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Word emerged yesterday that there will be another go at Wonder Woman TV series just a year after the failure of an attempt by NBC to mount a David E. Kelley take on the character. Right now only a pilot script is in development using the working title “Amazon”. There are quite a few steps that have to happen for anyone to be watching the show next year.
A few things that make me optimistic. First that the show is being developed by the CW home to one hour drama’s based on DC Comics, Smallville and the upcoming Arrow. Secondly the writer, Allan Heinberg, is not only familiar with the character but seems to like her. This is quite different that the last writer David E. Kelley who came in cold and never seemed to get her.
There is also another significant difference. The Kelley Wonder Woman was a fully formed hero in the pilot in fact there was not origin story at all. You got bits and pieces of her background but the first time you see the character she is in full superhero mode. The Heinberg pilot reportedly takes a “Smallville” approach of focusing on the characters younger years and will focus on her origins. I think it is fair to speculate you may be getting a show where there is less emphasis on costumes and special effects and more on action and interpersonal relationships.
I would like nothing more than a great TV show starring Wonder Woman but I also think that there are some things that Warner Bros. and the CW can learn from the fustercluck of the NBC Wonder Woman pilot and the success of Arrow.
1. Don’t screw up the costume. More than the not great leaked script, more than the fact that David E. Kelly is a divisive writer, the release of the first image of the new Wonder Woman costume put an incredibly negative spin on the pilot. It wasn’t just that it was a radical retake on the costume, Jim Lee had already done so in comics, it was that it was a dramatically change costume poorly presented in a horribly lit picture. The original sketch was not nearly as bad. As I showed with a little bit of color change and some added chest straps it could have worked but that first image just set the wrong tone.
Contrast this with how release of the first Arrow picture:
Now to be fair, the Green Arrow costume isn’t the same cultural touchstone that Wonder Woman’s is but the way this image is shot is about a million times better. The Wonder Woman costume debacle was so bad they ended up changing the costume before the first footage was shot and then tried to fix the whole mess by bringing back the original costume.
2. Shoot on a soundstage not on the streets. How much did you know about the Arrow pilot before it scenes started popping up around upfronts? See?. Very few images came out of Vancouver where the pilot was shot. Part of the reason that first costumed image of Wonder Woman was rushed is that they were filming in the streets of Los Angeles the next week. And they continued to film in public showcasing the divisive costume and perpetuating criticism of it and the choice of actress. Keep a lid on it.
3. It’s okay to play around with the world around the character but do not violate the basic premise of the character. One of the major problems with Kelley’s Wonder Woman was that she was turned into a generic action character laced with his Ally McBeal view of modern woman. Wonder Woman does have some basic things that she works for beyond beating up bad guys. Use them. (And again Heinberg should know this). And for gods sake don’t make the Amazons into baby hungry sailor killers. You know what I’m talking about.
4. Focus on giving her a compelling villain. I know, I know everyone says Wonder Woman has no good villains and that those she has are jokes. I don’t agree. (And that article is a cheap shot; you can travel through Batman and Superman’s Silver Age history and find plenty of dumb ass villains.) I actually thought one of things that the Kelley pilot got right was picking Veronica Cale (though I don’t think her characterization or the actress chosen to player her were quite right). However, Cheetah, Dr. Poison, Dr. Psycho and Silver Swan all have the potential to be further modernized. You could even go the Rucka and Azzarello route of modernizing the Gods. But don’t stop there, DC is filled with great villains why limit themselves to Wonder Woman’s rogues? If Kate Spencer and Helena Bertinelli can end up in the cast of Arrow I’ll take Amanda Waller or Cameron Chase investigating a young Diana. (Also Renee Montoya as Diana’s police officer friend, please.)
5. Keep that script under wraps. The Wonder Woman script leaked early and it wasn’t very good. Believe me. Now to be fair, the script could have gotten better (in this case it didn’t - it got far worse). Learn from Arrow, keep that sucker under lock and key.
6. And my last suggestion? I’m sure I’ll get some push back on this is some places but think about casting Adrianne Palicki again. Despite being given a very bad pilot script and fugly costume she’s a good actress and she has the presence that a Wonder Woman should have. Let me be clearer, she’s tall. Wonder Woman is tall and the actress should be tall. She’s. An. Amazon. Palicki may be a bit older than they are looking for script wise but she’s still a year young than Stephen Arnell and only 6 years older than when Tom Welling took on the role of Clark Kent in Smallville. I would welcome her in the role.
That’s my thoughts. What are yours?