By Kerensa Cadenas and Noel Kirkpatrick
Season 3, Episode 4: “The Fine Art of Crime”
Original airdate: Oct. 13, 1978
Noel: Harold’s back! And this time he’s into cutting edge art instead of the illusionary arts!
We’ve been, understandably, ragging on the show for a while now, but I think we had a really good episode here. There was a nice blend of humor (apart from the damn robot and computer), acceptable levels of weirdness in the overall plot, and some really great guest performances from Begely, Roddy McDowalll, and Michael McGuire (and a cameo from Murray Slaughter himself, Gavin MacLeod!).
Agree, or did this episode leave you as still and unmoving as one of the statues?
Kerensa: Harold! He’s so tall! But I think he was wearing a wig in this episode…
I think it was a pretty decent episode as well! I wasn’t totally bored. Although I did guess the major plot point about 10 minutes in but it was still super enjoyable. There was a lot of good humor in it, the action was decent and Wonder Woman actually had a purpose!
My favorite revelation of the episode was that Diana and Steve both hate Ira as much as we do. And we have to talk about Rover…like seriously? Ugh.
Noel: Oh, Rover. We skipped Rover’s introduction in Season 2, so we were not prepared for this at all. I suddenly find myself missing Joe and the President and everyone else meeting in the super-secured conference room doing mission debriefings. Anything is better than the buckets of bolts that everyone is forced to work with now.
But the robots and Joe and Eve and all of this makes me think of a question that may be worth discussing. Obviously the show was retooled when it switched networks, but even after that, as we waded into Season 2, the show was retooled again as it cast off Joe, gave the computers more to do, added in Eve for random conversations. How do you feel about the adjusting on the fly? Do you think a show could get away with it today?
Kerensa: Rover is a mess. Not here for him at all. I miss Joe and the President too! Things we never thought we’d say!
I think it’s a little hard to judge the adjusting of the show for me, mainly because we haven’t really been watching super linearly. We’ve missed episodes here and there, so I don’t know if we had watched every episode the transition from Joe to Rover (HA) would have felt more organic. I completely doubt it, but I’m not entirely sure.
I was trying to think of a show that has dramatically retooled as frequently as Wonder Woman (although I keep thinking about my conversations about the fictional “Room and Bored’ on The Comeback with our fellow This Was Television contributor, Emma Fraser) and I really can’t think of anything. I feel like we’ve watch Wonder Woman morph into several different types of shows and while I think you and I both agree that Season 1 was by far the superior iteration, we still had problems with it. I really can’t imagine a show being able to get away with morphing itself consistently into multiple types of shows and still have anyone watching or at least complaining via social media.
What do you think?
Noel: I don’t think that linear nature of the show is necessarily important. So, yes, we’ve missed and skipped episodes, but does it matter? I don’t even doubt it: I seriously don’t think it would’ve been organic or anything. Joe was just gone. Poof! Eve just appeared! Poof! After all, does it matter when it’s a not a show about character development, or, well, even characters? It’s about the weekly yarn, the adventure, the shoving (though Wonder Woman actually gets to kick people this week, which is the most violent she’s ever been).
The only show in recent memory I can think of that was going to be retooled as massively was Up All Night, but that new version never made it to our screens. But I think abut shows like Ellen which had different characters and title in Season 1 before becoming something along the lines of what it would it end up being in Season 2. But to be re-tooled in the middle of a season? I don’t think any show can do that now. Or that it could get away with it. I mean, even New Girl addressed the casting change from its pilot to its second episode, and it didn’t really need to do that. Have we been trained to expect lots of continuity between episodes and seasons? Is this what happens when shows develop large ensembles instead of being vehicles for a couple of actors that are then surrounded by guest stars? Are our reactions to the shifts of Wonder Woman based on how we’ve watched things all our lives? Did anyone care abut these things in 1978?
We’ll talk about the episode, I swear, but this been in my head.
Kerensa: You have been thinking about this apparently!
I do agree that Wonder Woman probably never made any sort of organic effort to explain its sudden shifts, primarily because like you said, it’s a show about Wonder Woman, not about anyone else.
I don’t think any show could do that now either because I think, like you mentioned, the way we watch things is probably completely different. TV viewers are smarter and savvier in knowing what they want in television now. And I think that having consistency or at least the acknowledgement of change totally comes into it. I do think that we are completely used to watching more and more serialized shows and want or even need explanation for the events that happen. Wonder Woman is a show that, as we have been doing, is something a viewer could just drop in and watch whenever they felt like. It’s not like a Twin Peaks or a Breaking Bad where you need to see every episode in order to understand the plot. I don’t have a ton of knowledge of television of the time while Wonder Woman was airing (which maybe you can speak more to) but I’d guess that a lot of the programming was similar in that scope. People just dropping in when they felt like and therefore when changes happened, not much if any explanation was needed. And I’m sure there were people who obviously cared about that during that time period, but there wasn’t an easy forum to be able to discuss like we have now.
I mean we also live in a time period where literally everyone can be a critic (loosely used, I know) with social media, so if a showrunner fucks up they are going to hear all the internet vitriol from people who care about the show and who have invested years of time into that world. HI DEXTER FINALE 🙂
Noel: I don’t want to make comparisons about our smartness and savviness compared to audiences watching in the late 70s, but I do think watching habits, as you alluded to, may have been different. Certainly there was appointment television as all you had was the Big 3 at the time (cable TV, while having been around since the late 40s, was starting to gain a foothold in homes by this time), but programs were still roughly designed to allow that drop in atmosphere. But it’s also possible that in the same we’ve come to expect continuity, audiences then just didn’t worry themselves with it.
So, social dynamics of TV watching aside, what stood out for you this week? You mentioned the humor…
Kerensa: You know that I love my boo Ed Begley Jr. and he brings such a goofy charm when he visits the show. I felt like the humor was kinda silly and fun especially considering how outlandish the whole statute plot was. It was pretty hilarious to watch them go in between animating and freezing the statues to steal the famed art pieces.
And I laughed a lot about Ed’s unfortunate wig 😦
What stood out for you?
Noel: The plot, as you mention, was probably my favorite bit about it all. So, yeah, they’re stealing Zodiac-themed works of art, but in fact, all these thefts are just intended to lure Wonder Woman out into the open that they can capture her and get her out of the way! There’s even a criminal mastermind above Roddy McDowall’s character pulling the strings! It’s probably the best laid plan of any villain so far that I can think of on the show. And they would’ve gotten away with it, too, if only Moreaux’s had a wider view of that storage room!
Again, something like that would’ve played out across episodes today, or even if it was an animated show, Roddy McDowall’s character would’ve been trying plot after plot to capture her, with Moreaux only appearing at the end. Here,it’s all wrapped up in 47 minutes!
There were a lot of outfits for Diana this week, which was, I’m sure, a delight for you. Did any in particular stand out?
Kerensa: I loved the weird Astrological sign reveal. It was so weird but great. I mean, like you mentioned, the plot was in criminal terms by far the most well-executed that we’ve seen. No one knew that they weren’t statues! And I loved that Harold seemed to be the first to figure it out, in his own goofy way.
Before we get to Diana’s outfits (I have a particular one in mind), let’s talk about Diana and Harold’s interaction. Do you think things changed from the last time we saw them paired up?
Noel: No, I don’t think things have changed between them, but I feel liked Harold would’ve made for a great way to introduce new zany plots or supply Diana with someone to rescue each week, re: our retooling discussion. I mean, this week he’s into art. Next week he’s into…yacht racing and some villain is looking to sabotage the America’s Cup! He’s just bumbling and charming enough to be adorable on the show, and his crush and confidence in Diana help to make Diana seem like more than an asexual work-obsessive. She may not be into Harold, but at least someone is into her!
Did you think they had changed?
Kerensa: No I don’t think their dynamic has changed at all either. I would also love Harold around as a plot device! She’s just SO asexual, it’s annoying. She doesn’t have to be into Harold but her complete lack of interest in anyone I think makes her feel so robotic. She goes to work, she does her Wonder Woman duties, etc. I mean anything that made her feel like there was a connection to anyone (her crush on Steve, her relationship with Drusilla, her friendship with Etta) all those elements are gone now. She’s a shell. It’s depressing.
The main outfit that caught my eye–well in not the best way–was that INSANE satin top she was wearing toward the end of the episode. It was pastel and had butterflies on it I believe and had these crazy winged arms. It was terrible.
I really liked the very last outfit she was wearing with the tie though–some Annie Hall realness right there.
Next up: “Spaced Out”