8/20/13

Wonder Woman - S1E1


So, I'm still severely butthurt by the loss in advertising for Retrospace; but your generous donations have kept the lights on at Retrospace Headquarters a while longer.  So, let's move on from all this sad topic and re-enter Retro Space, shall we?

I considered making this Wonder Woman post just another edition of the Boob Tube posts, but then I reflected on how incredibly awesome the series was.  It deserves its own category. Who knows, maybe we can cover every episode? I mean, Wonder Woman fits like a glove into the Retrospace universe: it's campy fun and fertile ground for interesting connections and facts.  Plus, there's Linda Carter.

So, let's start out with Episode One of the first season: "Wonder Woman Meets Baroness Von Gunther" (1976). It's directed by Barry Crane, world champion bridge player and murder victim (still unsolved).




War Department, Washington DC, 1942.  General Phil Blankenship walks into Diana Prince's embarrassingly tiny office and expresses his concern that Steve Trevor is in mortal danger.  Worse still, it seems Baroness Paula Von Gunther is behind it all!

The Baroness was a character directly pulled from the comics - Wonder Woman's first recurring villain.  She was a Nazi spy and scientist, who (it was later revealed) was only doing it because her kid was held hostage by those Nazi scum.  She eventually would go to Wonder Woman's homeland and become one of the Amazons.  But that's neither here nor there.


With barely enough room to twirl around in, Yeoman Prince transforms into the super-heroine, Wonder Woman (WW).  My first question is whether WW has the power to create and destroy matter, because otherwise how is it possible to change outfits by spinning around?

Second question: Did she just forget to close the shades?  The fellow in the adjoining office got an interesting show.


Perched behind a bush, WW watches Steve organize a secret mission, which goes inexplicably awry. With her lasso, she pulls him to safety as an army truck bursts into flames. This will be the first of literally billions of times that WW saves Steve's lily white ass.

But what the hell's going on? Who rigged the truck? Who stocked it full of explosives? ...Listen all of y'all it's a sabotage! I can't stand it I know you planned it. I'm gonna set it straight, this Watergate.


So, Steve is blamed for the botched mission and accused of being in cahoots with the Nazis.  In an effort to clear his name, Steve meets with a mysterious "Deep Throat" who says he has evidence that can clear his name.

But, guess what? Things go inexplicably awry. Stevie is knocked unconscious, left to burn in a flaming barn holding very incriminating documents.  Predictably, WW arrives to save Steve's ass for the second time this episode..


Well it's obvious that Baroness bitch is behind all this, so Steve and Diana head to a prison where she resides. In a beautifully memorable scene, the Baroness slams Diana saying, "She seems so plain and uninteresting. Her coloring is rather like wet Bisquick, and I'm sure she's blind as a bat without those glasses."  Wet Bisquick?  I love it!

The Baroness is played by Christine Belford who from 1960 to 1965 (age 11 to 16) lived in the original Amityville Horror house!


While Steve plays Clarice Starling with the Baroness, WW notices a young lad about to plummet to his death scaling the prison walls and promptly rescues him..... and leaves her magic lasso in his care (!)

Tommy, the warden's son, is played by Christian Juttner, who evidently only played characters whose name ends in "y":
Leroy - Return of the Big Cat
Joey - Ironside
Eddie - Ironside
Billy - SWAT
Benjy - The Boy Who Talked to Badgers
Teddy - The Six Million Dollar Man
Tommy - Wonder Woman
Timmy - The Million Dollar Dixie Deliverance
Billy - Alice
Dazzler (?) - Return to Witch Mountain


That evening, The Baroness meets with a Nazi prick named Arthur Deal III.  His intonations are almost exactly like Dr. Evil (Austin Powers) complete with diabolical punch lines. Together these two hatch a plan to dishonor and kill Steve before he gets to close to the truth.


The Baroness, a cold blooded bitch, tricks little Tommy into disclosing where he's hiding the magic lasso.  It's interesting how Tommy just roams free among the prisoners and even more interesting how the Baroness wears formal dresses and jewelry, while the rest of the prisons are in standard prison smocks.  Best not to wonder too much.


Arthur Deal III just happens to be on the Congressional Committee to determine Steve's guilt or innocence.  Paying him a visit to clear his name, Steve falls right into his trap.

Steve Trevor is obviously the male equivalent of Lois Lane - continually falling back assward into certain death, only to be rescued by a guardian angel with super powers.


Bradford Dillman made a living for fifty years playing douche bags.  Here, he has the chance to finally play almost a parody of his entire career - an exaggerated version of a lifetime of shady characters.

Above, he makes Steve sign a confession of guilt.  It's high time for WW to pop in and save his ass...


In an effort locate her precious Steve, WW demonstrates her most bizarre super power - the ability to perfectly mimic another's voice.  Using a voice exactly like General Blankenship, she is able to get the license plate number (supplied by Tommy) tracked to Arthur Deal's house.


On cue, WW appears but is immediately taken to the floor by 'knock out gas'.  Get used to this folks.  The only thing as common as Steve getting rescued is WW getting knocked out.  Both would make excellent drinking games.


"With the strength of Hercules, the wisdom of Athena, the speed of Mercury and the beauty of Aphrodite, she's Wonder Woman"..... and she's constantly getting knocked out and tied up.  There was definitely some semi-perverted undercurrents on WW. This issue is brought up in an IMDb FAQ:

Why is she always being tied up/knocked out/brainwashed/ depowered/ enslaved/ transformed into a living statue/ etc? 
This stems directly from the comic books. Wonder Woman's creator William Marston was a PhD in psychology and obsessed with beautiful, powerful women and sexual fetishes such as bondage/domination/submission/S&M. Whilst he created perhaps the ultimate fictional feminist icon he also delighted in titillating his readership/TV audience by dressing her like a super-patriotic dominatrix and having her constantly overpowered and placed in positions of submissiveness, peril and humiliation. Comic book fans refer to this as 'Having your cheesecake and eating it', enjoying a strong female role model who we know will always win in the end but at the same time delighting in her shameless exploitation as sex object. Marston is also credited helping to invent the lie detector and this is where Wonder Woman's 'Lasso of Justice' stems from, forcing people to tell the truth whilst also including an element of bondage.


Baroness: "These chains are another brilliant German accomplishment. The metal is tempered with a special process. It's unbreakable. Even by elephants."
So, WW, Steve, and Tommy are in elephant-proof chains, The Baroness has the magic lasso, and Arthur Deal has convinced the world that Steve is a Nazi traitor..... and there's literally only five minutes left of the show!  How in the hell are they going to get out of this one?


Meanwhile in a completely irrelevant scene, the prison warden discovers Tommy's journal which describes all kinds of incriminating shit for the Baroness. As the warden conducts a manhunt for his son, what follows is some of the clumsiest acting I have ever seen on network television.  I know that I'm prone to hyperbole, but this has to be seen to be believed.

BTW the warden is played by Ed Gilbert, the voice of Baloo in The Jungle Book.


WW and Steve manage to break loose, and what follows is a good old fashioned beat down.  WW rolls in the grass with The Baroness in a hyper-erotic catfight, while Steve takes care of Dr. Evil.  Tommy sits in his elephant proof chains looking hopeless..


In the end, it's all cool.  One fight scene was all it took to completely turn things around.  And Steve's hair isn't even out of place.

Thus ends our stroll through the first episode (note: I'm not counting the 90 minute pilot).  Do you think we can make it through all three seasons?  I'm willing to give it a shot.

END NOTES

This scene pretty much encapsulates all three seasons: Steve in jeopardy, and WW coming to his rescue only to get knocked out.  It's a formula that works!

FAVORITE QUOTE:
Diana: "No, it's too dangerous. It could be a trap, or an ambush. Either way it's dangerous."
Steve: "War is dangerous, Diana."

STEVE RESCUE COUNT = 3
WW KO COUNT = 1

HEAD SCRATCHERS:
  1. WW being able to use the voice of General Blankenship
  2. Tommy allowed to roam freely in a maximum security prison
  3. WW entrusting her lasso to a minor
  4. .... and as always, how Steve doesn't recognize that WW is Diana.  It's the Clark Kent trope where a pair of spectacles acts as a perfect disguise.  Did Lois Lane and Steve Trevor need glasses themselves?

Buy Wonder Woman stuff and support your humble host. (Get used to this, folks)





18 comments:

  1. On a related note, Lynda Carter was just on the Today Show. She's 62 years old (37 years after this episode aired!) and looks like she's in her thirties. The video is on the Today Show site - http://www.today.com/klgandhoda/sensational-60-weve-refused-grow-6C10936326

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  2. What decade is this show supposed to be set?

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    1. The first season (on ABC) was set during World War II. The second and third season (on CBS) were set 30 years later in (what was then) modern times of the mid-70s.

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    2. And when the show hits the seventies in two and three, the camp factor goes up exponentially. Get ready for WW on a skateboard.

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  3. Love it! Looking forward to many more. My wife and I started watching this series, but let it drop off somewhere toward the end of season one. We need to pick it up again.

    Two small corrections for future researchers using this treasure trove of history, sociology, and commentary: Lynda not Linda, and Phil Harris was the voice of Baloo the Bear in The Jungle Book. I think you are talking about some later incarnation.

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    1. You're right. Phil was supposed to be the voice of Baloo, but it didn't work out (according to IMDb).

      Yes, I'm sure I'll be using Linda and Lynda interchangeably as these posts wear on. It's not correct, but it's an unfortunate certainty, until I decide to proofread my own posts.... which isn't likely.

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    2. I think you need to look again. We are talking about the 1967 Jungle Book? http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061852/

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    3. A Ha! It looks like you are talking about a show called "TaleSpin" which had Baloo.

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  4. If the chains were so strong, how did they open a link to tie WW up in the first place? Not that I'm complaining about WW in chains mind you... yowsa! Linda Carter is/was a real woman.

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  5. I seem to remember that one of Wonder Woman's power limitations was that if she was bound, she was helpless. I think was a Golden Age comic book thing that's been mostly forgotten or ignored.

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  6. Great idea, love to venture through the series this way! I wish one of the retro channels (MEtv or Cozi or even TV Land) would start airing this show again.

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  7. I loved this show when I was a kid! Sure it was campy but it was a hell of a lot of fun!

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  8. The show is certainly fun in its dorky campiness, but I was never a fan of Lynda Carter. Her round face reminds me of Miss Piggy and her hips are just too fat looking in her Wonder Woman costume.

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  9. Oh, for shame... you post about the Wonder Woman TV show without the incredible theme song? http://youtu.be/M_blOQEu9ws

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  10. Christine Belford ruined the 2nd season of Banacek.

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    1. She WAS an odd choice for the love interest, however you must remember that she was also in the pilot episode for Banacek. She was suppose to be his corporate foil, but that did not work out.

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  11. Christine Belford's part not withstanding, Banacek was one of the best acted,filmed and scripted TV shows of all time. Still hard to believe that George Peppard would exit that show over "artistic" differences and yet show up on The A-Team at the beginning of the next decade.

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  12. Yeah, they took quite a few liberties with those male hairstyles. Not exactly screaming WWII.

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