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For all its flaws, Lynda Carter makes this series...well, wonderful!
on December 31, 2014
Wonder Woman is one of the most iconic superheroines in comic book history, so much so in fact, it's hard to believe she has only one television series on her CV. But here it is: the Complete Collection, which gathers all 60 episodes of the Wonder Woman series together in one attractive package. Season One includes the original pilot plus 11 other episodes produced for ABC between 1975-76, and was set in the World War II era. Season Two features the "relaunch" pilot, moving Wonder Woman to the contemporary era (1977) and also representing a change in networks, with the show switching to CBS. Season Three keeps the action going, though the focus shifts to more teenager-oriented theme and becomes more oriented on Wonder Woman's alter ego, Diana Prince.
The pilot and the Season Three premier ("One Of Our Teenage Idols Is Missing") feature commentary by Lynda Carter, who played the title role. There are also short documentaries included in each Season package. The picture quality is excellent; it's as if the shows were just broadcast yesterday. Except for a few small edits--the opening credits for the pilot have been changed to those for the standard Season One intro, for instance--the episodes are show as they were originally presented.
If nothing else, Wonder Woman: The Complete Collection proves the old saying that "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." Taken pound for pound, this is actually a subpar series. The scripts are only average at best, the stories don't generate much tension, and most of the villains are stale cardboard cut-outs of each other. Yet despite all the problems, Wonder Woman still comes across as an enjoyable show, primarily due to one factor: Lynda Carter. Much has been made about how perfect Carter was for the role, both in physical attractiveness and the degree of humanity she brought to the part--and Carter deserves every word of that praise, and then some. Modern-day actresses scoff at the idea of running around fighting crime in such a scanty costume; Carter not only made it believable, but even perfectly normal. Her approach to playing Wonder Woman as a "normal woman, only with super-powers" was a masterstroke that kept the character fresh, dynamic, and a treat to watch even if the proceedings going on around her grew rather tedious.
Season One, despite its shorter length, actually has the best episodes. The pilot and the first two regular episodes are the only ones using plotlines drawn directly from the source material, featuring villains from the comic book series; perhaps not surprisingly, these are the three best episodes of the entire series. Season One also features an up-and-coming actress named Debra Winger as Wonder Girl; the three episodes she appears in are also quite magical. Seasons Two and Three are more of a mixed bag. While Carter herself has gone on record saying she preferred working on the series after it moved to the contemporary era, a lot of the magic which permeated the show during Season One began to dissipate throughout Season Two, and by the time Season Three started the show was running on fumes.
Having said that, though, there are a few standout moments during the 1970s era of the show, particularly the episode "The Man Who Could Move The World," where Wonder Woman has to face a Japanese survivor from the US internment camps, who blames her for the death of his brother three decades earlier. The subject of the US interning innocent Japanese-Americans during World War Ii remains a sensitive one to this day, and it was a bold move of the series to confront it. Had there been more episodes like this one, the series might very well have run even longer.
Wonder Woman: The Complete Series may not be television at its finest, yet it does have Lynda Carter. And as unlikely as it sounds, that really is enough reason to give this show a look. In her remarkable red-white-and-blue costume, proud and confident yet also compassionate and caring, Carter set the gold standard for how super-heroines should be portrayed. For that, both Carter--and the Wonder Woman series she anchored--deserves its place in history.