Saturday, January 22, 2011

I am going to need to brace myself for the fact that the Wonder Woman TV show is not going to be Wonder Woman

When I heard David E. Kelley, he of Ally McBeal, was tapped to write the upcoming Wonder Woman pilot, I think I understood what DC was thinking.  The last few superhero shows and movies featuring a female protagonist, those not about Buffy and vampires, have not set the world on fire.  The WB tried Birds of Prey (changing the premise so completely that they spent the first few episodes explaining what was going on), NBC's relaunch of The Bionic Woman failed (despite co-starring one of my personal faves, Miguel Ferrer), CW has Nikita, but I'm not sure anybody watched it after week 1...  And I'd certainly argue that Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was a bit of a female-centric action show (and actually really pretty good).  And we can revisit the Halle Berry-starring Catwoman, but I would really rather not (But you need to see it some day, so that we can learn and save future generations from these mistakes).

A while back Joel Silver, producer king of 90's-style action, landed the rights and hired Buffy/ Serenity-meister Joss Whedon to write and direct a Wonder Woman movie.  I have no idea what happened, but after the fanboys quit drooling and the dust settled, Silver actually fired Whedon off the job.  Of course the Whedon-zombies gnashed their teeth and wept, but I was never convinced.  I'm not a Buffy fan (I just never stayed engaged by the show), and I think after 13 episodes and a movie, I was good with Firefly. And I never watched whatever his last show was that didn't make it.

I don't know why these shows don't take.  Some say women can't carry an action show or movie, but there aren't many straight-up action shows on TV these days, anyway (even Smallville usually has about two minutes out of every 44 that's anybody punching anybody else), and action movies don't hit all that often.  So whether its a lady or a guy doing the punching...  I dunno.

But hiring Mr. Ally McBeal tells you one thing:  NBC wants to try to get female viewers, and Wonder Woman is going to be pretty soapy in order to fulfill the needs of somebody's demographic research data.

From the article:
However, Wonder Woman fans still may have cause for concern. If Deadline’s information is correct, Kelley’s take on the nearly 70-year-old superheroine will differ dramatically from her portrayals in the comic books or the ’70s TV series: Here she’ll be Diana Prince, a vigilante crimefighter and successful corporate executive in Los Angeles who tries to “balance all of the elements of her extraordinary life.”
I am sure the notion of a superhero will be enough to draw in a certain demographic, and certainly the name "Wonder Woman" will draw seekers of camp and nostalgia.  Smallville has had valleys and mountains on the soapiness graph, and always skewed toward the sort of dopey teen-soap that actually kept me from watching a show about Superman for about three or four years (and a lot of other people, too, I might add).  It DID mean Smallville has a rabid fan base, but that fan base is also pretty small in the TV landscape.  So DC surely knew it needed to be smarter than that if they wanted to make it on NBC.

I am fairly certain we are never going to see this on Wondy McBeal

Yes, to me its a disappointment that if they're going to bring Wonder Woman to the screen, its going to be Not-Wonder Woman.  (In the comics, Diana is not an executive, she doesn't live in LA, and she isn't a vigilante).  It doesn't mean I won't watch to see what they do for a few episodes, but...  my enthusiasm is muted, at best.

Of course as a WW reading fanboy, I'm disappointed.  Its a pyrrhic victory at best if the show is a hit but the character you love is subsumed by a completely inconsistent version.

My guess is that Kelley's launchpad was that for the past 15-20 years, the idea of the modern woman calling herself Wonder Woman generally meant that the person is a wife, mother and accomplished in her career.  But, of course, you can't have a TV show where the love interest questions are all already settled, so...  career and heroing.  Its not a bad idea, per se.  It just isn't the Amazon Princess showing up out of nowhere with a magic lasso preaching peace through strength. 

Straight up, Wonder Woman can be an amazing character.  In the 21st Century, she's a walking dichotomy as diplomat and warrior, feminist figure and bondage icon.  Camp character and inspiration.  People see that as an issue, but I see it as a nuanced character with core conflicts that can be explored.  But I also like the part where she flies into a fight and hits people really, really hard or pops them with an axe.

My guess is we're not scrapping the Amazon background, but its going to wind up being a show about people who all dress in business suits until the last 15 minutes when they wear their hero and villain clothes and everybody has jobs at companies that don't care if they show up.  And, as its David E. Kelley, the high powered executives wear skirts that would, yes, still in 2011, ensure the wearer of said skirt would not be taken seriously, ie: nobody in any real office would ever wear.

So what would my pitch be?  Normally I don't play this game.  Its not useful to second guess, and its not really criticism if all you're doing is saying "I have a pitch!".  But my guess is that Kelley's pitch will be so far removed from Wonder Woman, that, heck...  why wouldn't I have my say?  I would have gone all George Perez/Phil Jiminez/ Greg Rucka on them.  Diana comes to America from the hidden amazon society with an astronaut whose capsule fell into Themyscirean waters (rather than a fighter pilot).  She is fascinated by the outside/ Man's world, stays longer than her leave was granted, learns of the state of the world via TV and her own exploration, and perhaps learns that the Olympians are now manipulating man by hiding in plain sight as politicians, etc...  After a battle with, say, Medusa in the middle of Redskins Stadium, she and her mother agree to open an Amazonian Embassy in DC or New York, and the show becomes about the embassy and the two opposing world views of the 21st Century and a few thousand years of Themyscirian tradition of peace through strength.  It would give writers a chance to examine a culture composed of women and provide an interesting counterbalance and deep mythology to the show.  Also: greek monsters.  and beheadings.  And she would totally wear "the costume" when she wasn't wearing business suits at the embassy.

1 comment:

J.S. said...

Yeah, I don't even understand why David E. Kelley is interested in working on this project. Makes no sense.