Retro Sci Fi TV: Wonder Woman (1975)

By | October 6, 2018

A look at shows from the past that may not have stood the test of time and/or that are relegated to their era, but many of us still have fond memories of them.

What Is It? During World War II, American pilot Major Steve Trevor crashes on Paradise Island and discovers that it is populated with the Amazon warrior women of mythology. Diana Prince is selected to return Trevor to his home, and once she is there she decides to use her powers to help fight the war against the Axis powers. Starting in the second season, the show switches to contemporary times and Wonder Women fights against criminals and other villains




Aired: 1975-79, ABC & CBS, 3 Seasons Totaling 59 Episodes (plus the pilot)

Starring: Lynda Carter, Lyle Waggoner, Beatrice Colen, Norman Burton

Created By: Douglas S. Cramer, Stanley Ralph Ross

Is It Must-Watch Sci Fi? No. But it does deliver some good, cheesy 70’s superhero fun.

 

The Skinny: In the 1970’s, sci fi on television typically came in the form of a superhero type series such as The Six Million Dollar Man, The Incredible Hulk, and this series, and they all followed the basic pattern of the hero using his or her powers to battle the villain of the week or resolve the issue of the week. For shows like Wonder Woman and the Hulk, the network usually only had the license for the title character (though the former did bring in Wonder Girl), so there was little in the way of crossover from the comics and the heroes tended to face off against string of rather generic television heavies (though Wonder Woman had the Nazis to fight in her first season).

Wonder Woman is considered somewhat of an important series for its time because it delivered a strong female lead who provided a positive role model. And while that may be true, this show might have had an even better legacy if the producers had managed to drum up a few decent scripts. Positive role model or not, network executives were much more interested in storylines that had Wonder Women running around in her costume (which sported ample cleavage) as much as possible. Like contemporary series Charlie’s Angels and its clones, this was more about jiggle TV than presenting women in a positive light (case in point: the 1974 Wonder Woman pilot with Cathy Lee Crosby in the lead role wearing a non-cleavage friendly costume failed to make it to series).

Still, Wonder Women could be fun at times, especially in its first season. Diminishing returns set in pretty quickly on this one by the time you get to its third season, but it was an iconic show from its time and is well remembered by many. The pilot and the first season are definitely worth checking out (as is the earlier pilot mentioned above), then you can sample a few episodes beyond that to get a good idea of what the series is about.

Cancelled Too Soon? Probably. This series started off on ABC where it drew decent ratings for its pilot and first season.  But since it was set during World War II, it was a “period piece” and expensive to produce.  ABC hesitated on greenlighting the show to a second season, but CBS stepped in and picked it up, moving it to the present day to cut down on costs.  The show did okay for that network in its second season, but its increasing tendency toward camp started to take a toll on the viewership.  The show went through a bit of a reboot at the end of its year third (bringing in new characters which included an indestructible chimpanzee) prepping for a new direction in its fourth season.  But CBS decided not to bring the show back (partly because Linda Carter herself had lost interest in the show), truncating it at 59 episodes.

Revival: The Wonder Woman character returned to television in the Justice League animated shows and DC put out the Wonder Woman ’77 comics starting in 2014 that picked up where the 70’s series left off.  In 2011, a Wonder Woman pilot starring Adrianne Palicki in the lead role and written by David E. Kelley (Picket Fences, Ally McBeal) was produced. That one got mixed reviews from those who saw it, and NBC passed on the series. The CW then considered a Wonder Woman prequel series to have been titled Amazon around 2013, right about the time that the Arrow-verse was picking up steam, but the network never moved forward with that. Since then, Wonder Woman has become a hot property on the big screen with Gal Gadot taking over as the Amazon warrior.

Should It Be Rebooted? Probably not on television. The 70’s series is a campy nostalgia ride at best and the recent movies have done much better by the character. Perhaps when those run out of steam, though, Diana Prince could make a return to television.

Interesting Facts: During the 1977-78 season, CBS aired Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, and The Amazing Spider-Man. In addition, ABC had The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman on the schedule, so that season was a big one for superheroes on television. Lyle Waggoner, who starred as Steve Trevor, had auditioned for the role of Batman in the 60’s but lost out to Adam West.

Where Can You Watch It? The entire series has been collected on DVD, but has not received the Blu-ray treatment yet. It is not streaming on any of the major services at the moment, but all three seasons can be found on YouTube.

Read More About the Show: Wikipedia | IMDb.com

Available from Amazon.com:

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