Originally scheduled as a tie-in to the theatrical release of Wonder Woman 1984, Warner Archive has released all three seasons of the 1970s television series Wonder Woman in a 10-disc Blu-ray set.
The Production: 3/5
In its day, Wonder Woman was something of a ground-breaking series on network television. It was a return to prime time of a comic book character, but it was also centered around a strong (in more ways than one) female character. It was also Lynda Carter’s breakthrough role, as legend tells that relatively unknown Carter was nearly penniless when she was offered the role of Wonder Woman.
It was a rocky start for the series after a failed pilot that aired in 1974, starring Cathy Lee Crosby in the title role, as a blonde. A new pilot was commissioned the following year, under the supervision of Executive Producer Douglas S. Cramer (The Love Boat, Dynasty), and despite the ratings success, the ABC network was still very unsure about the series, airing the first season’s 14 episodes sporadically between April 1976 and February 1977. The first season of Wonder Woman was a period-piece, set during World War II, adding additional cost to the production, which also made the network and the studio, Warner Bros, nervous about connecting with its core young audience. When ABC was dragging its feet on renewing the series for a second season, the CBS network swooped in and picked up the series, as long as it now took place in the present (mid 1970s). This caused some major retooling, causing many supporting characters to leave the series, obviously. However, actor Lyle Waggoner, who portrayed war hero Steve Trevor in the first season, did return as his son, Steve Jr. This obviously complicated the implied love chemistry between Diana/Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor from the first season, ultimately delegating Steve Jr. to a much smaller role. As with most fantasy-themed series from that era, the writers and producers struggled with interesting stories within the show’s budgetary constrains (visual effects were much more time-consuming and expensive having to be done mostly with opticals rather than computer), and the plots became rather silly as the series progressed. The worst episode of the first season, Wonder Woman vs Gargantua, had Wonder Woman fighting a man in an ape suit. The second and third seasons found Wonder Woman solving local crimes rather than tracking down Nazis and saving the world. Further retooling for season three, trying to make the show more “hip” by not only giving the theme song more of a disco beat, but introducing even more ludicrous plots like having people pose as statues to rob museums, disco music robbing people of their minds, a heist involving time travel, killer dolphins, alien invasions, etc., ultimately caused CBS to cancel the series.
Not all is lost, though, in viewing these “time capsules” of 1970s television, as the producers always seemed to bring in some great guest stars, like Kenneth Mars and Henry Gibson as Nazis (in the pilot episode), Cloris Leachman, Fannie Flagg, Red Buttong, Stella Stevens, Carolyn Jones, the late John Saxon, Beatrice Straight, Roddy McDowall, Robert Reed, Frank Gorshin, and Ron Ely, to name just a few. The real joy, though, is seeing some actors in their first roles, such as Debra Winger as Diana/Wonder Woman’s younger sister Drusilla/Wonder Girl, Ed Begley, Jr., Priscilla Barnes, and many others.
3D Rating: NA
Warner Archive’s Wonder Woman: The Complete Collection presents each episode in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Overall, these are fairly decent transfers, but I think one has to keep in mind that the shows were originally filmed to be viewed on a standard definition television screen no larger 25-inches, which may explain some of the inconsistent softness in the picture, with opticals suffering the most. The worst offender is the cockpit sequence aboard the invisible plane in the pilot, as it appears the effects were rendered on video mand then output to film. There are some noticeable color inconsistencies as well, such as the reds Wonder Woman’s costume during the pilot occasionally appearing orange. Also, color tones are often on the cooler side, with whites sometimes appearing quite blue.
Warner Archive has fitted the episodes on this 10-disc set with rather ho-hum Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtracks, encoded at the standard 192 kbps bitrate. The tracks aren’t horrible, and they just sound average. Dialogue is well-prioritized, always coming across clear and understandable (although there does seem to be a minor glitch in episode 107, Wonder Woman vs Gargantua with one word of dialogue being repeated after an audible pop). Dynamic range is adequate, lacking in low frequencies. However, the series was never meant to be heard on anything more than a small TV speaker.
Special Features: 2/5
All of the bonus material has been ported over from previous DVD releases of the series.
Audio Commentary with Lynda Carter and Executive Producer Douglas S. Cramer on Pilot: The New Original Wonder Woman: The two discuss the casting process for the title role and shooting the entire series.
Beauty, Brawn and Bulletproof Bracelets: A Wonder Woman Retrospective (480i; 21:13): Lynda Carter, Executive Producer Douglas S. Cramer, and many noted figures in comic books and television discuss the series.
Revolutionizing a Classic: From Comic Book to Television (480i; 11:26): Adapting the comic book for the small screen, featuring interviews with many of the same personnel from the previous featurette.
Audio Commentary with Lynda Carter on My Teenage Idol is Missing: Carter discusses working with teen idol Leif Garrett on this season three opener, plus her experiences working on the series.
Wonder Woman: The Ultimate Feminist Icon (480i; 13:53): Wonder Woman’s role in the feminist movement.
I remember, as a kid growing up in the 1970s, watching Wonder Woman every week on television and really enjoying it. Forty-five years later, the show does not quite hold up. The presentation on Blu-ray is probably the best these shows are ever going to look, so fans will likely want to pick this up.