Movie: The early to mid 1970's was a time of social change in the USA. The various groups seeking redress for past wrongs were legion and the world seemed to advance causes at lightning speed due to things like the fall of Saigon, Watergate, and the ERA movement. The feminist movement was being run by those who thought the changes were taking far too long and the entertainment industry seemed ill at ease providing strong female role models since show sponsors were notorious for their conservative values. It seemed like every day, someone was promoting the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle, Pyramid Power, and other supernatural phenomenon so it was no wonder that the television networks were spending a lot of time addressing the demand for such shows as The Bionic Woman and the subject of this review, Wonder Woman: Season One.
Based on the original comic rather than one of the many updated version of the heroic Amazon, the network went with the WWII origin of Princess Diana leaving her idealic world to see what wonders were on the outside of her closed society. Living on Paradise Island, somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle for secrecy, the long lost tribe of Amazons sees the world at war and decides to send a representative to explore the inner workings of the very populous planet to see if times have changed. Needless to say, times prove that men are still exactly as they were before but Diana, assisted by some magic items, helps the Americans defeat the evil Nazis in the first thirteen episodes (and pilot movie) as shown by ABC. The following season was shown on CBS and moved the beautiful gal to a contemporary setting, with mixed results (but that's the subject for a later review). Here's a brief look at the episodes and airdate of the first season of the show:
Pilot: The New Original Wonder Woman: 11/7/1975:
This was the pilot television movie that set the stage for the first season. Staying pretty close to the original comic book from 1941, it had Major Steve Trevor (Lyle Waggoner) shot down near an uncharted island full of Amazons during WWII. It is determined that one of them must take him back to his home country so a contest is held, with the winner given various magically endowed items to help her learn more of the outside world. Princess Diana (Lynda Carter) becomes the one and soon finds out the outside world is nothing like her home on Paradise Island. This episode had an interesting audio commentary by Lynda Carter and executive producer Douglas Cramer.
Episode One: Wonder Woman Meets Baroness Von Gunther: 4/21/1976:
An old foe returns to cause trouble for Steve, Diana, and the good old USA. Diana has even more to worry about when her lasso falls into Nazi hands, making her goal to save her friend all the more complicated.
Episode Two: Fausta: The Nazi Wonder Woman: 4/28/1976:
Wonder Woman's recent defeat of key Nazi elements have led the Nazis to want to study her and her equipment in order to gain an advantage over the Allied powers. Diana fights Fausta, Nazi Germany's best and brightest female.
Episode Three: Beauty On Parade: 10/13/1976:
Diana enters a beauty contest in order to discover who's behind a series of sabotages in the area. She fights both Nazis and her competitors as she works through the mystery.
Episode Four: The Feminum Mystique Part 1: 11/6/1976:
Wonder Girl (Debra Winger) makes an appearance in the war torn USA by order of her mother, Queen Hippolyta (this time played by Carolyn Jones from the Addams Family). She's captured by Nazis who want to use her knowledge of an element known only by the Amazons to improve their technology and take over the world.
Episode Five: The Feminum Mystique Part 2: 11/8/1976:
Not being sophisticated enough to understand her captors, Drusilla gives them enough information that they can locate Paradise Island. Will Wonder Woman save the day once more?
Episode Six: Wonder Woman Vs. Gargantua!: 12/18/1976:
A circus ape is the unwitting subject of a Nazi secret plan to use animals to carry out missions of kidnapping and sabotage. Wonder Woman, being the compassionate gal that she is, must combat him without hurting him, something not as easily done as said.
Episode Seven: The Pluto File: 12/25/1976:
Twin menaces combine when a bubonic plague carrier seeks to steal the secrets of an earthquake machine to make big bucks. Will he spread the disease and destroy much of the country before he can be caught or will his path of destruction reign supreme?
Episode Eight: Last Of The Two-Dollar Bills: 1/8/1977:
The latest Nazi plot is to use counterfeit money to weaken the war effort of the Americans by using funny money in conjunction with officials replaced by doubles.
Episode Nine: Judgment From Outer Space Part 1: 1/15/1977:
Earth is being evaluated by a visitor from outer space who's mission is to decide if humanity is too dangerous to be allowed to live. The Nazis attempt to capture him for the advanced technology he possesses may seal the fate of the world.
Episode Ten: Judgment From Outer Space Part 2: 1/17/1977:
With the alien in the hands of the Nazis, Wonder Woman races against the clock in order to change the outcome of the fate of the Earth.
Episode Eleven: Formula 407: 1/22/1977:
The latest invention that the Nazis want to steal is a way to make rubber as strong as steel. Steve and Diana go to claim it before the Nazis make it their own.
Episode Twelve: The Bushwhackers: 1/29/1977:
Feeding the army takes a lot of cattle and one Texas rancher is threatened by rustlers stealing his herd. Played by the legendary Roy Rogers in one of his last television performances, the cowboy enlists the aid of Steve and Diana to catch the bad guys and protect his multitude of adopted children.
Episode Thirteen: Wonder Woman In Hollywood: 2/16/1977:
Wonder Girl is back to help Diana thwart a plot to kidnap war heroes for a propaganda film by the evil Nazis.
The acting was wooden, the plots poorly written and the effects cheesy but the show had something for everyone. Kids would marvel at another super-powered being come to life from the comic books, men could watch the beautiful Lynda Carter, Miss USA in 1974, jiggle as she ran and did her feats, and women were given another role model that showed women could be powerful, intelligent, and beautiful at the same time. The show wasn't as campy as Batman but it came pretty close and the first season was marked by the ever-present Nazi threat at all times.
Fans of the show will likely have good memories of Ms. Carter's sweet mammaries heaving to and fro and like the Incredible Hulk that debuted around the same time, shows derived from comic books were looked upon as sure hits by network executives. I'm going to rate this one as a Rent It unless you're one of those slavering fan boys of the show who will surely see this as a collector pick of the month. It was a cute show and kids will probably like it as much as anyone that grew up with the show, making this a good value for those seeking lots of bang for their buck.
Picture: The picture was presented in the usual 1.33:1 ratio full frame color that it was originally shot in. There were print scratches, some grain, video noise, and other issues that reminded me the show was made nearly thirty years ago but it looks better than it did in syndication several years ago when I last saw it playing. The compression rate was pretty good and the two DVD-9 discs looked good as did the third, DVD-5 disc the set included.
Sound: The audio was presented in the usual monaural Dolby Digital, preserving the original soundtrack It was generally clear and had few problems but the dynamic range was limited and the music irritating after a while. The mix of the vocals was pretty good but you could tell that corners were cut even back when this was made. There were closed captions available as well as subtitles in English, French and Spanish for those who care.
Extras: There were not a lot of extras with the set but those included were pretty entertaining. The first extra was an audio commentary with Lynda Carter and executive producer Douglas Cramer where the two reminisced about the good old days. The two forgot key aspects of the show but at least they didn't appear coached or reading off a pre-written text like some others have done in recent commentaries. They had fun with the material and I only wish other performers were included in more commentaries (or at least have these two do several more commentaries). The other extra of note was a short documentary called: "Beauty, Brawn And Bulletproof Bracelets: A Wonder Woman Retrospective". It covered much of the same topics that the commentary did but had some solid information for fans too. The box itself was the fold out kind with three discs, some nice pictures and a breakdown of the episodes per disc.
Final Thoughts: I think it was a fun show to watch and definitely shows it's age but remains a guilty pleasure to all of us who fell for Lynda Carter so long ago. Even today, she looks very attractive and the show as a sign of the times had a lot of value. If you like the cheesy type of show this was, check it out even though the formulaic approach it took got old by the end of the first season.