By Kerensa Cadenas and Noel Kirkpatrick
Wonder Woman (1974 pilot movie)
Original airdate: March 12, 1974
Note: We’re doing something of a flashback here as this pilot movie was produced and aired before the Lynda Carter version we’ve already discussed. It’ll be an after-the-fact compare-and-contrast, but as you’ll see through our discussion, it’s pretty telling why no one ever talks about this particular incarnation when we talk about Wonder Woman on the small screen.
Kerensa: Well, that’s a thing we watched.
I’m missing Lynda.
What did you think?
Noel: I thought it was really dull for a movie that seemed like it had a lot going on, but it really didn’t.
It was, however, clearly a pilot that was intended to capitalize on women action heroes and spies at the time, and used Wonder Woman as a name. It barely felt like Wonder Woman at all.
Kerensa: Agreed. It really didn’t feel like Wonder Woman at all. Like it just didn’t utilize anything I feel like. Why didn’t it for you?
Noel: Well, I was sort of excited since, you know, we had that very brief, gauzy “origin story” moment on Paradise Island with Diana’s sisters and her mother. But then…she doesn’t have the costume at all and it doesn’t seem like she has much in the way of super powers, or, well anything that says Wonder Woman.
To be fair, this sort of powerless secret agent version of Diana was a thing in the comics. She got “mod”, the Amazons left that dimension and she stayed behind (for Steve). She battled spies and some supernatural stuff. Gloria Steinem was pissed. So I sort of get what they had in mind with this particular…off-brand vibe, but it was off-brand even in the comics, so a TV show just doesn’t translate that well. I mean, you’re missing all of the iconography!
So let’s compare apples and oranges. You liked that the Crosby Diana, who doesn’t seem to have much of a secret identity (which was, also, part of the comics at the time), wasn’t as naive as Carter Diana. I liked that, too, but it also made her feel sort of painfully generic, just like most everything else about it. What’d you think about Crosby’s performance overall? I thought she was pretty muted/overly serious.
Kerensa: Yeah! It was so brief–like it was just the tiniest reference to Wonder Woman–like reminding us that it was in fact Wonder Woman.
I agreed. She was very very generic. But I did really like that she wasn’t naive. Although I think that could also be that we didn’t really have a timeframe for how long she’d been around–so maybe it’s just a matter of that. I just think about that scene where she went on that psuedo date with that guy–and the whole time I was just imagining that in the Carter version, and I don’t think Diana could keep her shit together enough to go on a date–even if it was just for finding out information essentially.
She was weirdly overly serious–as was the whole movie? Like with the show–it’s pretty goofy–and it was weird watching this where there was literally no humor at all.
Noel: I think they were aiming for a female James Bond: Cool, unflappable, and so on, but when there’s no personality to back it up, it’s just dull. And yet there were moments of weird ’70s goofing. There’s the brother-sister assassin duo (they were brother and sister, yes? Remind me.), Ricardo doing his thing, though sadly it took 60 minutes for them to get to him doing his thing, and, well, that amazing multi-colored mud wall of death. WHAT WAS UP WITH THAT?! It was my favorite part of the entire episode and yet I have no idea why in the world such a death trap existed in that narrative universe.
What did you think about her interactions with Steve here? And how much did you love the rogue Amazon set-up for an on-going villain? I sort of dug it, but wish that that had been the plot of the movie, not this weird cloak-and-dagger spy book stuff.
Kerensa: They were brother and sister I believe.
Yeah, Ricardo is fun, but it takes so long to get to him and by that point I basically had lost most interest. That mud wall was pretty awesome. It was totally bizarre though.
I found all the interactions between her and Steve totally unmemorable. There was nothing between them at all. What did you think? And I did love the rogue Amazon set up which has so much interesting potential. Do you even think that it could be interesting if that was the plot? I just feel like everything was so unmemorable.
Noel: I think the rogue Amazon would’ve made for a bit more interesting of a story, like she had become a spymaster of sorts (something Diana did become in the comics at one point!) and would be a recurring villain for the series, had it been picked up. To do that, though, they’ve would’ve needed to set up Paradise Island a bit more than they did. As it was, it just incredibly random. Not as random as a mud wall, but still.
I will say that I actually rather liked Kaz Garas, who played Steve here, a bit more than Lyle Waggoner (again, apples and oranges). He looks more like how Steve tends to look in the comics (not that’s a deal-breaker for me), but there wasn’t much chemistry between him and Cathy Lee Crosby. Then again, no one really had any chemistry with Cathy Lee Crosby except for Ricardo, but that man has chemistry with the phone book.
I watched the episode just before I moved, and everything before that is excessively hazy. I just remember being bored out of my mind…
Kerensa: Diana did that in the comics?! That’s great. Yeah, the whole brief mention of Paradise Island felt so thrown in.
I agree with that. I think their interactions, again, weren’t memorable but I did like him better than Lyle Waggoner. Also, I liked that he seemed to have a lot of respect for Diana much more so than in the Carter show. But I’m guessing that could be because he knows she’s Wonder Woman unlike in the show?
OMG that last part when Ricardo was like “I love you Wonder Woman,” totally swooned. Can he be a guest star on Season 2?
Noel: I think if there’s one thing that’s been established by our Spy TV roundtable, it’s that Ricardo should’ve probably guest starred on every television show ever, and that perhaps we should even digitally added into shows today, like Laurence Olivier in Sky Cpatain and the World of Tomorrow. I think it would work.
Any final thoughts? Was there anything that you thought was good (apart from The Mud Wall of Doom)? The Lynda Carter pilot movie had a lot more going for it than this very generic-feeling movie did. It had personality, it had Carter, it had an idea of what it wanted to be as opposed to just a desire to be a complete copy of other action shows.
Kerensa: Not really. Like you’ve said it just felt so painfully generic and while we have had problems with the Carter show—it has personality and the potential for commentary and this had neither.