This is the twelfth 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.
After the promising, yet disappointing, reception to the Wonder Woman television movie a year before, ABC decided to revamp the concept and try again. This time, producers cast Lynda Carter for the lead role, a role she would be identified with to this day. Wonder Woman’s love interest, Steve Trevor, was cast with former Batman contender Lyle Waggoner.
This time, the decision was made to keep Wonder Woman more true to the original concept, even using the World War II setting of the character’s original creation. The pilot movie, titled “The New Original Wonder Woman” aired on ABC on November 7, 1975.
The strength of the pilot movie led to a 13-episode first season order, which was a little odd in the way it was aired. The first two one-hour episodes of the first season (after the pilot movie) were aired at the end of the 1975-1976 television season, while the remaining 11 episodes aired as part of the 1976-1977 television season.
Being set during WWII, the first season heavily featured Nazis as the villains and often made use of war-themed plots. Wonder Woman herself, in her secret identity as Diana Prince, was a member of the United States Navy and worked for Steve Trevor, who was an Army pilot. The first season is also notable for being the only live action adaptation of Wonder Woman’s sidekick Wonder Girl, here called Drusilla instead of Donna Troy. Drusilla is the name of an Amazon from the comics, though she was never Wonder Girl and is not Wonder Woman’s sister.
The first season was a little more stylized, using comic book style narration blocks as location indicators. The first season wasn’t quite what the Adam West Batman television series was, but it didn’t take itself as seriously as it would in later seasons. While the ratings were respectable for the first season, again they did not meet ABC’s standards and after 13 episodes, the series was cancelled.
Producers then moved the series to CBS. Another pilot movie was made, serving as the premiere of the second season, and the setting was updated to the 1970s. Lyle Waggoner returned as Steve Trevor, but since the producers didn’t want to throw away the entire first season, he was depicted as being the son of the original Steve Trevor and his father’s relationship with Wonder Woman was briefly mentioned.
The series’ second season was also upgraded from 13 to a full 22 episodes. With the setting change, Diana’s civilian job was also changed from being a Navy secretary to working with Steve Trevor, Jr. at the Inter-Agency Defense Command, an organization similar to the CIA or the FBI. The stories were also written in a much more serious tone.
The third season tried to pander more to the teenage audience, and as such made several changes. The Wonder Woman theme was updated slightly to have a more disco sound and the scope of the series was changed to be more identifiable with a teenage and young adult audience.
The final episode of the series, which was actually aired out of order as the third to last episode, saw Diana move from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles and would have seen the Steve Trevor character written out of the series for season four. This decision was made to once again revamp the series, but ultimately there wasn’t to be a fourth season and the series ended after three seasons.
While the series in itself wasn’t terrible, it did seem to have trouble finding a direction and sticking with it. It was always reinventing itself, which was what ultimately led to its downfall. While a Wonder Woman television series was developed by David E. Kelley, and a pilot was shot, the pilot was ultimately rejected by network NBC and never aired. Wonder Woman would not be seen again in live action until Gal Gadot dons the bullet-repelling bracelets in “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
This version of Wonder Woman was resurrected by DC Comics in a series of “Wonder Woman ’77” comic book specials, following in the footsteps of the “Batman ’66” comic book series.
“NYCC: DC Digital Adds “Wonder Woman ’77,” “Mortal Kombat X” & “Fables: Wolf Among Us””. Comic Book Resources. October 12, 2014.
Joby, Tom (1980-05-12). “Cathy Crosby turns down ‘Wonder Woman’ offer”. Associated Press.
Wonder Woman at TV.com