Friday, June 2, 2017

A Wonder Woman You Might Have Missed

Today the movie Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins, was released. While it is the first feature film starring the Amazing Amazon, Wonder Woman has a long history on television that goes back to the Sixties. Over the years Wonder Woman has appeared on the Saturday morning cartoon Super Friends, the classic TV series starring Lynda Carter, the Cartoon Network's various Justice League animated series, and yet other TV shows. Unfortunately Wonder Woman's first encounter with television would be less than wonderful.

In 1966 the big hit show of the year was Batman. Batman not only raked in the ratings, but millions of dollars in merchandising as well. It even resulted in a moderately successful feature film Batman (1966).  Quite naturally there was a desire on the part of the producers of Batman to repeat that success. In 1967 William Dozier, the producer of Batman and The Green Hornet, produced a pilot for a Dick Tracy series that failed to sell. That same year Mr. Dozier also sought to sell a TV show based on Wonder Woman. To this end, he produced a a five minute presentation film entitled "Who's Afraid of Diana Prince?".

The initial script was written by Stan Hart and Larry Siegel. Stanley Ralph Ross, who wrote episodes of Batman and later developed the Seventies TV series Wonder Woman with Douglas S. Cramer, re-wrote this script when it was deemed unusable. Unfortunately, the rewrite appears to have done little good. Not only does "Who's Afraid of Diana Prince" depart a good deal from the comic book, it was also just plain bad.

Indeed, in "Who's Afraid of Diana Prince?" Wonder Woman is played strictly for laughs. Diana Prince (played by Ellie Wood Walker) is portrayed as a shy plain Jane whose mother (who is not Hippolyta of the Amazons) nags her about not having a boyfriend. When she dons the Wonder Woman costume, she sees herself in the mirror as being more beautiful than she really is (the Wonder Woman in the mirror is played by Linda Harrison, later of Planet of the Apes fame). That Diana Prince is not entirely self-deluded is demonstrated by the fact that after preening in the mirror she flies out the window. She then at least has the power of flight. "Who's Afraid of Diana Prince?" was never broadcast nor did a Wonder Woman TV series emerge from it.

As to why a TV show never emerged form the presentation film, much of the reason could have been that Batman, the smash hit of 1966, was in decline in 1967. It ratings had dropped sharply since its debut in January 1966. Worse yet, William Dozier's other superhero show, The Green Hornet, was not doing very well in the ratings either. Of course, much of the reason for the failure of a series to emerge from "Who's Afraid of Diana Prince?" is that it simply was not very good. To be more precise, it was horrendous.

Fortunately, after a rather mediocre pilot starring Cathy Lee Crosby in 1974, Wonder Woman would find her way to television in the form of Lynda Carter in the classic TV series Wonder Woman, which debuted in 1976.

Below, for those brave enough to watch it, is the presentation film "Who's Afraid of Diana Prince?" in all its horrible glory.

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