For the end of Wonder Woman‘s run on ABC, they brought back Debra Winger and Carolyn Jones, along with writer Jimmy Sangster, for one of those “run around the backlot” stories that were common in the 1970s. This time some Nazis mount a plan to kidnap four of America’s greatest war heroes by convincing General Blankenship to let all four appear in a morale-boosting movie. At the same time, Drusilla returns to the States to remind Diana that she needs to come home for Paradise Island’s 2000-year anniversary, so she gets to have lots of hot dogs and ice cream along with a new adventure.
Overall, it isn’t a bad story, and much better than the previous two, but it does have the feeling of end-of-season budget woes, and one of the actors almost sinks the whole thing. Robert Hays guest stars as one of the four great war heroes, but the big secret is that he’s really a coward who lucked into a situation where he came out smelling of roses. This is immediately obvious from his first scene. In his defense, this was very early in Hays’ career. He got better.
Our son didn’t mind. He really loved this one, which had lots of opportunities for the heroines to throw villains around. Drusilla is formally called “Wonder Girl” by Hays right at the end, but unfortunately, this would be the final appearance of the character. There have been sixty gajillion different Wonder Girls in the pages of DC Comics, but Debra Winger’s version of Drusilla outshines all of them.
ABC cancelled Wonder Woman, citing the expense of doing a period show along with their desire to drop some of their superhero programming. Funny how in 1977, the two Bionic series and Wonder Woman were thought excessive on ABC, and forty years later, shows like these dominate the CW. Anyway, CBS picked it up, moved the storyline to the present day, and teamed it with The Incredible Hulk for two solid years on Friday nights.
We won’t be watching the CBS Wonder Woman. All credit to Lynda Carter, whose acting skills improved exponentially every week and who left the show looking even more gorgeous than when she began it, but it was the worst kind of cheesy, fad-chasing seventies pablum, with stories about teen idols and skateboarders, and Wolfman Jack as an evil DJ. There were minor format changes every few months, a cute robot like R2-D2, and a completely bizarre hail mary in the final episode setting up a new format, with Wonder Woman joining a team of amateur crimefighters that included an indestructible man and a chimpanzee. There’s exactly one episode I wouldn’t mind seeing again, a creepy one with John Carradine as the voice of a disembodied brain.
After the show was cancelled, Lynda Carter made a million TV movies and variety specials and recorded a couple of LPs, was the face of Maybelline for a while, and co-starred with Lee Horsley in the not-awful ’90s western Hawkeye. She had a small part in Sky High, a film that’s better than anybody expected, and that includes the people who made it. She was in Smallville at least once, and appears once in a while as the president with a big secret in Supergirl. Lyle Waggoner, who got the oddball chance to play Steve Trevor Jr. in the retooled series but was gradually phased out so that Lynda Carter could have a new handsome co-star each week, mostly retired from acting a couple of years later, after starting a business selling home-away-from-home trailers for movie shoots, but occasionally appears in amusing projects like the 2003 TV movie Return to the Batcave.