In case you’d also like to have the Season 1 theme song stuck in your head on this lovely Monday morning:
The posts in this series contain copious spoilers for a TV series that ran from 1976-1979. If that’s a problem, this is definitely not the blog for you.
“The New Original Wonder Woman” (1.1) aired on November 7, 1975. Written by Stanley Ralph Ross and directed by Leonard Horn, this was technically the 2nd pilot episode ABC produced before greenlighting the show in 1976. (The 1974 pilot starred Cathy Lee Crosby as Wonder Woman). Ross had written twenty-five percent of the episodes of Adam West’s Batman TV series (1966-1968). When the network rejected the first pilot, they chose camp-meister Ross to create and develop the series, starting with a newly adapted storyworld and cast.
The episode opens with a World War II stock footage montage. At the end of the sequence, an FDR impersonator gravely intones: “The only hope for freedom and democracy…” as we cut to the Wonder Woman theme song and a comicbook-style title sequence.
After Lynda Carter (Diana Prince/Wonder Woman) and Lyle Waggoner (Steve Trevor) pop out of their frames and smile their thousand watt smiles, we get straight to the campy action.
By the way, Lyle Waggoner was Playgirl magazine’s first centerfold, tastefully concealing his junk from the camera in the pages of the April 1973 inaugural issue. (This link is going to return way more than I think you want to see on a Friday afternoon and is 100% NOT SAFE FOR WORK. I know you’re going to click it anyway but you can’t say I didn’t warn you. Go on. You know you want to. I’ll wait here).
You done? OK. Moving on…
After the title sequence, we see a Top Secret Nazi Base in Germany, wherein a Nazi Commander (Kenneth Mars) summons an ace Nazi Pilot (Eric Braeden) for a secret mission. The media Trope of the Sissy Villain is in full play here: the Nazi Commander is an effeminate diva.
Awkward exposition explaining the secret mission ensues.
“Blahblahblah. Nazi. Nazi. Nazi. Blow up the Brooklyn Navy Yard. If you don’t do it right I’ll do it myself.”
While the Nazi Commander gives the Nazi Pilot his orders, the Third Nazi in the room sneaks off, because he’s a spy!
Meanwhile in Washington D.C., devilishly handsome war hero Steve Trevor reads the Nazi spy’s intel. In keeping with the 1970s obsession with the Bermuda Triangle, Steve Trevor heads off to intercept the Nazi pilot in the Bermuda Triangle because planes disappear there all the time so the Nazis won’t suspect the Americans. Obviously.
Too bad Steve and General Blankenship (John Randolph) have this conversation in front of Steve’s sexy secretary, Marcia (Playboy Playmate Stella Stevens) because she’s not really running off to a doctor’s appointment before her date with Steve that night. She’s a Nazi spy! He’s a pig! But it’s the 1970s as the 1940s, so only one of those things is bad!
Soon, Steve is in a dog-fight over the Bermuda Triangle. He and the Nazi Pilot have to eject from their planes. They drift down in their parachutes, mere feet from each other, while having a hilariously inept shoot-out. The Nazi is eaten by sharks; Steve Trevor washes up on the beach.
Luckily…It’s Paradise Island!
Princess Diana and her gal-pal Rena (Inga Neilson) are cavorting down the beach in their chiffon shortie-nighties when they come upon…an unconscious man! This is the first time Steve Trevor is rendered unconscious, but it won’t be the last – not even the last time this episode.
Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, wonders why, after 1000 years, a man has found their island. As the Queen, Chloris Leachman chews: an apple, her knuckles, the scenery. It’s pretty amazing. I can’t even imagine what kind of direction she was getting from director Leonard Horn. The result was fantastic, whatever it was. Amazingly, Leachman doesn’t even play the kookiest iteration of Hippolyta in the series. That title goes to Carolyn Jones, perhaps best known as television’s Morticia Addams, who takes over the role later in the season.
Under the influence of truth serum, which was also big in the ’70s, Steve confesses he’s a spy and tells the Queen about the Nazis.
In Washington D.C., General Blankenship tells Stella that Steve is dead.
In Germany, the Nazi Commander minces off to complete the mission himself. (Oh yes, we’ll be talking about masculinity, gender, and stereotypes in a later post, as well as the changing portrayal of the Nazis over the course of the first season).
On Paradise Island, the Queen just wants the Amazons to be able to live in peace and sisterhood! She holds a tournament to decide who will accompany the unconscious man home.
The Queen forbids Diana from competing. Conveniently, the customs of Paradise Island include the custom of wearing awkward and not-really-identity-concealing masks while competing in a competition of speed and agility, so Diana gets a blonde wig and a mask and defies her mother.
A weird competition ensues. There’s running! Jumping! Horseback riding! Stone throwing! Arm wrestling! All edited in arty soft focus and slow motion, with lots of dissolves from one event to another to either keep the story moving or prevent the audience from dwelling on how silly the competition actually is. Seriously. Here’s a screenshot of stone throwing:
Finally, it’s time for Bullets and Bracelets! In this episode, the competing Amazons shoot to kill – firing at each other’s faces. (In the second season, Bullets and Bracelets will involve each contestant standing to the side of the target and trying to keep her opponent from hitting her target).
Diana wins! The Queen presents her with a shiny new outfit, made of indestructible fabric. It has a removable skirt, the Queen says as Diana removes the skirt and discards it, never to be seen again.
“The colors were chosen because they represent freedom and democracy.” Sure, Why not?
The Queen explains Wonder Woman’s accessories. Her belt enables her to use her Amazon powers even when she’s off the island.
Wonder Woman loads up once-again unconscious Steve Trevor and flies to Washington D.C. in her Invisible Jet, an object which inspires previously unimaginable levels of scorn from Husband, although I’m not entirely sure why.
Wonder Woman delivers unconscious Steve Trevor to the Armed Forces Hospital, later returning disguised as a nurse to keep tabs on him.
Wonder Woman realizes she needs money to buy some clothes to cover up her star-spangled butt. She does the only logical thing, agreeing to be in a daredevil show. Promoter Ashley Norman (Red Buttons) hires her, running an ad inviting the audience to bring any weapon they want to shoot at the Wonder Woman, who will stand on stage deflecting bullets back at the audience. With a metal wall behind her.
The writers didn’t seem to understand guns or physics or logic, but that’s all part of the charm. Right? Right.
Also, Ashley Norman’s agency is called “Dogs, Dwarfs, Daredevils.” Also, Ashley Norman is actually Karl the Nazi Spy and he’s working with Marcia the Nazi Spy to try to kill this Wonder Woman.
Bet you’ll never guess that the little old lady who shows up at the daredevil show with a machine guy is a Nazi Spy. She is! But Wonder Woman is amazing and deflects every single bullet! Wonder Woman doesn’t know Ashley/Karl is a Nazi. Yet.
After the show, she puts on her nurse’s uniform and checks on Steve, but she finds that he’s checked himself out of the hospital so that he can go be rendered unconscious somewhere else.
WONDER WOMAN DOES HER FIRST SPINNING COSTUME CHANGE. The effects hadn’t quite been worked out yet, so the editor cuts back and forth between Lynda Carter spinning in her nurse’s uniform and in her Wonder Woman getup. Eventually she stops spinning around and her transformation into Wonder Woman is complete. In the first few episodes, she still has her clothing in her hand when she stops spinning and must hide the items while she is Wonder Woman, which means she also has to return to her original spin site to resume her identity as Diana again. It’s strange and results in some supremely silly and awkward situations before the writers wise up and just make her clothes vanish in later episodes.
Sexy Marcia, Nazi Spy, gives Spy of Questionable Competence Steve Trevor a dose of truth serum. He makes kissy faces at her and divulges the combination to his Top Secret Office Safe, because he is a terrible spy but a stellar manslut.
Marcia dashes off to steal things from Steve’s Top Secret Office Safe, but Wonder Woman catches her red-handed. Marcia was the Nuremberg Judo Champ, so she and Wonder Woman have a pratfall-filled fight, which I found on youtube, much to my delight:
Then, Wonder Woman uses the Lasso of Truth on Marcia before telling her that the Nazis will fail because they don’t respect their women and the future is sisterhood.
Then, Wonder Woman uses an unexplained creepy Terminator ability to mimic voices, impersonating Marcia on the phone to lure the other Nazi spies into her trap.
Then, Wonder Woman captures the Nazi Commander and lectures him for not respecting womanhood.
Then, Wonder Woman punches him in his Nazi face.
Then, Wonder Woman delivers the Commander to the DCPD, rounds up the other Nazi spies, and rescues Steve Trevor.
Steve thinks Wonder Woman is super vavavavoom. Hey, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
A few days later, Steve recovers enough to return to his job as a terrible spy, vowing to only hire ugly ducklings from now on. Oh pretty girls, you’re such a problem to our national security! Luckily, General Blankenship has already hired Steve a new secretary, hideously ugly but highly competent Yeoman Diana Prince.
Holy cats! It’s Princess Diana! With her hair pulled back! And wearing glasses! Oh Diana, you’re so ugly now!
Steve and the General laugh and laugh at the ugly girl. Diana flashes her thousand watt smile at the camera and the credits roll.
This isn’t the best episode. It’s not the nuttiest episode. It’s not the most psychedelic episode. It doesn’t have the wackiest guest stars. It doesn’t have the most absurd examples of Los Angeles as Washington D.C. It doesn’t have some of the iconic imagery, such as the lightning flash spinning transformation or Wonder Woman jumping over a fountain it would be faster to walk around, but that’s okay. It’s a delightful and goofy examplar of the series so if you’re only ever planning to watch one episode, make it this one.
This episode contains:
Bullets and Bracelets
Lasso of Truth
Mansel in Distress Steve Trevor
Unconscious Steve Trevor
The Bermuda Triangle
Once upon a time I bought Husband the complete TV series Wonder Woman (1975-1979) for his birthday.
In an episode of questionable decision-making, I recently decided to blog my way through all 3 seasons of this glorious show.
OK. Look. Lynda Carter is awesome. Wonder Woman is awesome. This show? Not always awesome. Does it matter? A show can be glorious even when it isn’t always awesome, right? Absolutely!
What can you expect from this epic series of insightful posts? I’m not just recapping the shows for you – you’ll get cultural and historical context! Steve Trevor wardrobe snark! DC Geography lessons! And so much more!
Here’s a brief overview of the three seasons to set the stage, in case you’ve repressed or forgotten this magical moment in our cultural history:
In Season 1, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter) rescues Steve Trevor Sr. (Lyle Waggoner), one of the worst spies in the history of American spies, and returns to the U.S.A to help him battle Nazis. We’ll battle a lot of Nazis. A lot of Nazis. You won’t believe how many Nazis we’ll fight. We’ll also meet Wonder Woman’s younger sister, Drusilla/Wonder Girl (Debra Winger) and a host of other earnest Nazi-fighting characters, because Nazis.
In Season Two, we’ll follow The New Adventures of Wonder Woman, as the show was retitled when it hopped from ABC to CBS. Our story skips ahead to the groovy present-day 1970s, where we join the Cold War, already in progress. Diana Prince/Wonder Woman journeys from Paradise Island to assist Steve Trevor, JR, who not only looks exactly like his father, but is also one of the worst spies in American history.
Season Two has it’s finger on the pulse of the alien invasion zietgeist of the late 1970s.
Now playing: Wonder Woman Ep 210: Mind Stealers from Outer Space parts 1 & 2 w Special guest: Dack Rambo. Just what I needed today pic.twitter.com/MjjzZj3and
— Rebecca Stone Gordon (@meanlouise) February 7, 2017
Together, Steve and Diana also fight terrorists, jewel thieves, a Hitler clone, an evil toymaker, and psychic children.
You know, the usual scourges of the 1970s.
Dubious Wonder Woman takeaway #136: Skrill would make an excellent – albeit obscure & confusing – group Halloween parade costume. pic.twitter.com/dugTW2BVRB
— Rebecca Stone Gordon (@meanlouise) February 7, 2017
Changing the setting to the present day saved CBS buckets of money, but they clearly didn’t pour that money back into the show.
With the assistance of their polite super-computer, IRAC, Steve and Diana keep America safe from pretty much everything except Steve Trevor’s terrible, terrible wardrobe.
Diana Prince & Steve Trevor were a fashion forward duo. (Wonder Woman S2E3, 1977). pic.twitter.com/ll7p3T1s1B
— Rebecca Stone Gordon (@meanlouise) January 5, 2016
In Season Three we’ll groove to a disco-fied theme song while we plod through increasingly nutty plots involving (more) alien invasions, time traveling venture capitalists, skateboarders, trained dolphins, computer dating, teen idol kidnappers, leprechauns, and a villainous brain in a jar. Fortunately, Steve Trevor, Jr, Terrible Spy, is still here to grin his dopey grin while Wonder Woman saves the day over and over and over again.
Steve, Diana, and IRAC don’t have to battle the bad guys alone. They’re joined by Rover the robot dog, a chimpanzee, and a super-annoying kid!
It was the 70s. There were a lot of robot dogs, super-annoying kids, and chimpanzees on network television. It was a deeply confusing time to be a child.
*Related post: In the Future We Will All Have Robot Dogs
And now, we return you to our continuing series, “Xmen: I Have Questions,” already in progress.
What sort of nuclear war was Charles Xavier’s stepfather preparing for exactly with that bunker full of department store mannequins?
Okay. Fine. Technically this series only existed in my head until now, but it was already in progress, as far as I’m concerned, whether you knew it or not.
When we first spotted this ad in the Washington Post Magazine, we debated whether the secret weapon is an army of lethal girl assassins or symbiotic fungal zombie child husks. Husband concluded its something boring, like sofa beds – which are probably as painful & dangerous as highly-trained murderous children but not as useful.
We kicked off the new year doing as little as possible for a few days on Siesta Key, in preparation for a whirlwind bout of Family Fun that we had to schedule for the 1st week in January because…well, just because.
Despite the delay, we did indeed have a fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. One could go so far as to say it was the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye.*
Seriously, does anyone ever actually get through the holidays without someone shouting “Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?” at least once a day?
Today’s the last day of our visit, so Mom and I made it as challenging as possible for Husband. Mostly, this involved taking both cats to the vet. Mom makes separate appointments because it’s too difficult to manage both cats at the same time.
In the morning, Tom T. Cat struggled a bit while we inserted his ponderous bulk into the cat carrier, but then he settled down and spent the car-ride singing the song of his people. Tom may be of mysterious parentage, but that voice is all Siamese.
Getting Count Scratchula into the carrier later in the afternoon wasn’t quite as easy. It involved 3 adults running around the house after a cat acting as though her hindquarters were being licked by the very flames of perdition. Did I mention the screaming? There was a lot of screaming. And, at one point, mom and I collapsed in a heap on the kitchen floor and laughed until we nearly passed out. Husband didn’t find this terribly helpful, for some reason.
I believe this day will go down in family legend as a spit-drenched fiasco of feline proportions. No video exists of this incident. All witnesses are currently resting comfortably and expected to make a full recovery. After we staunch the bleeding.
*I’m appalled how many of you don’t get that Christmas Vacation reference, so here’s the whole NSFW clip, for your post-holiday enjoyment:
embedded clip: Christmas Vacation
If anyone is looking for me, I’m busy working on my newest performance art piece: a 6 hour PowerPoint presentation titled “The Many Mudras of Michael Fassbender.” (Alternate title: “Jazz Hands, With Michael Fassbender!”)
1. No, I’m not really doing this, I’m just bored standing in line at the post office.
2. Yes, this dude has been in some delightfully awful movies.
3. Yes, I’m fully aware this post isn’t nearly as hilarious as Husband & I think it is.
4. Yes, we’ve really been calling our Michael Fassbender film festival the Fassbender Bender.
4a. Wouldn’t you?
4b. See footnote 2.
5. I may not be doing a performance art piece, but I do plan to blog about some of these under-appreciated gems – Just wait til I blog about the one with the bear!
Instead of spinning the Sam & Dean adventures off to their own Instagram account, I’m going back through and tagging all of the photos in this series #SamAndDeanHalloween.
If you haven’t been following along, the boys have been having all kinds of adventures.
The Hunter boots sight-gag makes me laugh every time. What can I say, I’m easily amused. Now, of course, every time it rains and I put on my boots, Husband is going to ask me if I’m off to save people and hunt things. Yes, yes I am. Duh.
The downside to all of this is that we keep leaving these two life-sized plastic skeletons in random places in the house, which means I keep walking by darkened rooms late at night that I expect to be empty, only to glance in and see mysterious motionless figures sitting in a chair or standing in the corner. So that’s fun.
Concerned that my imagination might quit running away with itself, I’ve been feeding it a steady diet of haunted house type movies during writing breaks. The Conjuring & Conjuring 2, Lights Out, and The Haunting (1963).
Also the new Ghostbusters, which I adore (and not just because I’ve accepted and embraced my former students’ assessments that I am, in fact, Holtzmann, which explains a lot, doesn’t it?)
If you’re looking for a fun read for the Halloween season, Sam & Dean & I Colin Dickey’s brand new book, Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places.
Husband and I were lucky enough to hear Dickey talk about this work in progress last year at Death Salon Mutter in Philadelphia. I’ve been waiting impatiently to finally get to read the book not just because it sounds cool, but because I’ve been working on revisions to an article on the socio-cultural and social justice implications of ghost tourism and historical ghost narratives. (One of the many reasons I’ve been neglecting you, my devoted readers).
Now I’m going to neglect you further so I can go finish reading this book!
In the middle of writing a post about creepy clown sightings I found an excellent article on the subject at Rolling Stone, so I’m going to save some time and post that instead: ‘Killer Clowns’: Inside the Terrifying Hoax Sweeping America.
As campus safety officials in Pennsylvania pointed out in their notice, the “creepy clown” situation is becoming a national phenomena. Unfortunately, the situation is nothing new. In 1981, “sinister” clowns were seen in Boston and neighboring towns throughout New England. The clowns, who harassed small children, were never seen by adults. They would coax children into vans with candy, usually driving alongside children walking down the street or in front of schools. The Phantom Clowns, as they were dubbed by cryptozoologist Loren Coleman given their allusive nature, spread to Kansas City, Denver, Omaha, and Pennsylvania. Since the 1980s, clowns have made appearances across the country, usually in the weeks and months leading up to Halloween.
There is, of course, much more to the article but I’m not going to pull anymore quotes out.
Instead here’s some creepy bonus clown content to send you on your way to Rolling Stone. Or is it bonus creepy clown content? How about creepy bonus creepy clown content? Yes, that last one, definitely that last one, so here it is:
[youtube video: clown scene from Poltergeist (1982)]
You’re welcome, JunglePete!
Youbtube clip at top of post from Supernatural S7 E14, “Plucky Pennywhistle’s Magical Menagerie”.