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Despite a Promising Star, Will the 'Wonder Woman' Remake Be a Disaster?

by Maureen Ryan, posted Feb 17th 2011 9:15AM
This might be one of those good news, bad news situations.

The good news is, Adrianne Palicki has been cast in the title role of NBC's 'Wonder Woman.' Palicki is best known for playing Tyra Collette on 'Friday Night Lights,' a role the actress approached with great skill and heart. If anyone deserves to get a leading role in a high-profile project, it's Palicki.

The probably bad news (and it's not really news, at this stage): 'Wonder Woman' is being reimagined by TV uber-producer David E. Kelley, and the things Kelley is doing to the 'Wonder Woman' franchise is filling many TV observers and Diana Prince fans with dread.

First of all, he's created three different personas for Palicki to play. She'll be the crime-fighting Wonder Woman, of course, but she'll also play W.W.'s alter ego, corporate executive Diana Themyscira, and Diana's assistant, Diana Prince.

Huh? That seems a little ornate, if not confusing. And it's disheartening to read that The Daily Beast's Jace Lacob called Kelley's 'Wonder Woman' pilot script "laughably bizarre." He also said the pilot was "outdated," "cloying" and full of "stilted dialogue" and "bizarre narrative conceits." Sure, the script might undergo some alterations before the pilot is shot, but various early reactions to the project aren't exactly promising.

Even before Kelley's script surfaced, TV Squad writer and Wonder Woman fan Chris Harnick voiced some very understandable fears about the NBC reboot.

As Chris noted, the idea of updating the iconic character is certainly an attractive one. Wonder Woman has had so many different identities over the years that a smart TV makeover could be just what the character needs. But it hasn't been easy to find the right tone and story for a 'Wonder Woman' remake. The quest has stymied many writers, including Joss Whedon, a guy who knows a thing or three about writing complex and heroic female characters.

Chris, who'd read a short description of Kelley's script, pointed out that "neither Wonder Woman nor Diana Prince would be a corporate executive. Having a secret identity was almost always an after-thought for W.W. In almost all of her incarnations, her mission has been to bring peace to the outside world."

Kelley's script doesn't appear to have much time for that kind of noble pursuit, and it's hard to see his idiosyncratic vision -- which is wordy, quirky and sometimes frustratingly glib -- melding gracefully with the framework of the superhero genre. There's a sincerity at the heart of the Wonder Woman legend, whatever campy elements crept into the '70s series of the same name. Certainly as a girl growing up in that era (I was nine when the first TV version debuted), I idolized Wonder Woman's integrity and strength as much as I coveted her golden bracelets and invisible jet.

If anyone can make this odd hybrid work, it'll be Palicki. But will it be worth the effort? It seems unlikely.

Think back to NBC's 2007 remake of 'Bionic Woman,' which may serve as a cautionary tale. It's not that audience won't go for a female action hero -- I certainly think they will, if the project is done with smarts and style (just one example: The first couple seasons of 'Alias'). But are we going to get another 'Woman' remake that is hamstrung by NBC's odd decisions?

'Bionic Woman' seemed to reflect the ongoing chaos at NBC: There were too many cooks in the show's kitchen, as it were, and nobody could seem to decide who the lead character was from week to week. Four years later, the struggling network, which has a new exective team in place, has decided to make a big bet on a prominent showrunner. But Kelley isn't the right one.

It strikes me as strange that the network would want Kelley's take on this character. Why not hire one of the many TV writers in Hollywood who grew up reading graphic novels and watching various female heroines kick butt on the small screen? Why not recruit someone with a passion for this character and this genre, not a well-known producer who's had a lot of success with a series of legal shows? Furthermore, as critic Alan Sepinwall points out, Kelley's portrayal of female characters is problematic at best. It'd be especially painful to see Wonder Woman riddled with the kind of neurosis and insecurity that Kelley's female characters often display.

(Another wrongheaded NBC move with an iconic female character: The network is going ahead with a 'Prime Suspect' remake. I'm sure Maria Bello will make us all forget Helen Mirren's performance as London detective Jane Tennison. Sigh.)

It's worth noting that Kelley's characters, when they make a positive impression, excel at talking; they're simply not action-oriented. Of course, 'Wonder Woman' should have great dialogue, but is Kelley's brand of aggressive, showboating quirkiness right for this particular character? Based on what I know about the 'Wonder Woman' remake at this stage, I don't think so. He just doesn't seem like the right person for this project, and it'd be a shame if one more iconic female character got put through the wringer and quite possibly put back on the shelf, which is a definite possibility if the execution of this reboot is bungled.

If NBC likes the pilot and commissions a full series, my fingers are crossed that it'll be worthy of Wonder Woman's history -- and Palicki's talent. Full hearts and all that. But my clear eyes see danger ahead.

Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

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Unfortunately it will crash quicker then the invisible jet could ever do. Nothing about it says Wonder Woman to me. Fake boobs, fake hair color, Halloween USA clearance costume, crying over Steve Trevor, eating ice cream and singing & dancing to Katy Perry, selling Wonder Woman dolls that look more like Wonder Woman then Adrianne does in that crappy new outfit. Sorry it spells HORRIBLE! It's a shame Warner Bros. thinks so little of an icon that's been around since 1941. Lynda Carter may say Adrianne looks fabulous but it's only because she is a highly classy actress and would never diss another stars work. But we the fans know this stinks. Bring the iconic Wonder Woman back that has been known for 70 years and throw this rebooted version out!

April 04 2011 at 11:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Isaiah, dude, that's just harsh.

February 23 2011 at 1:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Isaiah Bradford III

Yeah, Kelley's script has Epic Fail written all over it I've ever seen it. I read the reviews and portions of it and I thought it was an early April Fools Day joke. I mean, does he like women or is this script sort of a back handed misogynistic attack on modern women. I'm no feminist, but I think women are just as strong and capable as men. And especially in WW's case. She can and has gone toe-to-toe with Superman himself. Using Buffy and Sydney Bristow as models would be a great place to start, although both Buffy and Sydney also suffered from the "I really want that boy to like me" syndrome that had me rolling my eyes. Like I said at the time, if Buffy had be Buck and Angel and been Angelica, Buck would have staked Angelica by the end of the her first appearance.

Let's all hope and pray that someone with one iota of intelligence at NBC (I know, asking a lot) takes a look at that crappy script for a pilot he's put together and burns it and every electronic copy of it into nothingness. Then same NBC executive fires Kelley and finds a person like you described who's grown up with the character, knows the character and more importantly loves the character. Kelley clearly doesn't give a rat's behind about WW or he wouldn't have put that horrible, horrible script to paper.

All these mistakes make me want to see what Whedon would have done with WW. Yet again another tragedy.

P.S. - Unrelated to WW, but Mo, I didn't realize that Tim Minear had a producing credit on Chicago Code! Makes me very scared for the longevity of the show because I really like it.

Great write up as usual, thanks!

February 18 2011 at 2:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Casting Palicki as Wonder Woman is the only news I've heard that's promising - at least they chose a capable actor who could conceivably kick some butt.

But David Kelley's take on the character and the idea of WW's cover as a lawyer are what give me a queasy stomach based on his prior (and current) shows.

We do need a Wonder Woman TV show, but not the one I keep reading about that Kelley plans to make. If it were Abrams or Whedon as the show runner I'd have more optimism.

-- Wendy

February 17 2011 at 9:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I've read the wide variety of (mostly negative) reviews of the script for the pilot and there are elements which sound somewhat ... tolerable.

To be fair, Wonder Woman doesn't really have three "separate" identities. The entire world knows that Wonder Woman is Diana Themyscira in much the same way as everyone knows that Iron Man is Tony Stark. The "Diana Prince" identity is the true "secret identity" and it's inclusion does seem like a bizarre choice given the already over-stuffed pilot.

The inclusion of "good friends" Etta Candy and Myndi Mayer are also a step in the right direction, but the trio of nerds in Wonder Woman's basement sound terrible. The trio of love interests also seems to be at least one too many, especially as Wonder Woman is still crying herself to sleep at night years after her break-up with Steve Trevor.

If they jettison some of the odder aspects of the script, I think they have a solid enough groundwork for a series. One aspect that I'd really like to see changed is the purpose of Wonder Woman's company. It would be great if her corporation was more about the common good as opposed to selling big breasted dolls of Wonder Woman.

Finally, I don't see how a fleet of multi-coloured flying BMWs is any less bizarre than Wonder Woman having an invisible jet. I understand that the show probably doesn't have the budget for Wonder Woman to have the power of flight, but other than product placement revenue I just don't understand the appeal of the flying BMWs nor why Wonder Woman needs an entire fleet of them in various colours - does she match the colour of her shoes and handbag with her flying vehicle?

February 17 2011 at 6:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

RTMS: Because that would make too much sense! Remember, this is Hollywood and if it makes sense to do something one way, then they're NOT going to do it.

This totally sounds like a train wreck in the making. I would love to see a kick-ass Wonder Woman, however, this script plot sounds thin on the superhero and long on the psychosis.

February 17 2011 at 3:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The current representation of WW is on the Justice League and the recent cartoon movie. They both get WW, She is a super hero with out disguise or alter ego. She comes from the island of Themescyrica and she kicks butt along with Superman and Batman.She doesn't wallow or pine for a boyfriend, in fact she doesn't have one or care for one and she's very protective of her fellow Amazon sisters and mother. Why can't they base it off of the cartoon?

February 17 2011 at 12:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We really don't need Wonder Woman meets The Three Faces of Eve. With more than a third of the hour going to commercials, there's barely time for a straightforward plot any more. Superhero shows tend to work best when they honor their comic book roots by keeping things simple and direct.

February 17 2011 at 10:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's on NBC, so yeah... it'll suck.

But in all seriousness, Wonder Woman is one of those comic book characters which in 2011 is now going to be labeled 'corny' when done in live-action. Some comic book characters should remain in the pages of comic books or cartoons. Wonder Woman, Captain America & Aqua Man are fine examples of such.

February 17 2011 at 10:54 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Chris Piers

I understand why NBC would want a Wonder Woman show. But they need to appoint a different showrunner. This is not a good take on Wonder Woman. I'm a comic book fan and I don't think the show needs to adapt any particular run of the comic. In fact, the character is frequently uneven. But there is certainly a set of core elements to her history and personality. This just does not strike me as being loyal to the spirit of the character or especially empowering.

February 17 2011 at 10:28 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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