Wonder Woman (2011)
Wonder Woman is an unaired television pilot produced by Warner Bros. Television and DC Entertainment for NBC, based on the DC Comics character of the same name. David E. Kelley wrote the pilot, which was directed by Jeffrey Reiner. Adrianne Palicki starred as the main character.
The Wonder Woman pilot was expected to debut in 2011, but NBC opted not to purchase the series. Although the pilot never aired on television, a bootleg work-print has circulated over the internet.
In an inner city home, a teenager tells his family that he has been accepted to college moments before he begins convulsing and bleeding from the eyes and ears. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman is in a foot chase with a super-strength criminal on Hollywood Blvd and, after knocking him out, takes a sample of his blood and leaves him to the police. Wonder Woman returns to the headquarters of Themyscira Industries, a large corporation which she runs as the CEO in her alter-ego of Diana Themyscira. Themyscira Industries owns and operates the concept of Wonder Woman as both a privately run crime fighting operation and for marketing the image of Wonder Woman as a role model to the outside world. Diana has trouble balancing her life as both the CEO of the corporation and as Wonder Woman. Diana's frustration with having to maintain a perfect image to the outside world in both these capacities leads her to create a third identity for herself, "Diana Prince," so that she can have an element of normalcy in her life and sit at home with her cat watching romantic comedies and surfing the internet. At Themyscira Industries Diana grows suspicious of evil businesswoman Veronica Cale for distributing an illegal performance-enhancing drug that gives users super-human strength and endurance, but can cause death through repeated use. The blood sample she draws from the Hollywood Blvd fight and the story of the college-bound teen confirm Diana's suspicions. Without enough hard evidence to bring Cale to justice as Wonder Woman, Diana holds a press conference and airs her beliefs about Cale to the world. Cale in turn confronts Diana in person to intimidate her and threaten legal action. In a flashback, Diana ends up breaking it off with her boyfriend Steve Trevor because of her busy life. Back in the present day, the college-bound teenager dies from his drug sickness and Diana is galvanized to confront Cale as Wonder Woman. She arrives at Cale's facilities, defeats all of her super-powered henchmen, and confronts Cale face to face. Cale threatens legal action and releases security footage of Wonder Woman killing the henchmen, but Wonder Woman responds by pulling Cale down with her lasso and throwing her against the wall. Later Cale is put in jail and a Justice Department representative comes to meet Diana. This turns out to be Steve Trevor who says that he will be working with Diana in her capacity as Wonder Woman but also reveals that he has married another woman.
Why This Pilot Wonderfully Sucks
- Wonder Woman behaves absolutely nothing like her comic counterpart, and is shown as a very hateable, cold-hearted, selfish, cruel, borderline villain protagonist who assaults, bullies, and tortures people in public (enough to make the Flashpoint and Injustice versions of the character look like complete saints who would even be completely disgusted by this Wonder Woman's actions by comparison). She even goes so far as to murder a security guard who was just doing his job in the climax. And she isn't even called out, let alone punished, for any of this!
- The episode openly endorses torture as an effective means of gaining information and depicts anyone opposed to it as just a whiny liberal. Even 24, a show famed for its endorsement of torture, treated it with much more nuance than this pilot did.
- Speaking of 24, a scene where Diana debates the ethics of her methods with a senator is ripped off from a subplot in 24, where Jack Bauer and his methods were being investigated by the senate. And again, 24 at least treated both Jack and the senator as having valid arguments, while this pilot treats Wonder Woman as being completely in the right.
- Poor casting and acting throughout, with Adrianne Palicki as Wonder Woman/Diana being the worst.
- It is a clear attempt to ride the success of the then-recent Iron Man movies, with Wonder Woman being publicly known as the alter-ego of an industrialist named Diana Themyscira. However, she still has the secret identity of Diana Prince, for no clearly explained reason.
- Little to no backstory for who Wonder Woman and Diana are, which will leave viewers unfamiliar with the character confused.
- Wonder Woman still has the Lasso of Truth (which forces anyone who touches it, to tell the truth) in this pilot, and yet still tortures people for information, at one point breaking a guy's arm.
- For some reason Wonder Woman spends most of the film in plastic-looking blue pants, then abruptly switches to her more familiar outfit near the end.
- And speaking of her costume, she wears bikini bottoms in the original comic books, some blue sweatpants in the 2015 DC Super Hero Girls webseries including its direct-to-video films and its Lego versions, and a skirt in modern DC Comics projects.
- Early on there's an off-handed reference to the Abu Ghraib scandal that, at best, is an unfunny and insensitive joke, and at worst, is actually applauding the torture and prisoner abuse that took place in the scandal.
- Too many boring scenes with people discussing corporate politics and the legalities of Wonder Woman's operation.
- The bad guys (or at least Veronica Cale's henchmen) come across as more sympathetic than the supposed heroine does.
- While Veronica Cale herself is at least reasonably like her comic counterpart, her motives are so poorly established that they have to tack on a scene after she's already been defeated to show she was carrying out human trafficking.
- Before she gets taken out, Cale angrily rants that Wonder Woman is guilty of trespassing, property damage, assault, bullying, even murder, and every word she says is correct. Despite this, Wonder Woman gets off any charges because her ex-boyfriend, who works for the FBI, covers up the whole thing.
- The action scenes are horrible.
- The network was so disgusted by the pilot's poor quality that they refused to pay for post-production, leaving unfinished effects and visible wire work throughout the work-print.
- The theme song is pretty catchy and it's a throwback to the 1975 Wonder Woman theme song.
- Her next live-action literation from her 2017 film thankfully avoided every problems.
After watching the pilot, television critic Alan Sepinwall described it as "embarrassing... It was all I had feared, and more". Writing about the show for Flickering Myth in 2017, Neil Calloway said "it has its moments... But it was probably dated in 2011... We didn’t lose anything by it not being commissioned into a series."
The pilot received negative reviews from critics and fans of the character alike, who criticized the flanderization of Wonder Woman and having her portrayed as a cold-hearted selfish anti-hero who assaults, bullys, and tortures people in public. The poor quality of the TV pilot and Adrianne Palicki's role as Wonder Woman was also criticized. Even Lynda Carter, the original Wonder Woman, was disappointed over the failure of the TV pilot. NBC was so disgusted by the pilot's poor quality that they refused to pay for post-production, leaving unfinished effects and visible wire work throughout the work-print, which resulted in the TV pilot being unreleased and the series canceled.
The TV pilot has a 4.5/10 rating on IMDb.