader. "Do your best Steve" Says General Blankenship as he sends Trevor off to board his plane. "General I can only do my best" he responds cockily. This show has such brilliant dialogue!

The two planes face off somewhere over the Bermuda Triangle (of course) in the stupidest dogfight ever! Ultra-close, close-ups on the faces of the two men are inter cut with color and black & white stock footage of fighting planes. Eventually their planes explode at about the same time...I can only assume they gunned each other down...and the men escape the burning wrecks via parachute. An even stupider scene follows where Steve gives the Nazi pilot a smile and a thumbs up, then the Nazi draws his gun and Steve suddenly remembering he's at war does the same. This is all happening mid-air while parachuting to the ground mind you. Steve is wounded but has this ridiculous 'ouch you shot me that hurt a little' reaction and in return shoots down the Nazi pilot.

It's 14 minutes into the pilot when you finally meet Princess Diana/ Wonder Woman played by the amazingly beautiful Lynda Carter. There is a story that Carter received a standing ovation from the cast and crew the very first time she walked onto the set wearing the Wonder Woman costume and who could blame them. Of course looking at Lynda who was a beauty queen you can't help but think about how by today's standards she'd probably be considered too chubby! That's so wrong Carter is one of the most amazing looking women ever! Still is!

In any case Diana discovers Steve washed ashore on the beaches of her home Paradise Island and lots of wow I've never seen a man in the flesh before gushing ensues. Poor bastard it's the first time she sees a man and it's Lyle Waggoner (click the link if you haven't yet...sorry). Diana takes Steve to the hospital where his wounds are treated by an Amazonian doctor played by Fried Green Tomatoes author Fannie joke. I told you this was all star folks!

I guess it's a pretty big deal to have a man on the island so Hippolyte the queen and Diana's mum, an amazing looking Cloris Leachman, comes down to visit. They question Steve who is half passed out and boy howdy does he spill his guts like a little baby. Who he is, where he's from and what he was doing. Didn't he see any of the SNAFU cartoons? Loose lips sink ships!

Once Trevor is doing better the Amazons of Paradise Island hold an athletic games to see who is worthy of escorting the "savage" Trevor back to the outside world. It's been centuries since any of them have stepped off the island so who knows how much the world has changed in all that time, not to mention the power of the island makes the Amazons immortal. Stepping off the island may make them mortal and it will take a heroic Amazon to face this possibility. Diana wants to compete but the queen forbids her. A question, why bother to have a successor on an island full of immortals? Just wondering. Diana doesn't take no for an answer, disguises herself in a blonde wig and secretly competes. Dude you can see through almost every athlete's costume.

The competition comes down to Diana and another young Amazon tying for the win (no surprises here folks) and to settle the tie the two must face off in a bullets and bracelets competition. A contest where the two women must deflect bullets from a gun using only their specially crafted metal bracelets...HEY! wait a minute? They have guns on Paradise Island? But they've been isolated from the rest of the world since the time of the Greeks and Romans according to Queen Hippolyte. Hmmm guess I shouldn't worry so much about it since they have signs all over the contest in English.

Needless to say Diana wins. She is given the classic Wonder Woman belt and golden lasso as her prize. The lasso of course which compels folks to tell the truth. She chooses this moment to reveal herself to her shocked, but supportive mother, who lets her go but first but first creates the famous Wonder Woman costume for Diana to wear. Hippolyte also wins the prize for cornily coining the name Wonder Woman, calling her daughter "a wonder woman in a world of mortals" in their farewells. Of course Hippolyte can be forgiven for that corny line since she made such a great costume for her daughter!

After a quick stop at the Argentinian Nazi headquarters where they mispronounce the word gestapo, a German word (they must be saying it with an English accent for secrecy). We go back to Wonder Woman who is driving Steve home in her invisible plane...wait the Amazons have planes too? Okay someone had to be visiting the mortal world! But seriously the plane is actually a pretty cool effect for a low budget TV show.

Wonder Woman drops Steve off at a hospital and takes off to explore the modern world. After a quick stop in a dress shop "you certainly use a lot of material in your dresses" she stops a bank robbery and gets noticed by theatrical agent Ashley Norman played by the awesome Red Buttons whose business card reads "Dogs, Dwarves and Daredevils". He offers he to make her star with her bracelets and bullets trick. She will eventually give in when she realizes she needs money to make it in the modern world. But it turns out Red Buttons is a Nazi spy!

Meanwhile Steve gets out of the hospital just in time to try and stop another Nazi plane from flying over the US but not in time to realize his pants are way too tight. Actually he never even makes it to his fighter, instead he gets ambushed by Nazi spies led by Red Buttons. Red Buttons tries to kill Steve after calling him a shweinhund...there's actually something very funny about the Jewish Buttons playing a Nazi spy, but not quite as funny as his pronunciation of schweinhund.

They take Steve to their secret lair and drug him. Shock! Steve's secretary Marcia played by the beautiful blonde Playboy centerfold Stella Stevens is also a Nazi their leader! Appalling! Of course what's more appalling is that Steve spills the beans again and gives the Nazi's the safe combination they need for some important document. A document so important that up til now no one in the episode has mentioned it! Marcia takes off to get the document but not before telling Red Buttons to kill Steve if she's not back in an hour. He agrees and she's on her way.

Maricia cracks the safe...well just opens it she has the combination after all. Steve we really need to have a chat...but before she can get away Wonder Woman appears! Marcia mocks her and twists into this ridiculous martial arts pose. "I was Nuremberg Judo Champ" she announces before we are treated to the catfight of the century! Of course the doubles are really obvious, so obvious in fact you expect their wigs to come flying off at any moment. Luckily her defeat of Marcia coincides with the arrival of the second Nazi bomber which she is able to stop with the help of her invisible plane. Victorious through air power she rushes to save Steve and beats the crap out of Red Buttons. Wondy saving Steve is a constant in this series twice in this episode 3 times in the next, I think I'm going to keep a running count.

The General and Steve end the episode by discussing the hiring of Steve's new secretary. They've interviewed quite a few candidates but in the end have decided to hire a Navy Wav named Diana Prince since she's unattractive since that pertty former secretary Marcia turned out to be a spy an ugly gal should be "safe". Of course the audience is not fooled by hair pulled back into a bun and big glasses so we know that Diana Prince is actually Wonder Woman in "disguise". Steve is so perceptive.

Overall the episode is a lot of fun, but there is no denying without Lynda Carter's energetic performance it wouldn't be worth watching. The memorable cat fight sequence between Lynda Carter and Stella Stevens was a considered a milestone in TV action, and was later used as a reference between the similar fights that took place between Krystle and Alexis in Dynasty. The pilot's director however, Leonard Horn, suffered a heart attack during shooting and died shortly after completion. Airing November 7, 1975, it was a huge ratings success and ABC quickly authorized the production of two one-hour specials which aired the following April.

4 out of 5 stars

TV Totals:
8 on screen Nazis
6 Heil Hitlers
5 Glass doors broken in cat fight
4 separate scenes with bullets and bracelets
1 athletic competition in skimpy/ see through costumes
1 gun fight
1 cat fight
1 invisible plane
1 instance of lasso wielding
1 instance of Wonder Woman throwing a man
1 Anne Ramsey cameo (hooray!)
1 Spin Change from Diana to Wonder Woman
1 Wonder Woman in a nurses costume

This first review has ended up a bit long but I'm pretty sure they will be much shorter here on out.


Richard said...

I rented some of this series on DVD last year, having been a devoted viewer when it was originally on the air, and my many years later impressions matched your views precisely. The theme song is one of the greatest of all time, and even though the scripts were often weak and short on basic logic, Lynda Carter's performance was outstanding and elevates the whole thing by her efforts. She totally conveys the central idea behind Wonder Woman: the hero who saves the day not only through strength but also by being nicer and more compassionate than everyone else.

Swinebread said...

Heil Waggoner!

Randal Graves said...

Oh, Sweet Lynda Carter, my first über-crush. Hot damn was she a complete babe. And the show wasn't that bad either!

Anonymous said...

a major babe

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Love the new look. Where can I find the template you've used?

My late Uncle Curt lived in LA when they were making this series and he said Lynda Carter was a first class bitch to be around. Her stand in was the salt of the earth however, at least that's what he said.

Becca said...

Yes! Lynda is fab and for the most part the show would fall flat without her! So glad to find a fellow fan!!


I so wanted to be her when I grew up! I had these Wonder Woman underoos that I used to run about the house in. I would say my three biggest influences as a very young child were Elvira, Daisy Duke and Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman.

Sir Jorge-
Major indeed!

Dr. Monkey-
I've emailed you!

Joe said...

I like her best in her Diana Prince/naughty librarian/WAV getup.


Steve said...

I didnt think it was a bit long at all. Loved the review. Didn't know Cloris played her mom

Becca said...

Nothing like a girl in a uniform!

Glad you enjoyed it! And Cloris was her first momma. Apparently she got paid alot to be in the pilot too much, so they hired Carolyn Jones (Morticia Addams) to play her after that. There was a third queen too but I don't remember her name off the top of my head.

Anonymous said...

For some reason, I never saw much of this series when it was originally on TV, and WW is one of the comic strip characters I know least about, so it was cool to read this (it was a really witty review, too)

Becca said...

Glad you enjoyed it!

I love the show as cheesy as it is but the least in it's most recent incarnations are not really worth my very, very humble opinion. They have this really cool character with great mythological connections but they never seem to use it all very well.

For my money Alan Moore's Prometha is the far superior comic.

Steve said...

Spot on with Promethea/current Wonder Woman
here's hoping Gail Simone can finally finally do something with WW

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