Thursday, December 13, 2012

Wonder Woman - Season 2: One Of The Worst-Directed, Most Inconsistent, Gems Of Classic Television To Reach DVD!

The Good: Message, Character, Concept
The Bad: Awful direction, Abysmal special effects, Drastically inconsistent (does not know what it wants to be), Mediocre DVD bonus features
The Basics: For all my love of Wonder Woman, it is impossible not to look at Wonder Woman Season 2 and cringe . . . a lot!

It is hard not to be a fan of Wonder Woman and not have an affinity for the television series Wonder Woman. Years ago, during my Wonder Woman Year, I picked up the complete series of Wonder Woman, but I only made it through the first season (reviewed here!). So, when I sat down to watch the second season of Wonder Woman, I was hungry for some smart, but probably campy, entertainment. What I ended up with was a series that was almost as bad as V - The Television Series (reviewed here!).

Wonder Woman Season Two is not inherently bad. It is, however, dramatically inconsistent and often poorly-executed when the scripts are good. The producers of Wonder Woman were continually tweaking the series in the second season, trying to find a formula for the show that would work. Unfortunately, that makes for a ridiculously inconsistent season that does not so much grow and develop as much as it flounders desperately looking for solid footing.

Princess Diana returns to Man’s World when Steve Trevor Jr.’s plane goes off course near Paradise Island and his fight against a terrorist organization that is trying to gain control of a nuclear reactor comes to her attention. While investigating a potential Nazi who has limbs regenerated, Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor discover a clone of Adolph Hitler starting a new Nazi movement in Latin America. The two investigate a government-created psychokinetic who wants revenge. To protect Paradise Island, Diana must work with Steve on a mission in the "Devil's Triangle" to stop a terrorist and prevent the U.S. from using the area as a nuclear testing ground.

The series takes a turn when Steve Trevor’s boss is promoted and Steve takes his place in command of the Inter-Agency Defense Force unit that Diana works for. That puts Diana alone out in the field more frequently and, ironically, traveling from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles almost every episode. It also shifts the dynamic, as villains begin using magic flutes, weaponized toys, and alien devices to put greater emphasis on the computer character IRAC and, subsequently, Federal robots. As the show becomes less and less realistic in its missions and the government agency running those missions, Diana as Wonder Woman uses mind control (without her lasso), her ability to communicate with animals, and two new outfits (a diving outfit and a motorcycle outfit) in her repertoire.

The diminishing of Steve Trevor – along with getting rid of Joe Atkinson entirely – forces Diana and Wonder Woman to make new allies almost every single episode. This leads Diana to befriend (in a very episodic way) a single parent, a girl from another mythical realm on Earth (much like Paradise Island) and Andros, the alien she met back in the 1940’s. None of these alliances are particularly compelling, though it is cool to see Andros again (though he has been recast for the invasion episodes he is present in).

Wonder Woman unfortunately lacks daring in its second season. Rather than promote Diana Prince and have Steve Trevor working for her (and, consequently, force Wonder Woman to continually rescue Steve Trevor), both the man and a computer take on greater executive authority than Diana, who is only too happy to keep them in power by bailing them out of every sticky situation that comes up!

Worse than that is the execution of the show. Lynda Carter performs fine as both Diana and Wonder Woman. However, watching the series now, it is easy to see just how terrible the direction is. I swear, Warner Brothers must have forced its directors to shoot every episode in a single take. The reason for that assertion is simple: no matter who is directing the episode, usually at least once per episode, an actor obviously flubs their line or misses their mark (part of the reason I continue to assert Lynda Carter is a wonderful actress is that more often than not, she seems to catch the mistakes and leap in to fix the problem, usually by adding to exposition that another actor has delivered and adding key information they missed when they delivered their lines). Rather than reshoot, which makes a lot of sense, more often than not, these bad takes are present in the episodes.

The special effects in the second season of Wonder Woman are abysmal. People who jump into the ocean, for example, are then seen swimming underwater in a pool. Wonder Woman finds her way blocked by a fountain that she leaps over several times in the season (it’s the same footage each time) and the effect is fine, if a bit ridiculous and obviously cut.

On DVD, Wonder Woman Season Two comes with only a single bonus feature, a featurette on the progression of Wonder Woman to the late 1970s and how that related to the comic book at the time. The four disc set is campy, for sure, but it has good intent. Wonder Woman is a strong feminist character and Diana Prince is happy to be working for the Federal government, even when she has to infiltrate the lair of swingers. Sadly, the execution is repetitive and silly and that diminishes the overall message of Wonder Woman.

For other Wonder Woman reviews, please check out my reviews/articles:
Anne Hathaway For Wonder Woman!
Realworlds: Wonder Woman By Glen Hanson & Allan Neuwirth
DC Direct Justice Wave 3 Wonder Woman Action Figure


For other film or television reviews, please visit my Television And Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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