Monday, August 1, 2011

Shows you'll never see: David E Kelley's Wonder Woman

Poor old David E Kelley. He’s not a comic book guy. He knows he’s not a comic book guy. He probably sees himself as more of a small-screen Douglas Sirk.

So what does he do when his agent scores him a gig running a superhero TV show? He does his research. He asks people what the best superhero books ever are.

‘Read the Frank Miller Batman stories’, his friends tell him. ‘Take a look at the Millar/Hitch run on The Ultimates. Check out Judge Dredd. And most of all make sure you live and breathe Watchmen. ‘

And sure enough, Dave did.

And, poor chap, he came away with all the wrong lessons. His Wonder Woman has a scratchy relationship with her own dual identity, she uses her own action figure line as a revenue stream to support her crimefighting activities, and she’s a cryptofascist vigilante with no respect for due legal process.

Those are all character traits you’ll find in those modern-day comic book classics. But they aren’t likeable. And you can’t hang a whole TV series off a character that no-one likes.

Sure, Dexter and Tony Soprano are amoral antiheroes. But I like ‘em. I suspect you like ‘em too.

Kelley’s Wonder Woman is too cynical, too knowing, and too bloody right wing to attract a general audience.

Also, too inconsistent: She has a peculiar relationship with the exploitation of her body to gain advantage. Plus she says ‘tits’ too much.

The old Lynda Carter Wonder Woman show was silly and looks dated now, but kids loved it at the time. My daughter loves superhero comics. I’d probably let her watch the old Lynda Carter version. Even if David E Kelley’s Amazonian vision had made it to network I don’t think I could with a clear conscience let the younger Moran watch it.

It’s simultaneously too aggressive and too disempowering.

Male superheroes come up against daft adversaries from time to time, but they also get to have it out with terrorists, bank robbers and serial killers. You know. Real villains.

In the pilot episode Wonder Woman’s up against an evil cosmetics tycoon. You know. Like Halle Berry was in Catwoman. And we all know how that turned out.

Elizabeth Hurley may have made a decent choice for the Amazon warrior herself at one point. Here she plays an oleaginous slap peddler with a sideline in shady steroids.

A ‘super soldier serum’, one might say.

Wonder Woman uses torture, guesswork, threats and more torture to put together an entirely untenable case against Ms.Hurley.

Luckily, Liz has a selection of musclebound goons for Wonder Woman to beat up. The big fight scene was well-choreographed but some scenes are a bit too brutal for a younger audience.

And a mainstream DC comics superhero should never roll their eyes when someone mentions the American Criminal Justice System. Your counter-cultural Marvel types may be able to get away with that kind of stuff. Not Wonder Woman.

Adrienne Palicki is a nice-looking young lady it’s true. A little lightweight for an Amazonian warrior woman I’d suggest. More Donna Troy than Diana Prince.

She has a nice line in withering smirks though. Even if she does over-use it.

When an actor as young-looking is called upon to play dark and amoral, it doesn’t come across as world-weary toughness. It looks more like teenage spite.

Throw in a dysfunctional relationship with WW’s traditional squeeze Steve Trevor and you have a comprehensive misfire.

I think they wanted Ally McBeal with superpowers. They got Bridget Jones mixed with Sarah Palin and an ultraviolent LA branch of The Guardian Angels instead.

Nice try Dave. But you read the wrong comics. Next time. Lay off the classics.

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