Wonder Woman’s biggest bit of mass-media exposure was, of course, her hit 1970s TV series, starring Lynda Carter as Diana Prince/ Wonder Woman. Premiering in 1975 as a pilot movie entitled THE NEW ORIGINAL WONDER WOMAN (so as to avoid confusion with an earlier and unsuccessful 1974 attempt entitled simply WONDER WOMAN, which starred a blonde Cathy Lee Crosby and strayed far from the source material) the ABC TV-movie scored high enough in the ratings to warrant a weekly series, which first aired April 21, 1976.
In the series’ initial run on ABC from 1976 to 1977, it was a period piece, with Wonder Woman in WWII fighting Nazis and the like. In ’77, the series moved to CBS, and producers felt the WWII setting was hurting the ratings and decided to modernize it, so they had the immortal Diana return to Paradise Island for 30 years, until she met Steve Trevor Jr., who just happened to look exactly like his father (Lyle Waggoner in both roles), and decided to return to Man’s World and work with Steve Jr. at the IADC (a typical spy-type agency).
While the first season had more of a comic-book flavor, between the WW II setting and Wonder Woman doing battle with foes like Fausta, the Nazi Wonder Woman and Gargantua, the last two seasons were more like typical 1970s TV, with Wonder Woman fighting lots of goons sporting black turtlenecks under brown sport blazers.
Quite frankly, the main reason for the show’s success was simply Lynda Carter. Tall, charmingly appealing and drop-dead gorgeous, Carter’s charisma carried the show – let’s face it: people weren’t tuning in for the spellbinding plots. Unlike the Adam West BATMAN series, which was silly, but with a self-reflexive wink to the audience, the ABC WONDER WOMAN was just plain goofy, with bad scripts, bad acting, and poor production values. Besides, any show that expects you to take Lyle Waggoner seriously as a leading man has its work cut out for it. So why does it work? Lynda Carter just sells it – one only has to look at Debra Winger’s less-than-successful appearance in the series as Wonder Girl to see what can happen when an actress isn’t comfortable in a superhero outfit.
No matter how silly that show got, (even at scenes like Wonder Woman miraculously appearing in an Amazon-style wetsuit for underwater work), there was lovely Lynda, smiling, running, jumping, and kicking ass. With anyone else, it never would have worked.
Wonder Woman has also had a few ventures in animation, all in supporting roles. The longest running, of course, was her appearance on all of the various iterations of ABC’s SUPERFRIENDS Saturday-morning series.
The Alex Toth-designed Wonder Woman with that enormous beehive-style hair helmet is probably the version of Diana most remembered by an entire generation, usually ferrying Aquaman’s sorry ass around in the invisible jet. (There was also a single Wonder Woman appearance on the mostly forgotten 1988 CBS SUPERMAN animated series, by the way.)
More recently, Wonder Woman was featured in a starring role in Cartoon Network’s excellent JUSTICE LEAGUE series, and utilized quite well, with several episodes devoted to the Amazons. Voice artist Susan Eisenberg portrays Diana with confidence, strength and a touch of ego, while still retaining a hint of innocence appropriate to a stranger in Man’s World. As the series went on, a relationship developed between Wonder Woman and Batman, which felt both out-of-left-field and so natural it was a wonder no one had ever thought of it before.
And now, just days away, she’ll finally get the feature-film treatment shes so long deserved. Fingers crossed, everyone.