Sunday, 3 October 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #605: Wonder McBeal?

Welcome to the show folks...

If you have an internet connection then you've probably already heard that TV producer David E. Kelly has received the green-light on a TV series based on the DC Comics character
Wonder Woman. If you don't have an internet connection HOW THE HELL ARE YOU READING THIS BLOG?

But back to my main topic, this isn't the first time Wonder Woman has graced the small screen. In fact the curvaceous Lynda Carter donned the star-spangled satin hot-pants back in the late 1970s as many eternally young boys above a certain numerical, but not emotional, age may remember....

Of course the first thing I thought when I heard Kelley was taking on the franchise was that Wonder Woman was going to be retconned from an Amazonian warrior princess with super powers who fights crime into an anorexic big city lawyer who whines about being single while taking on cases involving quirky, and annoying characters.

This surprise announcement comes after years, and I mean YEARS, of development hell for a feature film adaptation from writer-director Joss Whedon. Whedon, who created
Buffy The Vampire Slayer, among other cult shows is considered the best man to call when you're looking to capture a kick-butt female hero on film. Also Wonder Woman's position in the cultural lexicon could have been just what Whedon needed to leap from cult favorite to mainstream appeal.

Sadly, he was ultimately hounded from the project by the indecision and interference of the then overly complicated Warner Bros./DC Comics development bureaucracy, and rumors of disapproval from the estate of Wonder Woman's creator/psychologist/inventor/bondage enthusiast William Moulton-Marston who managed to still hold some sway on how the character is treated.

Whedon is now helming the mega-comic adaptation of The Avengers for Marvel, and Wonder Woman is now in the hands of David E. Kelley.

So let's look at the pros and cons of David E. Kelley when it comes to adapting Wonder Woman.


1. David E. Kelley has a long track record with many successful shows going back to the early 90s.

2. David E. Kelley's track record and clout with the major broadcast networks combined with the bulk of the Time-Warner-DC empire could ensure that the series, if it goes ahead, isn't lost in the network shuffle.


1. Kelley has no track record with this sort of genre. He has no experience or perceived interest in science fiction, fantasy, comic books, or action-adventure. If he's a closet comic geek, he's extremely good at keeping it secret. The bulk of his shows are essentially pseudo-comedic soap operas draped in the trappings of the law.

2. Kelley's shows have a habit of exploding onto the scene in a blaze of hype and high ratings, then fade out in the second or third season, until no one cares, possibly Kelley included. Some are canceled outright after that, but a few remain on the air for a couple more seasons after that like a limpet, becoming more outlandish and silly, until someone at the networks works up the courage to bring down the axe.

3. Kelley's penchant for super-skinny actresses may make it near impossible to fill Lynda Carter's red and gold bustier by any definition of the word. Wonder Woman is the archetypal powerful Amazon warrior princess. That means hiring a young actress that not only looks good, but looks capable of handling herself in a fight. I'm not sure Kelley's proclivities would allow him to go in that direction.

Of course let's not forget the big question: What about the villains?

Many times live action TV adaptations of superheroes would leave the villains from the original comic book out. There were two reasons for this, one was budget, because comic book villains required costumes and special effects of their own, and the second was uncertainty. This uncertainty came from a certain blind spot many TV writers have when it comes to super-villains, if they aren't presented as campy comedic foils like in the 1960s Batman TV series, they're stumped. So unless they're going for campy comedy, they usually stick with run of the mill gangsters, spies, and other banal forms of thuggery.

Whedon was generally pretty good with his villains, especially in Buffy, the prototype of the modern female superhero show. He made them interesting as characters while never losing their nature as a threat to the main characters and the world at large. Even his use of three comical characters trying, and usually failing, to become super-villains turned out to be a complete bait and switch, setting up a new, and more dangerous threat from within the ranks of the heroine's allies.

I fear that Kelley will take another path, either reducing the villains, who help define the hero, to campy comedic misfits loaded with annoying attempts at "quirkiness," or just forget them all together, preferring the aforementioned banal thuggery heavily salted with pretensions to the sort of social relevancy that gets producers invited to the better dinner parties.

Anyway, let me know what you think about this development in the comments.


  1. It's not clear "whether she'll keep her signature powers and weapons, including her Lasso of Truth, her indestructible bracelets, her tiara and her invisible airplane"? That's not a good sign at all. (Well, they can ditch the plane, since in recent incarnations she's gained the ability to fly.)

    What concerns me the most, though, is the certainty that the ogre of Political Correctness will be vomiting all over this production.

  2. Because of female relatives, I have seen approximately thirty episodes' worth of David E. Kelley shows over the years.

    In all that time, he made me laugh exactly ONCE.

    There is no dimension, no universe, in which this is a good idea.