Wonder Woman Season 3 Review

  • Title:  Wonder Woman
  • Season: 3
  • Episodes: 24
  • Discs: 4 (Double-sided)
  • Original Network:  ABC
  • Distribution Network:  Warner Brothers
  • Cast:  Lynda Carter, Lyle Waggoner
  • Format: Standard, Color, DVD, NTSC

The third season of Wonder Woman starts with several very weak episodes. It’s almost as if the creative team didn’t expect the show to get picked up and they had to use whatever they had available to produce as scripts – including ones rejected from the previous season. The series starts to pick-up with “Skateboard Whiz”, which, despite the awful title is actually a pretty good episode. Diana goes on vacation in California to visit a former IDAC agent and her teenaged daughter. The daughter is into skateboarding, thus the title. Anyway, Diana is really there on vacation, not an investigation, but a shady casino owner is trying to buy up the town and using nefarious means to do so. When an old friend of Diana’s, a police officer who is now working security for the casino owner, spots Diana, he meets with her to find out why she’s there. Diana tells this former police officer that she thinks is her friend she’s “on vacation”. No one believes her. For once Diana really is on vacation, but the bad guys assume she must be undercover – so they go after her. They even kidnap the teenager at the skateboarding championship she’s entered. Diana as Wonder Woman spins into a skateboard outfit (basically her swimsuit but with elbow pads and a helmet) to rescue the girl. It’s better than it sounds.

As with “Skateboard Whiz” there are several average to good action-oriented episodes in the third season. There’s an episode with an SF convention as the backdrop, which, although it uses some of the negative tropes about SF fans isn’t wholly offensive. Diana accidentally meets up with an old friend while on assignment and he has a moon rocks exhibit at the convention that is interesting (though his idea of bright flashing lights and a tilting floor to simulate being in space makes most people nauseous). “The Starships are Coming” seems to be inspired by Orsen Welles 1938 “War of the Worlds” broadcast as a small town in Pennslyvania experiences a rash of UFO sightings followed by a series of faked broadcasts of an “alien attack”. However, the entire thing is arranged by a Conservative politician who uses the attack to convince an Air Force General who worked on Project Blue Book to launch a nuclear warhead at China. Fortunately, Wonder Woman stops the Air Force general and reveals the entire thing to be fake.

There are two two-parter episodes in the set, including the final story. Both are pretty good, simply because with more time they can breathe a bit more and the stories are more fleshed out. Oddly enough, the first one, “The Boy Who Knew Her Secret” concerns an actual alien invasion. In a very Doctor Who-like story, 99 pyramid-shaped rocks land near a small California town. When someone finds one of the rocks and picks it up they are taken over by an alien force. But it turns out the aliens are interstellar police looking for an escaped convict – a shapeshifter responsible for thousands of deaths. Once this becomes clear, Wonder Woman has to help find this shapeshifter, which isn’t easy, and then deal with the teenaged boy Diana’s befriended accidentally finding out who she really is.

The final story is a two-parter set at an amusement park. A nefarious property developer wants to buy the park, but the owner won’t sell. It turns out the owner has a secret, his twin brother who was horribly scarred by napalm burns in Vietnam is hiding, with his permission, in the tunnels beneath the park. Diana, and an orphaned teenager help the burned man come out into society and foil the attempts of the property developer to cause accidents at the park that would shut it down. Yes, it’s better than it sounds – the story just plays out in a very sweet, well-done, respectful way.

Overall, Season 3 of Wonder Woman is OK but not great. It starts off very weak, but it does get better through the season, with a few stumbles here and there. I’d say pick it up if you want the complete Lynda Carter series, as it is not terrible.

Read my Review of Wonder Woman Season 1.

Read my Review of Wonder Woman Season 2.

Wonder Woman – Season 2 Review

  • Title:  Wonder Woman
  • Season: 2
  • Episodes: 22
  • Discs: 4 (Double-sided)
  • Original Network:  ABC
  • Distribution Network:  Warner Brothers
  • Cast:  Lynda Carter, Lyle Waggoner
  • Format: Standard, Color, DVD, NTSC

The second season of Wonder Woman feels almost like three different seasons. The first ten episodes or so feature an animated opening sequence, though the pilot brings the series into “the present day”. The “present” is 1977. Season 1 was filmed in 1976-1977 and set in 1942, 34 years earlier. Since it is currently 2018, which is 41 years after 1977 – the “present-day” episodes of Wonder Woman feel almost as historic as the episodes from World War II. This means that there are some incongruities of watching an older program: everyone uses payphones, though towards the very end of the season a few car phones show up; cars are rear-wheel drive, long, and handle very badly (there’s a scene with a police car where it fishtails unbelievably – and it isn’t even snowing); and as was common in the 1970s even though the show is technically set in or at least based in Washington, DC, most of the stories take place in Los Angeles and surrounding areas. During the first ten or so episodes Steve and Diana report to Joe Atkinson and receive orders from an unseen voice. It’s all very Charlie’s Angels. After a few transition episodes, where we barely see Steve, Joe retires (or is promoted out of the show) and Steve takes his job. For the middle run of the season, Steve sends Diana Prince, his top agent on various assignments. Finally, at the end of the season, Steve and Diana seem to be taking their assignments from IRAC, a talking computer. At the very least, IRAC will be consulted at least once per episode. IRAC is a talking box of lights, not very impressive looking, and totally unrealistic as a computer. Oh, and my smartphone probably has more computing power. Welcome to the 1970s!

Most of the episodes in the second season of Wonder Woman are very formulaic. Diana and Steve are given an assignment by Joe’s unseen boss, or Steve gives Diana her assignment once he’s promoted, Diana travels to wherever her assignment is – usually California, Diana investigates and finds clues, and at least twice per episode, she spins into Wonder Woman. Diana is kind, courteous, sweet, and gets along well with children and animals. The series has forgotten about her mimic power, but she seems to have the ability to mentally speak to animals, especially horses. Steve is much less sexist in his treatment of Diana – but she runs into sexist attitudes while doing her job as a government intelligence agent. Diana’s reaction is to grin and bear it – which was very common in the 1970s and 1980s.

My favorite episode of the entire season was “The Queen and the Thief”, which is absolutely delightful. Diana is awakened in her apartment early in the morning and spins into Wonder Woman basically to get to work on time for an emergency meeting. When she arrives, she, Joe, and Steve are told notorious jewel thief Evan Robley (David Hedison) has arrived and he’s after the crown jewels of a small country no one has heard of. The country’s new Queen (Juliet Mills) was an American citizen who married the country’s prince and when he died, she became Queen. (Never mind that monarchy doesn’t actually work like that. She’d be a princess by marriage, later a consort to the King (possibly with the title of “queen” but only out of courtesy) and only her children would be in the line of succession, not herself.) Anyway, if the jewels are stolen she will lose her position as Queen and the counts or something will take over. Steve and Diana are despatched immediately undercover to help the Queen and prevent the theft. Steve is almost immediately captured, and Wonder Woman explains to the Queen he’s “safer where he is” and leaves him there. Diana and the Queen then have to ensure the jewels are not stolen, only to discover they’ve been stolen – but the ones that were stolen were paste (fake). Then things get really interesting as the theft, Diana, and the Queen work together to recover the real jewels and expose the Queen’s ambassador (Played to perfection by John Colicos) as the person behind a plot to steal the jewels, expose the Queen, and place his own traditionally-minded puppet on the throne. It sounds like a typical plot for the show, but it’s played with an incredibly light touch, and the Queen and the Theif are excellent guest stars (they need their own show). John Colicos is brilliant as always as the bad guy. And Diana’s involvement is pretty much talking to the Queen to convince her she and Diana Prince, have her interests at heart – and a brilliant jewel-heist scene which takes place in a set that looks like it was borrowed from The Avengers, that’s the British TV series starring Patrick MacNee and Diana Rigg. The episode has a light touch, great costumes and sets, and a brilliant cast. It felt like it should have been a movie with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly (and in some respects was probably inspired by To Catch a Thief). And it was glorious!

Here and there, other episodes of season 2 of Wonder Woman are at least enjoyable, escapist entertainment, largely due to Lynda Carter’s excellent performance as Diana Prince and Wonder Woman. Lyle Waggoner’s Steve Trevor definitely takes a back seat, which is a shame – he has pretty good chemistry with Diana, especially when they are friends and colleagues, and since Diana needs someone to talk to – she’s usually paired with the guest star of the week, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. Unlike season 1, in which the show featured well-known guest stars, season 2 features familiar-looking actors of the 70s and 80s (especially if you watched The Rockford Files), but few “big stars”. And for some reason, a lot of children. No, seriously, several episodes revolve around young kids – which works if the kid can act.

Overall, I enjoyed season 2, but I also found it gets repetitive quickly. I’m going to hold off on watching season 3, but I will watch it at some point. Still recommended, if only for Lynda Carter.

Please also read my Wonder Woman Season 1 Review.

Wonder Woman – Season 1 Review

  • Title:  Wonder Woman
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 13, plus pilot
  • Discs: 5
  • Original Network:  ABC
  • Distribution Network:  Warner Brothers
  • Cast:  Lynda Carter, Lyle Waggoner, Richard Eastham, Beatrice Colen
  • Format: Standard, Color, DVD, NTSC

There are some technical issues first to discuss regarding the DVD set for the first season of Lynda Carter’s TV series version of Wonder Woman. The first season, set during World War II, only has 13 episodes, yet it is spread out on five discs, with only two or three episodes per disc. As this series runs short, only 42 minutes, and is in 3×4 ratio and standard definition – they could have easily put four or five episodes per disc and reduced the number of discs to four. Since the only special feature is a short documentary – everything would fit and the package could be slimmer. Also, the episode menus refer to episodes “on the other side of the disc”, when these are standard single-sided discs and not double-sided ones. And all five discs were stacked on a single spindle. I hate that, it begs for the discs to get scratched or broken. I repackaged mine. The menus and cheap packaging made me wonder if this particular copy was legit, even though I purchased mine at Barnes and Noble during their sale on everything DC last year. Also, the copy quality leaves something to be desired – it really does look like a direct transfer from videotape. In short, if a cleaner, more compact “complete series” was offered, I’d definitely consider replacing this set, even though I seldom replace DVDs I’ve already purchased.

On to the series itself. This is the Wonder Woman that I remember watching as a little kid. Even back then, I knew that, at times, it was silly. The pilot has a great guest cast – of comic actors, including Kenneth Mars (The Producers), Henry Gibson (The Blues Brothers and Laugh-In), and Cloris Leachman (Young Frankenstein). It’s somewhat difficult to take actors known for playing “comedy Nazis” seriously. Lynda Carter does her best though – and I must say, the series steadily improves. Every episode of the first season features at least one actor I recognize, and frequently more than one. And it isn’t simply 70s talent either, as actors from the 50s and 60s make guest appearances as well.

Set during World War II, Diana rescues Steve Trevor after his plane crashes on Paradise Island. Diana’s mother, the Queen, played in the pilot by Cloris Leachman (and in the series by Carolyn Jones) holds a contest to choose the Amazon who will escort Steve back to the US. Diana wins the contest and heads back to America. She defeats some Nazis and ends up as Diana Prince, Yeoman First Class in the WAVEs, and secretary to Steve in Military Intelligence at the War Department, which makes her perfectly placed to find out about threats to the US and the world and to protect the country and even the planet as Wonder Woman. Diana’s only friend at the War Department is Etta Candy. Etta is a bit man-crazy, but she has a good heart.

In the first couple of episodes, Diana changes into Wonder Woman by doing a slow spin, ending up with her naval uniform on her arm – which she carefully puts away in a closet or storage locker. Later they sped up the spin and added the explosion – and her clothes disappeared. Diana also, besides her super strength, her magical lasso which forces people to tell the truth, and her bullet-proof bracelets, has the ability to be an incredible mimic – able to exactly duplicate a voice over the phone or a radio. She has her invisible plane as well.

In the first season, episodes range from foiling Nazi plots (many of which involving the Nazis trying to capture Wonder Woman) to the unusual (such as the two-part “Judgment from Outer Space” in which a guy (played by Tim O’Connor of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century) from another galaxy has to determine if Earth should be destroyed or not) to an episode involving cattle rustling in Texas and Wonder Woman at Beauty contests and in Hollywood. The series improves starting with episode four, “The Feminum Mystique”, which introduces Debra Winger as Wonder Girl (Diana’s younger sister, Drusilla) and Carolyn Jones (from The Addams Family television series) as Queen Hippolyta. Although the plot of the two-part episode is similar to earlier ones, with the Nazis out to kidnap Wonder Woman to learn the secret of her bullet-proof bracelets, the story is better developed, and both Drusilla and Hippolyta are wonderful.

The first season of Wonder Woman mixes the silly with great adventure. Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman grows from an innocent, totally perplexed by life in Washington, to a competent, professional woman. When her young sister arrives, she also is innocent and confused – but she learns without becomes harsh or cynical. The stories in the back half of the season tend to be better, with some interesting changes in location (despite the fact that absolutely every place they are looks like Southern California, including Washington, New York, Nazi Germany, Argentina, and Texas). Lynda Carter brings it as Diana – she is kind, thoughtful, understanding and caring – without being overly sweet or a “mary sue” character, which is difficult to pull off. Over time her end of episode speeches improve from sounding like Maxwell Smart’s “if only he could have used his genius for niceness” to something that approaches being more realistic, given this is a show from the 1970s that seems to be aimed at children.

Overall, though there are technical issues with the actual DVD set, and at times this show plays like a comedy or parody of the Superhero genre, considering when it was made – it is still worth watching and enjoyable to watch. Because season 1 is set during the war and everyone is in uniform, it looks less dated than other programs from the 1970s – though it is also very obviously set and backlot-bound. Lynda Carter is awesome in this. Lyle Waggoner is wonderfully dippy as Steve. Steve Trevor is incredibly dumb in this (he reminds me of the Ghostbusters (2017) secretary), though by the last couple of episodes of the season he’s not quite so stupid. Still, he spends a lot of time getting knocked out, kidnapped, tied up, and dropped into traps – so Wonder Woman can rescue him. I like Diana’s friend, Etta, even though she gets to do very little.

Wonder Woman was made in the 1970s – the same time as Charlie’s Angels and the Bionic Woman, and it some ways it reminds me of those shows more than any superhero TV show or film from now. Even the sound effect for Wonder Woman using her super strength is similar to the Bionic Woman. Still, this show is worth watching if you remember when it was made. Recommended with minor reservations.