Published On: Thu, Aug 4th, 2011

Review: David E Kelley’s ‘Wonder Woman’ pilot

Directed by Jeffrey Reiner

Review by Jason Knize/http://panelsonpages.com

It had been over 30 years since Lynda Carter last peeled off her star-spangled hot pants, all the while, Wonder Woman fans have yearned for a live action return of the Amazonian princess. Diana came close to a television series revival twice in the 1990′s, and nearly made her first leap to the big screen by way of the canned George Miller Justice League film, but nothing has come as close as David E. Kelley‘s 2011 reimagining of the character for a proposed NBC series. Kelley’s version got as far as casting Friday Night Light‘s actress Adrianne Palicki as the titular (emphasis on the….y’know…) heroine, and shooting of the pilot.

Promo images of Palicki in a garish vinyl costume were greeted by a chorus of boos from the internet, and coincidentally, the costume in question was updated shortly thereafter. Then, NBC passed on the show, and as of this writing, there has been no interest shown from other networks to save the series from the woodpile. Those that had seen even an ounce of promise in Kelley’s Wonder Woman, or those that were eager to watch Palicki shake what the Gods gave her on a weekly basis, could only hope and pray that the pilot would somehow see the light of day, just as WB‘s failed Aquaman franchise starter, Mercy Reef, made its way to the iTunes store. Brief clips of the pilot, with missing effects and a WB watermark, filtered onto the net, and it was only a matter of time before this reviewer got the full 42-minutes in his hot, sweaty hands.

Much has been made of the initial David E. Kelley treatment of the show, which was more Ally McBeal than Xena: Warrior Princess. It’s certainly not the preferred direction for a live-action Wonder Woman product, but the concept isn’t all bad. Diana Themyscira is the CEO of Themyscira Industries, specializing in marketing the Wonder Woman brand, but it is also public knowledge that Diana is in fact Wonder Woman, and she utilizes the resources of her multi-million dollar company to provide her own brand of vigilante justice to thugs and evildoers alike. Complicating the plot even further, Diana has a third alter-ego, that of Diana Prince, her true self, the Amazonian princess we all know, which she keeps hidden from the public eye to maintain some semblance of private life (or lack thereof). Think of it as the antithesis to the Batman/Bruce Wayne dynamic. Diana puts on her tights at night to bust heads, but then must deal with the repercussions the next morning courtesy of Themyscira Industries exec Henry Johns (Cary Elwes), the LAPD, and a 24-hour news cycle.

The pilot begins with a young athlete (B.J. Britt) receiving a college acceptance letter, then promptly bleeding from his eyes and ears and collapsing to the floor. Cut to Palicki’s Diana chasing a freakish thug down the streets of LA (the scene from which a majority of the leaked photos that showed up online originate from). Diana uncovers a dangerous new perfomance-enhancing drug that connects the thug, the athlete, and Cale-Anderson Pharmaceuticals CEO, Veronica Cale (Elizabeth Hurley). The sexual tension is palpable when Palicki and Hurley are on screen together, and I half expected them to ditch the plot and retire together to Paradise Island. Not surprisingly, the pilot’s climax culminates in Wonder Woman busting the heads of several doped-up henchmen, and dusting off her hands as Cale is lead away in cuffs.

The pilot eschews any type of origin story and dives right into the action (or lack thereof). The action set pieces are used a little too sparingly for my taste (because that means less of Palicki in that red & gold bustier), but the action is comparable in amount and quality to the first episode of Smallville, but not quite to the level of the series premiere of Heroes. We get to see Wonder Woman display feats of immense strength, tool around in her non-invisible jet, hurl her Lasso of Truth as if it were a cross between Spidey‘s webs and Indiana Jones‘ whip, and before the end, she busts out the bracelets to deflect hot lead. All the while, Palicki looks mean as hell filling out that oft-criticized costume.

Considering David E. Kelley was behind the series, we all knew this Wonder Woman wasn’t going to be action packed, and much of the pilot is spent on Diana’s business dealings (“I NEVER SAID TO MERCHANDISE MY TITS!”), the controversy and legality concerning her vigilante methods, and her crippling loneliness. No bulls—, in this pilot, Diana Prince talks to her cat, and watches The Notebook while shoveling chips into her mouth, lamenting her failed relationship with Steve Trevor (Justin Bruening). The Notebook. And then a CGI baby came out and started dancing to Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling”.

Maybe that last part didn’t happen. But she totally watched The Notebook.

As a whole, the Wonder Woman pilot isn’t terrible, and certainly showed room for improvement if the series were allowed to progress. The focus on drama over action was the wrong direction to take it, but it’s not completely frustrating, and the show actually presents an interesting take on the character. I’m definitely biased, but the 12-minutes of Palicki running around in costume were totally worth the 30-minutes of exposition.

It’s bittersweet to think that as of the conclusion of this review, there will be likely be no reason for me to ever revisit the subject of the failed Wonder Woman pilot again. Oh well, at least there’s Google Image Search. And I look forward to Palicki as Lady Jaye in next year’s G.I. Joe: Cobra Strikes, and I will continue to follow her career and those bulging Amazonian pecs of hers with baited breath.

Score: 3 out of 5 stars


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