June 20, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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This year’s WONDER WOMAN pilot did not fly under the radar. 
Produced by Warner Bros Television for NBC, it was the subject of speculation before it was even placed with a network, scrutiny while it was being produced, and analysis after it had been rejected.  With the exception of Terra Nova and Smash, it was the single highest-profile pilot of the season.  Now, it seems unlikely to go forward.  But was it… any good?

Well, interesting more than good.  When Warners decided to hand one of their signature DC Comics properties to David E. Kelley, it seemed a curious fit.  Kelley, super-successful in the 1990s and 2000’s, has always been known for his dialogue-heavy, mostly legal shows like The Practice, Ally McBeal, and the current Harry’s Law.  He’d never tackled an action series, much less one based on comic book mythology.  The surprise of this Wonder Woman is that its heroine, as he’s drawn her, is exactly in line with other Kelley protagonists through the years:  cheerfully rule-breaking, quietly lonely, and truly in her element when she’s kicking some ass.  She could be Denny Crane’s granddaughter.  (Never in the history of superheros has a script contained so much earnest discussion of the potential legal consequences incurred in crusading for truth and justice.)
And in Adrianne Palicki (once and forever Tyra Collette in the minds of Friday Night Lights fans), Kelley has an actress capable of filling the role, both physically and in acting chops.  But Kelley’s version of the character is so odd as to be schizophrenic.  She actually has 3 identities:  the crimefighting vigilante herself; Diana Themyscira, a tycoon who is openly Wonder Woman, and whose marketing of dolls and other products in her own image pays for pricey jets and her other crime detection gadgets (it’s as if Bruce Wayne, instead of inheriting his wealth, sold Batman dolls for a living); and Diana Prince, a mousy (as mousy as Adrianne Palicki is capable of being) singleton who keeps a small apartment with a cat in order to lead a “normal” life.  The Prince persona makes no sense on any level, and luckily it takes up only a few minutes of the pilot. 
More problematic is that the show never finds a tone or a target audience.  It’s clearly not aimed at kids (Diana the corporate mogul delivers a speech about the “tits” on her latest Wonder Woman action figure), but it’s still a campy action show where the villains are Elizabeth Hurley as an evil pharmaceutical zillionaire and her steroid-enhanced minions.  While Diana has some depth, the other regular characters (Tracie Thoms and Cary Elwes as her loyal colleagues) are cardboard.   Also, the glaring difference between a movie budget (like the current Warners/DC epic Green Lantern) and TV are made clear by the relatively few special effects and the uninteresting production design.  Pilot director Jeffrey Reiner, who directed many episodes of Friday Night Lights but also the more action-oriented The Event, handles the fight scenes without much oomph.
In gauging Wonder Woman as a show that could have gotten on the air, a comparison with the new Charlie’s Angels is worthwhile, since it’s another reboot of a female-oriented action franchise (and featuring another Friday Night Lights alumna to boot) which did get chosen.  Wonder Woman gets points for having an original point of view, and a star more charismatic than the 3 new Angels combined.   It fails to deliver, though, on the basic requirements of excitement and a consistent tone; Charlie’s Angels may not be much (and in fact it isn’t, but it knows what it is. 
The Sked’s Call:  The Network Was Right.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."