This is the eleventh installment in a series of articles tracing the complete history of superheroes in film and television, from the first superhero serial all the way to the current Marvel and DC cinematic universes. For the previous installment click here, for the first installment click here.
Most people remember the Wonder Woman of the 1970s as Lynda Carter, who starred in a very successful television series that lasted for three seasons. While Lynda Carter is the best known Wonder Woman from the period, she isn’t the only one that existed. A full year before the CBS television series debuted, a made-for-TV movie – which in itself was intended to be a pilot for a television series – aired on American television network ABC.
This made-for-TV movie starred Cathy Lee Crosby as a blonde-haired Wonder Woman, and the superheroine’s hair wasn’t the only blatant change made from the source material. This film depicted Diana Prince – code-named Wonder Woman – as a secret agent, under the command of Agent Steve Trevor. The character’s costume was significantly changed, and her identity was pretty much a matter of public record.
Wonder Woman’s origin was mostly kept intact. She was still an Amazon, sent to “man’s world” as our protector. While Wonder Woman had no lasso of truth or invisible plane, she did ride a motorcycle. The film followed Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor as they chased down Abner Smith (Ricardo Montalban), a villain who has stolen a secret file containing classified information on several government agents.
The movie aired all of twice, and while the ratings were high enough to be deemed respectable, they weren’t high enough for ABC to green-light a television series. An ABC representative eventually admitted that the decision to update Wonder Woman for a modern audience was probably a mistake. A television series did eventually materialize on another network, and while Cathy Lee Crosby claims to have been offered the role in that series, Lynda Carter was ultimately cast and history would soon be made.
TV Staff Previews, Uniontown (PA) Morning Herlad, March 12, 1974,
TV Key Best Bets, Wisconsin State Journal, August, 21, 1974.
Wonder Woman Tries Comeback, Tom Shales, Washington Pose, November 7, 1975.
Cathy Crosby turns down ‘Wonder Woman’ offer, Tom Joby, Associated Press, May 12, 1980.