When it comes to DC Comics, there is no entity greater than The Trinity. While Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are treated as the pillars of the DC Universe, they have not been given equal representation in other medias. While Batman and Superman combined have starred in over a dozen movies, Wonder Woman will get her first in just under 2 weeks. Superman and Batman have been the stars of television both live-action and animated for decades, Wonder Woman has only a single television series under her belt.
But that isn’t for lack of trying. Wonder Woman has had 3 attempts of TV shows that have failed, but produced pilots and over the weekend I wanted to check them all out. See if there was some hidden potential within each of these pilots that network just overlooked. I’ll examine each of them in a second, but to jump to the conclusion, nope. I think it was probably best for the character of Wonder Woman that none of these went any further.
The first attempt came in 1967 just a year after the premiere of the Adam West Batman series. It featured a lot of the same creative forces behind that campy romp, but apparently they took a nap when crafting “Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince?” The show, in hindsight to be honest, is the most regressive 5 minutes of television. The bulk of the runtime is spent on Diana’s mother berating her for being unmarried without kids and how she shouldn’t waste her time with that “Wonder Woman” nonsense. After this dressing down, she transforms into Wonder Woman, who for some strange reason is played by a completely different actress. In this guise, she spends a decent amount of time admiring herself in the mirror.
If none of this sounds like Wonder Woman while I would agree with you. I’m not sure if a full show would have fleshed out the supporting characters and give us action, but all said “Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince?” was better left on the cutting room floor.
Next up was the 1974 Wonder Woman TV pilot. To understand the pilot though, we need to understand where Wonder Woman was in the early 70s. In the mid-60s, the character gave up her powers and traditional costume in order to stay in man’s world. Instead, she took on a more spy-like design and her adventures followed suit. The 1974 takes heavy influence from both this era and traditional Wonder Woman. She kept some of her powers like strength and ability to speak with animals, but she ditched the tiara and swimsuit for a proper multi-colored suit.
The pilot had a few more familiar elements from the comic lore. Diana worked as Steve Trevor’s “secretary” but as she had no secret identity it was essentially a cover for her to get intel and go on her adventures. It is a fun set-up for the time to get a kick-ass female-lead while also having the perspective that she is a subordinate.
Unlike the other series, Wonder Woman 1974’s pilot did actually air, but ratings were lukewarm and wasn’t picked up to series. Of the three, it would have been the most interesting to see develop into a full-series. But as luck and fortune would have it, Wonder Woman proved popular enough to retry the next year and we got the famous Lynda Carter version.
Finally there is the version of Wonder Woman that most people are familiar with as the pilot is just a few years old. Done by Warner Bros for NBC, the Wonder Woman pilot had Diane Themyscira, which is the public identity of Wonder Woman, and CEO of Themyscira Industries, and Diana Prince, the secret third identity of her. It’s a bit of a weird set-up, but also one that could have had some intriguing plot points if the series was picked up.
Aside from that set-up, the show gets a lot more wrong after it. First off, Wonder Woman lacks compassion in this version. At one point torturing a man in the hospital to gain information. Yes, a point could be made that he’s a criminal and it was a pressing matter, but it seemed so out of left-field for her. But even that could have been resolved in time, but merchandising her likeness as Wonder Woman for a profit seems like a gross misunderstanding of the character. Though it did grant us this golden line, “I never said to merchandise my tits.”
When she isn’t torturing her enemies or using her company to sell dolls of her likeness, Diana spends time in her apartment eating ice cream and reminiscing about her former romance with Steve Trevor. You know as she does. The real Steve does make an appearance at the end and seems would be her government handler, but who knows. I do like her dynamic with Etta though.
Now one of the more infamous elements of this pilot is the costume design. I will say upfront that I actually like Diana’s design with pants, and for filming a weekly show I think it’s a lot more comfortable and convenient for the various weather you would come across. That said, the original costume that was shown for this iteration of the character was pretty awful. I think it was the glossy pants that really makes it look bad. Luckily, they changed the material for the actual shot pilot and it looks slightly better. But oddly halfway through the pilot she changes into something a lot more traditional. I may have missed a line of dialogue, but I don’t believe I did.
There are the three Wonder Woman pilots that were produced in some fashion. Since 2011, one more attempt was made but the CW’s “Amazon” never made it out of development. I would love to see the script for that one. On the bright side, after 75 years of only a single animated movie and live-action TV series, Wonder Woman will finally leap on to the big-screen. And we hope all the best for our favorite Warrior Princess.