Sunday, November 08, 2015

Nostalgia Theater: Wonder Woman -- 40 Years Fighting For Her Rights (In Her Satin Tights)

Yesterday marked four decades to the day that the Wonder Woman we all know and love made her live action debut via a 1975 TV movie on ABC (home of the camp-tastic Batman series nearly a decade earlier) entitled The New, Original Wonder Woman. The reason for that title, by the way, was because of a previous telefilm a year earlier entitled simply Wonder Woman, which starred Cathie Lee Crosby (later of That's Incredible!) and which bore no resemblance to the character that had been appearing in DC Comics since 1941. The alphabet net went back to the well, however, and their second try convinced them to roll the dice on a series for the following spring. Here's the intro:

Those lyrics ("In your satin tights...fighting for your rights...") are by famed songwriter Norman Gimbel, by the way.

Like the earliest comic appearances of Wonder Woman, this take on the Amazing Amazon was set during World War II. Newcomer Lynda Carter played both the titular heroine and her straight-laced alter ego Diana Prince. If there's a reason the show (developed by Douglas S. Cramer and Batman vet Stanley Ralph Ross) has retained such a fervent fanbase so many years later, it's because of how easily Carter embodied both authority and innocence, all while wearing a costume that, let's face it, couldn't have been easy to act in. One of the most lasting contributions the show has made to the mythology is Carter's famous spinning transformation effect as she went from Diana to Wonder Woman and back again:

Also along for the ride was Lyle Waggoner (a finalist for Batman) as Steve Trevor, Diana's boss and Wonder Woman's love interest. Although ratings were fine for the show, the not-insubstantial costs of producing a period series led ABC to nix plans for a second season. However, given the still-solid ratings, CBS quickly swooped in and gave Wonder Woman a second (and third) year. Along with the change in networks, the show was updated to reflect the then-present day of the mid-'70s. As the show's biggest selling point, Lynda Carter was back, of course, as was Waggoner, now playing Steve Trevor Jr., the identical son of the Steve we spent the previous season with (convenient, that). Here's the updated intro:

This version of Wonder Woman went away in September, 1979 (mere weeks before I showed up in this world, actually), and despite its fifty-nine total episodes being substantially less than the hundred that you usually need for weekday syndication, Wonder Woman nonetheless found its way into second-run heaven, and has remained a TV fixture all over the world to this very day. While we won't know what Gal Gadot's take on the Amazon princess will be like until Batman v. Superman hits theaters in five months, there's no denying that Lynda Carter (as perfect for this part as Christopher Reeve was for Superman) has set a hurdle so high that even Wonder Woman herself would have a hard time leaping it.

One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Alien Nation -- A Buddy Cop Show With a Sci-Fi Twist

Two Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Toxic Crusaders Brings Troma to TV

Three Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: What the Dr. Ordered...

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