In 1975, America found itself in strange times. The president had resigned, we had experienced an energy crisis, and Archie Bunker was the hottest thing on television. With those examples, I am only scratching the surface. Perhaps what we needed was a superhero. The Super Friends animated series was doing quite well on Saturday mornings, thrilling children with the adventures of Superman, Batman, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman. Though our three male heroes had been featured in animated series before Super Friends, we had seen little of Wonder Woman. So, was 1975 truly the year to bring her to prime time? It had been seven years since we had seen the live action adventures of Batman and Robin, so perhaps America was indeed ready. Warner Bros. decided to find out. Now, 45 years later, with the world facing a pandemic, Warner Bros. once again sends Wonder Woman into our homes in the form of The Complete Series. The 10-disc set flew onto store shelves on July 28th, 2020.
The three seasons of Wonder Woman featured the statuesque Lynda Carter in the starring role. Carter had few acting credits to her name, but the former Miss World USA certainly looked the part of the Amazonian princess. Though Steve Trevor had blonde hair in comics, Lyle Waggoner certainly looked like a leading man. Though Waggoner was known mostly for his comedic role as a cast member of the incredibly popular The Carol Burnett Show, he was in the running for the role of Batman on the aforementioned series that would eventually go to Adam West. Together, Carter and Waggoner would embody the characters we had come to love in the comic books.
The pilot landed on ABC in November of ’75 featuring Carter and Waggoner and exceeded the ratings of an earlier effort featuring Cathy Lee Crosby which strayed from the classic comic book storyline. Staying much closer to the comic, this outing was not without issues. Carter struggled with the fish-out-of-water scenario when Princess Diana comes to America in the 1940s during World War II. She seems lost in how to play anything other than the confidence that goes with Wonder Woman. Cloris Leachman was an interesting choice to play Queen Hippolyta and seems to struggle in her role as well. There are also small distractions such as the invisible plane having a pilot seat that is visible, and little explanation as to how Diana becomes a Yeoman in the U.S. Navy. Waggoner excels as Steve Trevor and the project is a hit with audiences.
ABC would launch Season One in April of 1976 with Diana Prince dawning a pair of glasses so that Steve Trevor would not recognize her when she changed into Wonder Woman. Clearly something she learned from Clark Kent. With all due respect to Cloris Leachman, Carolyn Jones was a better choice to take over the role of the Queen in Season One, and the few appearances by Debra Winger as Diana’s younger sister are fun. There are numerous guest appearances throughout the series of future stars and established legends.
Season Two would see the show move to CBS and become The New Adventures of Wonder Woman set in the ’70s with Diana now working for Steve Trevor Jr. (still Waggoner) in the Inter-Agency Defense Command. These changes reduced production costs and allowed for expanded storylines.
In Season Three, attempts were made to direct the show more towards teens, but the result was trite storytelling with simply not enough Wonder Woman or Steve Trevor who had been delegated to an advisory role. In one of the final episodes of the series, an attempt was made to relaunch the series with Diana, sans glasses, moving to Los Angeles and working with a new cast. Ultimately, it was not enough to save the series.
The new release includes three featurettes (Beauty, Brawn and Bulletproof Bracelets: A Wonder Woman Retrospective; Revolutionizing a Classic: From Comic Book to Television; and Wonder Woman: The Ultimate Feminist Icon) that are mildly entertaining. Primarily, it is just “experts” discussing the history of Wonder Woman. It’s the commentary by Carter on the pilot and Season Three episode “My Teenage Idol is Missing” that are the gems to discover here. The packaging is economic. No episode synopsis, nor is there an indication of which episodes are on which discs. You also can’t tell which discs have the bonus featurettes.
Recommendation: With families stuck at home, and the world waiting for Wonder Woman 1984 featuring Gal Gadot, Warner Bros. brings us exactly what we need. As the theme song suggests, “Get us out from under Wonder Woman!”. Binge watching this series will do just that.
I remember enjoying the show when I was a kid and planned on watching a few episodes to remind myself of the series. I watched far more than I expected to because I was enjoying it. Yes, I laughed and rolled my eyes at some of the stories, and many times was surprised at how little of Wonder Woman we got in some of the episodes, but ultimately, it was fun.
The series lacks the special effects the we are now use to but is a great way to introduce people to Wonder Woman. Not as campy as Batman of the ’60s, Warner Bros. brings the comic book to life, and Lynda Carter portrays the character with the necessary confidence and believability.