With Marvel and DC filling movie houses with a seemingly endless array of superhero movies, not to mention the countless superhero television shows and Netflix series, it’s almost hard to believe that at one time live action movies or shows about spandex clad heroes wasn’t a safe bet. For decades comic book based properties rarely strayed from the four colour pages into the world of live action and when they did the results were mixed at best; the Batman serials from Columbia is now known mostly for their racism and goofy costumes, the Captain America in the Republic serial bore no resemblance to his comic book counterpart, while their Adventures of Captain Marvel had amazing flying effects but it also had our hero killing a lot of people. The one stand out was The Adventures Superman of the 50s with George Reeves as the Man of Steel for even with a low television budget they still managed to capture the spirit of the character. It wouldn’t be until the late 60s that we’d get a decent if rather campy version of a superhero, Batman with Adam West. It was while producer William Dozier was reveling in the pop culture phenomena his Batman show had exploded into, with numerous celebrities clamoring for guest villain spots, that he came up with the idea of bringing Wonder Woman to the small screen.
So William Dozer commissioned a pilot script from Stan Hart and Larry Siegel, who were both writers for The Carol Burnett Show, and to say it was terrible would be an insult to terrible things. Though to be fair only a five minute portion of the pilot was filmed so maybe the rest of it was utter brilliance, but having watched the agonizingly unfunny five minutes available I’m going to go out on a limb and say it probably stunk all the way through. As it is such a small screen test we can only get the barest idea of what the intended premise for show was all, but from what we see it’s very much in the style of 60s sketch comedy. Diana Prince (Ellie Wood Walker) lives with her mother (Maudie Prickett) who seems overly concerned that her daughter is married yet, and Diana worrying about her potential love interest Steve Trevor. I’m more concerned with the fact that while trying to read a newspaper she falls off the couch.
When Diana realizes that with the storm outside Steve Trevor’s plane will be grounded, and for some reason this means she must rush off to rescue him, from what I have no idea. Maybe Steve just really hates waiting at airport terminals. Her mother is against Diana rushing off as the bad weather is nothing to fly through in her skimpy costume and she should stay home read, watch TV and eat her roughage. Diana responds, “But the fate of the Free World depends on me.” I’m not sure how Steve being stranded at an airport puts the Free World in peril but sure I’ll go along with that. Her mom implores her to, “Eat first save the Free World later.”
Diana claims that, “The nation needs me.” Her mother on the other hand thinks the world doesn’t seem to care what Wonder Woman needs, such as a man, “How do you expect to get a husband flying around all the time?” is her mother’s weary response, followed by, “You don’t know how it feels to be the mother of an unmarried daughter your age? Why the whole neighbourhood is talking.” So this show was certainly not breaking any new ground with progressive humor, but what’s even more bizarre is that it’s revealed that Diana/Wonder Woman is not only “shocklingly” single but she’s also 28 million years old. I’m not sure what kind of mythology this show was basing their version of Wonder Woman on but it clearly wasn’t based on Ancient Greece and their pantheon of gods as the comic book was. It would have been pretty boring to be a god back then when mankind was still millions of years away from existing.
After brushing off her mother’s concerns for her social life Diana opens the secret panel where she keeps her Wonder Woman costume, no spinning starburst that we’d get in the later Linda Carter series, and then William Dozier provides us with some very bizarre voice over narration (Note: He also provided the narration for the Adam West Batman series) that fills the audience in on just who this Wonder Woman is.
This is the quintessential difference between Dozier’s Batman and Dozier’s Wonder Woman; Adam West played his version of Batman straight, the world around him was the thing that was off kilter, but this Wonder Woman is clearly the butt of the joke. She is henpecked by her mother for being single and even the narrator is taking shots at how she looks. Even stranger is that when she poses in front of the mirror her reflection is a totally different Wonder Woman, being played by Linda Harrison, whose figure is better and is wearing a costume that fits snugger. I’m not sure what kind of agenda Dozier was trying to pull her but I think it starts with Sex and ends with ist.
We get about a full minute of Wonder Woman flirting with her reflection, preening and posing to the song “Oh, You Beautiful Doll” plays on the soundtrack, the whole thing is just cringe inducing. Wonder Woman is not supposed to be a vain ditz who somehow hasn’t managed to land a “man” in twenty-eight million years. The test pilot then ends with her stepping out of the window and stating, “Away, away you vision of enchantment. You’ve got a job to do.” So not only is this Wonder Woman vain she’s also refers to herself in the third person. I hope the Justice League has good medical benefits cause she’s going to need some therapy.
This was the late 60s, Free Love and Women’s Lib were both exploding so there was no way audiences of the time were going to embrace an idiot heroine with a 50s sitcom mentality. The test pilot episode was never broadcast and the project was abandoned, for very obvious reasons, and now it remains but a strange and frightening footnote in Wonder Woman’s history. Check it out for yourself if you dare.