We are living in a time where it feels like nearly half of television shows are based on comic books. The CW has been churning out DC shows on a pretty consistent basis for over a decade now. There is also DC Universe, which is entirely dedicated to getting more superheroes into your life. Back in the 1970s, though, it was a much different story. There had been the successful Adventures of Superman with George Reeves in the 1950s, and the Adam West Batman came about later in the 1960s, but television was not saturated with caped heroes like we are today. In the mid 1970s, the world was graced with one of the most beloved pairings of actor and character that comic book lovers have ever seen. The Wonder Woman pilot film debuted in November of 1975 with the incredible Lynda Carter in the titular role. The series experienced a change in setting, supporting actors and networks, but was successful enough to run three seasons and earn a place in the hearts of countless people since then.
Fans who are only familiar with the Gal Gadot Wonder Woman film will find some similarities with the television show when it comes to how they begin. In the midst of the Second World War, American pilot Steve Trevor (Lyle Waggoner) is shot down during an aerial fight above the Bermuda Triangle, which hides Paradise Island. Steve is rescued by the Amazon princess Diana (Lynda Carter) and nursed back to health. Like all Amazons, Diana is an ageless beauty with immense strength, agility and intelligence, but she has never had contact with the outside world. Against the wishes of her mother (Cloris Leachman), Diana wins the right to return Steve to America in her signature invisible jet, where she feels it is necessary to stay and protect people against the encroaching evil, be it Nazis or otherwise. Thus, Wonder Woman is born with her signature red, white and blue costume, lasso of truth and bullet-deflecting bracelets. When she is not fighting crime, her alter ego is Diana Prince, Steve’s new secretary hidden by normal clothes and glasses. As per the usual with these stories, you have to accept that these characters cannot figure out the true identity of Wonder Woman.
On an episode-to-episode basis, Wonder Woman is pretty fascinating to watch. It is highly campy and a product of its time, but that is part of its charm. Television violence was under intense scrutiny during this time, so fight scenes can look pretty laughable by today’s standards. The first season maintained its 1940s setting throughout the entire run, which largely saw Wonder Woman fighting Nazis in various scenarios. Be it going undercover at a beauty pageant or tussling with a gorilla, our heroine was always in the thick of some loony plot. Carter always brought a gracefulness to the role that elevated the material. She clearly had beauty, but it was the confidence and attitude that really made her an icon for so many. She held her own against a cavalcade of incredible guest stars including Red Buttons, Robert Loggia and Carolyn Jones. Debra Winger also appeared in one of her first roles as Diana’s sister, Drusilla, who quietly disappeared after the first season. This setting was a lot of fun, but it is a bit strange to see someone as strong as Diana relegated to a secretary when she is not kicking butt.
For the second and third seasons, the show got shook up, shed some cast members and jumped forward to “present day” 1970s, where Diana got back into the hero game with Steve Trevor Jr, who conveniently looks exactly like his dad. They eventually upped Diana to a special agent, where she was now able to take on a wider variety of evildoers. Add in some new costumes that would allow her to ride the occasional motorcycle, along with a new computer sidekick, and you have the fresh The New Adventures of Wonder Woman. Carter is able to make Diana Prince less helpless, while still kicking major butt as Wonder Woman. Things do not get any less campy as things continue. There will always be some cheesy effects, ridiculous villains and random fun guest stars. This is the formula, and it works well for the show. The constant tinkering with the show by the networks did not really do it any favors, but Lynda Carter always made things interesting. Those who did not grow up with the show will have to put themselves in the mind of a 1970s audience, but should find the show highly entertaining once they do.
Wonder Woman: The Complete Collection makes its way to Blu-Ray courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.33:1. I must start out by saying that I have never seen the show before reviewing the set, but I have read a lot of discussions from longtime fans of the show about the release. From a layman’s perspective, this presentation looks pretty incredible throughout. Clarity is very impressive with fine detail noticeable in costuming and production design. Colors are nice and vibrant on screen, especially when it comes to the iconic red, white and blue costume. There has been discussion online about some varied color temperature in certain scenes, but I never noticed anything that looked unnatural or took me out of the scene. This Blu-Ray presentation looks pretty stellar in motion. There are some instances where the grain seems a bit too managed, giving skin texture a waxy look, but this is not a persistent issue. There is still film grain in tact to help showcase subtle details in the presentation. Any instances of age related wear and tear seem to have been fixed. Hardcore fans may find things to nitpick, but the video quality is pretty wonderful to my eyes.
This Blu-Ray comes with a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track that seems to represent the show well, but would have sounded even better with lossless audio. The variations of the theme songs throughout the run of the show always provide a nice, bouncing beginning to the story. Sound effects do not always sound exactly natural, but that is a quirky element of the source material rather than a drawback to this track. Dialogue is given priority within all of the competing sounds where it can avoid being clipped. Thankfully, it always comes through crystal clear for the audience. The action scenes do not pack a huge wallop due to the way things are staged, but things are kept exciting through a mixture of sound effects and a catchy score. For a show of this age, fans should be quite pleased by this great presentation.
- Audio Commentary: Star Lynda Carter and Producer Douglas S. Cramer provide commentary for the pilot episode. The duo provide really interesting tidbits including details on stunts, how Carter nearly lost all of her hair from curling it with hot bars, network notes and more. Carter is especially sharp when it comes to recalling details from the original shoot, and she seem appreciative of everything the series brought her. This was recorded back when the DVDs were originally released, so it has a fascinating discussion on the potential for a Wonder Woman movie, and what Carter believes would be essential for the role.
- Beauty, Brawn and Bulletproof Bracelets – A Wonder Woman Retrospective: A 21-minute archival featurette with the cast and crew in which they reflect on the development of the character, adapting the show, casting Lynda Carter and Lyle Waggoner, creating the iconic costume and more. Once again, Lynda offers the best anecdotes of the bunch, as she expresses what she liked and disliked about the series without reservation.
- Revolutionizing A Classic – From Comic Book To Television: An eleven-minute piece with much of the same cast and crew in which they further discuss bringing Wonder Woman to life on the small screen. This is more season two focused with mentions of her additional alternate costumes, forging her path as a spy and more. It is interesting to hear how Lynda Carter seems sad Wonder Woman missed out on the joy of being a mother.
- Audio Commentary: Lynda Carter goes solo for her commentary on “My Teenage Idol Is Missing,” which features Leif Garrett. Carter expresses her appreciation for changing the setting to “modern day” 1970s, getting contact lenses for Diana, “cape acting” and more.
- Wonder Woman – The Ultimate Feminist Icon: A 14-minute featurette with Carter and various women tied to the character expressing their appreciation for Wonder Woman as a symbol for empowerment. The participants thoughtfully examine the different layers of the character and how she has not been compromised. This is an inspiring addition to the set.
Wonder Woman is a cheesy 70s delight that wears camp on its shoulder like a badge of honor. Watching Diana Prince kick Nazi butt in the 40s and evil scientists in the 1970s is equally as satisfying. None of it would work as well as it does if you did not have the one and only Lynda Carter bringing something to this role that has defined the character for decades. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has done the world a huge favor by bringing this beloved series to Blu-Ray with a great A/V presentation and all of the original special features. If you are a fan of the show, this set is a no brainer. Highly Recommended
Wonder Woman: The Complete Collection is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this set free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.