Wonder Woman (TV series)
William Moulton Marston
(as Charles Moulton)
|Developed by||Douglas S. Cramer
Stanley Ralph Ross
|Theme music composer||Charles Fox (music) and
Norman Gimbel (lyrics)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3 (as a weekly series 1976 - 1979)|
|No. of episodes||59 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Douglas S. Cramer
Wilford Lloyd Baumes
(supervising producer, seasons 2-3)
Charles B. Fitzsimons
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Warner Bros. Television|
|Original channel||ABC (season 1)
CBS (seasons 2-3)
|Original run||November 7, 1975 – September 11, 1979|
Wonder Woman is an American television series based on the DC Comics comic book superhero of the same name. Starring Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince and Lyle Waggoner as Steve Trevor, the show originally aired from 1975 to 1979.
It had its origins in a November 1975 American television movie entitled The New, Original Wonder Woman starring Carter. It followed a 1974 TV movie entitled Wonder Woman starring blond actress Cathy Lee Crosby, who neither resembled the super-hero character nor exhibited any apparent super-human powers. (John D. F. Black wrote and produced the 1974 TV movie.) In this second movie, set during World War II and produced by Douglas S. Cramer and Wilford Lloyd "W.L." Baumes, who were working from a script by Stanley Ralph Ross, Carter as Wonder Woman matched the original comic book character. Its success led the ABC television network to order two more one hour episodes; both of which aired in April 1976. That success led ABC to order an additional 11 episodes which the network aired weekly (for the most part) during the first half of the 1976-1977 television season. The episodes ran on Wednesday nights between October 1976 and February 1977.
Wonder Woman had achieved solid ratings on ABC for the weeks it had aired during the 1976-1977 TV season. But the network was still reluctant to renew the series for another season. Wonder Woman was a period piece, and as such, it was more expensive to produce than a series set in the present day. Also, ABC thought that the 1940s-setting limited the possible storylines, with the major villains being Nazis. ABC did not renew the series so Jerry Lieder, then-president of Warner Bros. Television, went to CBS with the notion of shifting the series to the present-day 1970s, which would cost less to produce and allow for more creative storylines. CBS agreed and picked up the show in 1977 and it continued its run for another two seasons.
Early attempts 
Who's Afraid of Diana Prince? 
The first attempt to translate Wonder Woman to the small screen occurred in 1967. The success of the Batman television series led Batman producer William Dozier to commission a pilot script by Stan Hart and Larry Siegel. Batman writer Stanley Ralph Ross was then asked to perform a re-write, after Hart and Siegel's script was deemed unsuitable. A portion of the pilot, under five minutes in length, was filmed under the title Who's Afraid of Diana Prince? The piece starred Ellie Wood Walker (Robert Walker Jr.'s wife) as Diana Prince, Linda Harrison as Diana's "Wonder Woman" alter ego and Maudie Prickett as Diana's mother.
This pilot episode was never transmitted on television, and the project was not taken any farther. The pilot has been circulated on the Internet, however, and is of interest to Planet of the Apes fans for the early appearance of Linda Harrison, who would later go on to play Nova in the first two films of that series.
Wonder Woman (1974) 
Wonder Woman's first appearance in live-action television was a television movie made in 1974 for ABC. Written by John D. F. Black, the TV movie resembles the Wonder Woman of the "I Ching" period. Wonder Woman (Cathy Lee Crosby) did not wear the comic-book uniform, demonstrated no apparent super-human powers, had a "secret identity" of Diana Prince that was not all that secret, and she was also depicted as blonde (differing from the brunette image established in the comic books). This 1974 film follows Wonder Woman, assistant to government agent Steve Trevor (Kaz Garas) as she pursues a villain named Abner Smith (Ricardo Montalban) who has stolen a set of code books containing classified information about U.S. government field agents. Along the way, she has to outwit Smith's chief assistants: the handsome yet dangerous George (Andrew Prine) and a rogue Amazon, Angela (Anitra Ford), who Smith has taken on as a bodyguard; a brief duel between Wonder Woman and Angela is the film's only significant action sequence, which occurs during the final third of the story. 
The pilot aired originally on March 12, 1974 and was repeated on August 21 of that year. Ratings were described as "respectable but not exactly wondrous." ABC did not pick up the pilot, although Crosby would later claim she was offered the series that was eventually given to Lynda Carter. An ABC spokesperson would later acknowledge that the decision to update the character was a mistake.
Warner Brothers released this pilot into syndication as a stand-alone 90-minute telefilm, where it played on independent TV stations throughout the 1970s and 1980s. After the subsequent series with Lynda Carter moved from its 1940s setting to the contemporary era (the 1970s), certain elements of the Cathy Lee Crosby pilot were incorporated into the show: Diana Prince went to work for a government agency, with Steve Trevor as her supervisor; Diana remained in her civilian identity for the majority of the tale, only transforming into Wonder Woman during the climactic moments of the episode (or on those occasions that truly called for the use of super-powers); and Wonder Woman's dual identity became pretty much an open secret, as she made fewer and fewer attempts to disguise herself when in her Diana Prince persona.
On December 11, 2012, Warner Brothers made the Cathy Lee Crosby pilot available as a Video On Demand purchase through their online store.
Wonder Woman (1975-1979) 
Though not successful at the first attempt, ABC still felt a Wonder Woman series had potential, and within a year another pilot was in production. Keen to make a distinction from the last pilot, producers gave the pilot the rather paradoxical title The New Original Wonder Woman.
Scripting duties were given to Stanley Ralph Ross, who was instructed to be more faithful to the comic book and to create a subtle "high comedy." Ross set the pilot in World War II, the era in which the original comic book began.
After an intensive talent search, Lynda Carter, who had done some minor acting jobs and had been the 1972 Miss World USA and a Bob Hope USO cast member, was chosen to play the lead role. For the role of Steve Trevor, the producers chose Lyle Waggoner, who at the time was better known as a comedic actor after several years co-starring in The Carol Burnett Show. He was also known to Ross as having been one of the leading candidates to play Batman a decade earlier. Waggoner was also considered a pin-up hunk, having done a semi-nude pictorial in the first issue of Playgirl.
Although the pilot followed the original comic book closely, in particular the aspect of Wonder Woman joining the military under the name Diana Prince, a number of elements were dropped. The comic book Diana obtains the credentials of a look-alike nurse. Although the pilot shows Diana briefly as a nurse at one point, Diana takes on the identity of a Navy Yeoman Petty Officer First Class. As it was set during World War II, many of the episodes involved Nazis and war events.
Steve Trevor was played by Waggoner with his natural brown hair. The character Steve Trevor was blond in the comic.
One change, which was later to become synonymous with the show, was the transformation of Diana Prince into Wonder Woman by spinning. During the filming of the pilot, producers were trying to figure out a way to show how Diana Prince became Wonder Woman, when Carter suggested that she do a spin. The spinning transformation was later incorporated into the comics and into animated appearances such as Justice League Unlimited (prior to the Carter series, the transformation was depicted in the comics by way of Diana spinning her magic lasso around her body, with the lasso changing her clothes, or by simply changing at super speed).
During season one, Wonder Woman has the ability to impersonate anyone's voice, which came in handy over the telephone. She did not use this ability during the second and third seasons.
Unlike the earlier pilot, the comic book origins of the character were emphasized by the retention of the character's traditional uniform (the design of which was interpreted by Donald Lee Feld, credited as "Donfeld") and original setting and through the use of comic book elements. The series' title sequence was animated in the form of a series of comic book panels featuring Wonder Woman performing a variety of heroic feats. Within the show, location and exposition were handled through comic book-style text panels. Transitions between scenes and commercial breaks were marked by animated starburst sequences.
During World War II, American pilot Major Steve Trevor (Lyle Waggoner) bails out during an air battle over the Bermuda Triangle, location of Paradise Island. The island is home to the Amazons: beautiful, ageless women with great strength, agility, and intelligence. Amazon princess Diana (Lynda Carter) rescues the handsome Trevor and helps nurse him back to health. Her mother, the Amazon queen (Cloris Leachman), decrees that Olympic-style games shall be held to select one Amazon to return Trevor back to America, but she forbids her daughter Diana, the princess, to participate. Diana states that since she is not allowed to participate, she does not want to be present for the games and will take a retreat to the other side of the island. The games are held with participants wearing numbers(shown as Roman numerals in triangles on white sleeveless short tunic-dresses), and a blond Amazon wearing a mask. During the events, the blond Amazon shows exceptional skills and she ties for first with another amazon. To break the deadlock, the "Bullets and Bracelets" event is decided as the tiebreaker, where each of the women take turns shooting at the other; the one being shot at must deflect the bullets with their bulletproof bracelets. The blond woman wins the event, injuring her opponent's arm. When she is pronounced the winner, she removes her mask and wig and reveals that she is Diana. Her mother, though initially shocked, relents and allows her to go to America.
Diana's costume features emblems of America, the land in which she will be returning Steve Trevor. A golden belt will be the source of her strength and power while away from Paradise Island. She has her bullet-deflecting bracelets and also receives a golden lasso which is unbreakable and forces people to obey and tell the truth when bound with it. Diana, as Wonder Woman, flies to Washington, D.C. in an invisible plane. After dropping Trevor off at a hospital, the heroine stumbles upon a bank robbery, which she stops. A theatrical agent who sees her in action offers to help make her bullets and bracelets act a stage attraction. Diana is hesitant, but needing money in this new society, she agrees.
Meanwhile, Trevor's civilian secretary Marcia (Stella Stevens) is a double agent for the Nazi Fifth Columnists. She seeks to aid top spies in killing Trevor and opposing this new threat, Wonder Woman. Her first attempt is arranging for an accomplice to fire a machine gun at Wonder Woman during her stage act. Later, as spy activities increase, Trevor leaves the hospital but gets in a fight and is captured, prompting his "nurse" Diana to come to his rescue. Wonder Woman defeats Marcia in an extended fight sequence in the War Department. Having defeated Marcia, Wonder Woman thwarts a Nazi pilot who had plans to bomb the Brooklyn Navy Yard by using her invisible plane, and she rescues Trevor. With Marcia and the spy ring defeated, the film closes as Trevor and General Blakenship talk about Trevor's new secretary: Yeoman Diana Prince, Wonder Woman in disguise.
Season 1 
The pilot film, aired on November 7, 1975, was a ratings success and ABC quickly authorized the production of two one-hour specials which aired in April 1976. These three productions would later be considered part of the show's first season.
These three special episodes scored strong ratings and ABC ordered a further 11 episodes for the new 1976-1977 TV season. The network began airing the episodes every few weeks apart at the beginning of the TV season in September/October 1976. After mid-December 1976, they were airing on a weekly basis up until mid-February 1977.
Few changes were made between the specials and the series itself. One change was the introduction of an explosion effect to the twirling transformation of Diana Prince to Wonder Woman a few episodes into the season.
The transformation in the original specials was performed by fading between two synchronized shots, both filmed with an overcranked camera to create a slow motion effect. A twirling Diana's hair would fall loose and she would transform into Wonder Woman who would then be holding the clothes she just had on. She then would stow the items somewhere, usually in a closet or locker, and then exit. This sequence, however, was deemed too expensive and time consuming to produce. A camera would need to be locked off (secured in place), and Carter's uniform, make-up, and hair altered between shooting the two segments which made up the sequence. But the explosion sequence saved both time and money as it joined the two segments, allowing each segment to be shot independently without need for a locked off camera, and it could be shot at practically any point in the shooting schedule. This transformation, with its adjoining "thunder" noise, had the added benefit of making must-see moments throughout the episode.
Unlike the comic book, the TV transformation gave Diana the ability to change to Wonder Woman in virtually any location. At first, like in the television specials, Diana must stow her clothing and return to the site to change back. Later, she simply changes back quickly to Diana Prince as there would be no garments she would need to go back and retrieve. The television visual effect of the magic instant transformation behind the ball of light and explosion was more convenient for the television continuity. The "thunderclap" sound effect is only audible to the audience and perhaps to Diana. She once used this transformation in front of a dormitory of sleeping women, in adjoining office spaces, backstage at a live show, in the woods near a crowd of soldiers, and other locations where she would have attracted attention if the "boom" were actually heard by them. To change back, as she showed in one episode to her sister Drusilla, she merely does a slow about face spin with her arms extended and is instantly Diana, with no special effect.
Another change to the series involved the relationship between Steve Trevor and Wonder Woman. The romantic aspect was part of the series during its pilot episode and the subsequent episodes set in the 1940s. But in seasons two and three, Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor seemed to be just good friends who cared about each other. Executive producer Douglas S. Cramer noted the difficulties in maintaining long-term romantic tension between leads, because the resolution of that romantic tension often results in the cancellation of the series. Also, the Steve Trevor from season one (set in the 1940s) had already died. The Steve Trevor from seasons two and three (set in the then-present 1970s) was actually his son, Steve Trevor Jr.; the same actor, Waggoner, acted out both roles. Wonder Woman had fallen in love with the first Steve Trevor but his son, Steve Trevor Jr, was just a very good friend. It would not have been the best writing decision to have her fall in love with both father and son.
The series began at a time when violence on television was under intense scrutiny. As a result, Wonder Woman was less frequently seen punching or kicking people the way she did in the early episodes. The character would usually be shown pushing and throwing enemies, or using creativity to get them to somehow knock themselves out (jumping high into the air causing pursuers to collide). Despite the wartime circumstances, the character never resorted to deadly force. The only exception occurs in the pilot episode when she sinks a Nazi submarine by crashing an airplane into it; apparently killing everyone aboard.
Wonder Woman herself was occasionally defeated by the Nazis, but she always came back in the second half of the show to save the day. Among the things the Nazis used on her were chloroform and poison gas. On a couple of episodes her enemies learned the secret of her high strength level, her magic belt, and temporarily stole it leaving her with average human strength. Her indestructible lasso and her bracelets were stolen or taken away in one episode (leaving her defenseless against gunfire), but Wonder Woman always recovered the stolen components by the end of the episode. (In the comics, Wonder Woman's bracelets were welded onto her forearms, and she would lose most of her strength if men were to join them forcibly with metal.)
Two stories (one of them a two-parter) introduced Debra Winger as Diana's younger sister, Drusilla, aka Wonder Girl, in one of Winger's earliest acting roles. On these occasions, Drusilla came from Paradise Island to deliver a message to Diana and stayed for a visit. When the show switched to CBS for its second and third seasons and was set in the 1970s, the character of Drusilla was never again either seen nor referred to in any of the stories. Wonder Woman herself remained active from 1942 to 1945, and was honored by Franklin D. Roosevelt for her work against Axis attacks.
Season 2 
Despite good ratings for the series, ABC stalled on picking up the show for a second season. This was because Wonder Woman was a period piece; being set in the 1940s. Period pieces are generally much more expensive to produce when necessities like the set, clothing, automobiles, furniture, etc., are factored into the show's budget. While ABC had not yet committed, the show's production company Warner Bros. listened to an offer from rival network CBS. While ABC continued to make up its mind, CBS agreed to pick up the series on condition that the setting be changed from World War II (the 1940s) to the modern day (the 1970s). Changing the title to The New Adventures of Wonder Woman, the series was nudged away from historical World War II writing to a more conventional police/detective action-type show that was more common in the 1970s.
Princess Diana, aging slowly because of her Amazon nature, returns from Paradise Island after a 35-year absence (looking virtually the same) to become an agent with the Inter-Agency Defense Command (IADC), a CIA / FBI-type organization fighting crime, criminal organizations, and the occasional alien invasion.
Changes in season two (its first on CBS) included a slight redesign (again by Donald Lee Feld, still credited as "Donfeld") of Wonder Woman's uniform. Her invisible plane appeared a couple of times in season two, and not at all in season three. Lyle Waggoner returned playing the role of Steve Trevor Jr., his previous character's son. This Trevor had, as a child, heard his late father's stories of adventures with Wonder Woman during World War II. The producers chose to drop any suggestion that Steve and Wonder Woman were anything more than good friends.
The theme song was re-written to remove references to the Axis, reflecting the series' new present-day setting, and the action depicted in the opening's animated comic book panels was similarly updated. Beginning with the episode "The Man Who Made Volcanoes," the opening title sequence was changed again to an instrumental and more traditional "action scenes" opening.
Diana, Steve, and Joe Atkinson (Normann Burton), a weathered IADC agent, received their orders from a "Charlie's Angels-like" character who is heard but never seen. Diana and Steve would go out and work the field while Joe assisted from the office. The Atkinson character was dropped after the ninth episode of this season, and Steve was given a promotion, becoming IADC Director, and Diana's boss, in the process. This promotion for Steve Trevor meant that Lyle Waggoner was seen less in subsequent episodes for the remainder of the series run. In this season, the computer IRAC (Information Retrieval Associative Computer), more informally known as "Ira," was introduced: its first appearance is in Season 2, episode 1, where Diana introduces her Diana Prince identity into its records, over IRAC's protests. Ira was the IADC's super-intelligent computer, who deduces that Diana Prince is really Wonder Woman, although he never shares this information with anyone, except Diana herself. Saundra Sharp joined the cast as Eve, Steve's assistant (the job held by Diana at the start of the season). Towards the end of the season, in the episode "IRAC is Missing", a small mobile robot called Rover was added for comic relief. An offshoot of IRAC who performs duties such as delivering coffee and sorting mail, Rover speaks with a high-pitched voice, occasionally makes "Beep Beep" sounds and, like IRAC, is aware that Wonder Woman's secret identity is Diana Prince.
The producers of Wonder Woman generally maintained her no-kill policy, although there were exceptions: In the episode "Anschluss '77" she is forced to destroy a clone of Adolf Hitler. Another episode made reference to a villain who was believed drowned following a previous unseen encounter with Diana/Wonder Woman.
Donald Lee Feld introduced multiple new variants on Wonder Woman's uniform beginning in the second season. She still wore the red-white-and-blue cape for special events or appearances from the first season, but without the skirt. (This variant could be described as Wonder Woman's "full-dress uniform.") A diving uniform was introduced--a navy-blue lycra body suit with matching gloves, gold bracelets, flat boots, and a flexible tiara; this was featured whenever aquatic activity was required. The same uniform, with low-heeled boots and a gold helmet, was used to ride motorcycles. At first, Wonder Woman would change into these newer uniforms by performing an extended spin in which she first changed from her Diana Prince clothes to Wonder Woman's standard uniform, then continued to spin until a second light explosion occurred and she would appear in one of the newer variants. However, this extended spin device was dropped for expediency and Diana was then able to change into any of Wonder Woman's uniforms in a single change.
Season 3 
With the beginning of the third season, further changes were made to target the show at a teenage audience. The title theme was re-recorded again to give it a disco beat, the use of the robot 'Rover' was increased for comic effect, and episodes began to revolve around topical subjects like skateboarding, roller coasters and the environment. (Feld also gave Wonder Woman a "skate-boarder's" uniform, which was also capable of use for training in any "extreme sport" in which she participated.) Teenagers or young adults were commonly used as main characters in the plot lines. The animated stars used before and after commercial breaks were dropped, and Eve disappeared from the cast although she is mentioned once or twice. Episodes during this season showed Diana on assignments by herself far more often (particularly outside of Washington DC), and Steve Trevor had become Diana's boss and was seen less.
Wonder Woman was also allowed to become a bit more physical in the third season and could now be seen throwing the occasional punch or kicking. The writers also came up with several unusual ways for Diana to execute her spinning transformation, the most notable instances occurring in the episode "Stolen Faces" in which Diana makes the change while falling off a tall building, and the season two episode "The Pied Piper" in which she changes while strapped into a spinning chair.
Diana also exhibited other powers, particularly in the episode "The Deadly Dolphin," in which she is shown communicating telepathically with animals (reminiscent of the "mental radio" from the comics, which was never shown on the series) and generating bursts of an unknown form of energy to scare away a killer shark.
In the final episode produced, the writers attempted a "relaunch" of sorts by having Diana reassigned to the Los Angeles bureau of IADC with a new supporting cast. Though done in anticipation of a fourth season, the revamp was seen for only a single episode ("The Man Who Could Not Die"), which set up an assortment of new supporting characters. These included Dale Hawthorn, Diana's new IADC boss, Bryce Candall, a genetically enhanced man who was indestructible (the titular character of the episode), as well as a streetwise youngster named T. Burton Phipps III who inexplicably is allowed to hang out at the IADC. Also added to the cast was a chimpanzee who, like Bryce, is also indestructible. This episode was actually the last to be produced and should have ended the third season, but was shown out of sequence with the two-parter "The Phantom of the Roller Coaster." These final three episodes aired by themselves in August–September 1979, months after the broadcast of the rest of Season 3, creating a mini-season, though they remain grouped as part of Season 3 as opposed to being considered an abbreviated fourth season.
Home video releases 
Columbia House with Warner Home Video released the series on VHS videotapes through their Wonder Woman: The Collector's Edition series from the late 1990s-early 2000s, which was only available through mail order subscriptions. Each volume contained two episodes. The Season Two episodes "The Pied Piper" and "Flight To Oblivion," however, were not included on the VHS releases.
Warner Home Video has released all three seasons of Wonder Woman on DVD in various regions, both separately and in a collected edition.
|DVD Name||Ep #||Release Date||Details|
|The Complete 1st Season||14||June 29, 2004||All 14 episodes (including the pilot) with commentary by Lynda Carter and executive producer Douglas S. Cramer; New documentary retrospective.|
|The Complete 2nd Season||22||March 1, 2005||21 episodes plus a feature-length season premiere; Bonus documentary: "Revolutionizing a Classic: From Comic Book to Television."|
|The Complete 3rd Season||24||June 7, 2005||Audio commentary by Lynda Carter on "My Teenage Idol is Missing"; Featurette:"Wonder Woman: The Ultimate Feminist Icon." The initial Region 1 release included a bonus DVD containing the first episode of the Captain Marvel television series Shazam!, "The Joy Riders."|
Mego Corporation released a line of dolls in 1976 to correspond with the TV series. The boxes originally featured Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman on the front flap. However, in 1977, her image on the box was dropped and the line was revamped with only the Wonder Woman doll being featured and revised.
The Mego dolls included Wonder Woman, Diana Prince, Queen Hippolyte, Nubia, and Steve Trevor. The line also included separate fashion outfits for Diana Prince that were released in Canada. Various playsets were also created but were not released for sale.
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- Daniels, Les; Chip Kidd (9999). Wonder Woman: The Life and Times of the Amazon Princess. Chronicle Books. p. 120. ISBN 0-8118-4233-9.
- Hofstede, David; Tom Bergeron (contributor) (2004). What Were They Thinking?: The 100 Dumbest Events in Television. Back Stage Books. pp. 31–3. ISBN 0-8230-8441-8.
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- Shales, Tom (1975-11-07). "Wonder Woman Tries Comeback". Washington Post.
- Joby, Tom (1980-05-12). "Cathy Crosby turns down 'Wonder Woman' offer". Associated Press.
- Pendergast and Pendergast, p. 72
- Carter, Lynda. The New Original Wonder Woman commentary (DVD).
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- Cramer, Douglas S. The New Original Wonder Woman commentary (DVD).
- "The Return of Wonder Woman". Wonder Woman. Season 2. 1977-09-16. CBS.
- "Wonder Woman 12" Gallery". Mego Museum. Retrieved 2011-12-26.
- "Wonder Woman - Wonder Wardrobe". Mego Museum. Retrieved 2011-12-26.
- "Wonder Woman Playsets". Mego Museum. Retrieved 2011-12-26.
- Pendergast, Tom and Sara Pendergast (2002). St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, vol. 4. St. James Press. ISBN 1-55862-404-X.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Wonder Woman (TV series)|
- Wonder Woman (TV series) at the Internet Movie Database
- New Original Wonder Woman (1975 pilot) at the Internet Movie Database
- Who's Afraid of Diana Prince? (1967 pilot) at the Internet Movie Database
- Wonder Woman video clips from the 1967 pilot, Lynda Carter series, and the animated incarnations
- Who's Afraid of Diana Prince info and complete short film
- Information and clips from first Wonder Woman TV movie
- Wonder Woman streaming episodes on TheWB