Friday, September 02, 2011

Wonder Woman

It looks like we're going to wait until Netflix gets Deep Space Nine in October to keep going on Star Trek. So right now we're kicking back with all three seasons of Wonder Woman, a show Becca loved growing up but which I've always been more or less ambivalent on, besides the obvious eye candy. But what the heck, here are my thoughts on the episodes of the first season.

1. The New Original Wonder Woman (my rating: 4 out of 5)
Oh, the NEW original... I guess Cathy Lee Crosby was the old original (never did see that first pilot, actually). Quite a good pilot, setting the characters and the premise, as well as a certain kind of tone that's funny without being incredibly stupid. They're going for the same kind of comic strip tinges that the 1966 Batman series went for, but they're giving it a sort of modern feminist edge even as it's set in 1942. It's really interesting. The special effects walk a fine line between serviceable and crazy (one shot of Wondy flying in her invisible plane is clearly and unapologetically a doll inside of a plastic plane model). I like Cloris Leachman as the Queen of the Amazons; Kenneth Mars and Henry Gibson make almost hilariously fey Nazis. I could live without Stella Stevens and John Randolph and their overly-comic turns, but how about Red Buttons as a promotion man/Nazi agent? Awesome.

2. Wonder Woman Meets the Baroness Von Gunther (3/5)
Can I just say how glad I am that they recast General Blankenship? John Randolph was very silly; with Richard Eastham it tones down some of the humor and gives any comic relief to Beatrice Colen as Etta Candy, who makes a far less insulting colleague for Diana Prince than the Etta of the comic books. And speaking of the comic book, I'm impressed that this episode is actually based on a story from the comic books. Christine Belford is good enough as Baroness Paula Von Gunther that I'm sorry she didn't ever come back. And whomever is doing the climbing stunts for Lynda Carter is very good.

3. Fausta, the Nazi Wonder Woman (3/5)
Wondy meets the only other villain from the comic book to ever appear on the show. Linda Day George is a decent Fausta; again, I'm sorry they didn't bring her back. Maybe if the second season had been set in the 40s also. There are some direct statements about feminism in this episode that I really appreciated; the show manages to mix these messages in without moralizing, weaving them organically into the plot so that episodes like these are about gender expectations instead of just tacking on.

4. Beauty on Parade (4/5)
The inevitable beauty pageant episode, but not as silly as I expected. Interestingly, this episode was written by Ron Friedman, who wrote most of the best episodes of G.I. Joe. Dick Van Patten is pretty irritating in this one, but mostly it's the character. Mostly. Lots more words about how women are shunted aside after a certain age, which gives this episode some gravity. One of the actresses, Christa Helm, was savagely murdered months later in a crime that's still unsolved.

5. The Feminum Mystique, Part 1 (4/5)
I'm already starting to get sick of secret Nazi agents around every corner. I haven't said much about Lyle Waggoner as Steve Trevor. I'm not a huge fan of the character; he's a casual sexist (making a point, though) and not much of a hero. It's like he has zero peripheral vision; he practically wears horse blinders. Until we see him nearly test piloting a plane, I forgot he was even a pilot. What Waggoner does well, though, is play someone believably naive. I can see where he wouldn't even expect Diana Prince to be capable of the things Wonder Woman does. He's captivated by one, but barely notices the other. It's the same thing Margot Kidder does as Lois Lane. Waggoner also does the "Golly" wholesome 40s stereotype thing really well. I dig this episode (co-written by the late Jimmy Sangster), which features a return to Paradise Island (Carolyn Jones playing the Queen this time) and the first appearance of Wonder Woman's sister, Drusilla (played by a wonderfully bouncy teenage Debra Winger). John Saxon as a Nazi is unintentionally hilarious. All of these accents...

6. The Feminum Mystique, Part 2 (4/5)
Feminum, by the way, is what Wonder Woman's bulletproof bracelets are made of. The second part caps the story off nicely, with the Nazis taking over Paradise Island and, of course, losing their hold over it. I think some of the quieter scenes, such as John Saxon trying to justify the Nazi "living space" missive to the Queen, work nicely. Good stuff. The writers and producers really are taking this show seriously instead of making it a joke.

7. Wonder Woman vs. Gargantua (3/5)
The ape Gargantua is trained to kill Wondy, but he always looks like he's seconds away from forcibly taking away her virginity. The ape makeup is kind of neat, though, since it's obviously from the same template as John Chambers' Planet of the Apes makeup. Wondy's relationship with Gargantua is kind of neat; she's pained to see an animal used as a weapon. Robert Loggia makes a better Nazi than John Saxon. (Good connections: actor Mickey Morton, playing Gargantua, was on the Star Trek episode "The Gamesters of Triskelion" and played Chewbacca's wife in the execrable Star Wars Holiday Special.)

8. The Pluto File (2/5)
I love old TV sometimes... in this episode, Dr. Bellows catches the bubonic plague from Mike Brady. Hayden Rorke plays a scientist who is trying to create earthquakes, and Robert Reed plays an Irish terrorist trying to steal his discovery for the Nazis. Not particularly remarkable, but not a terrible episode.

9. Last of the $2 Bills (4/5)
Good stuff, and the Washington, DC, street set gets put to good use here. This is one of the few episodes this season that really feels like it takes place in 1942 instead of 1976. Tense, and Wotan (James Olsen) is a good villain; I was a little disappointed he didn't turn out to actually be the god Wotan, since he gave Wondy such a run for her money in the earlier scenes. Believable Nazi plot, too, using counterfeit money to destroy the American economy. Great stuff.

10. Judgment from Outer Space, Part 1 (4/5)
11. Judgment from Outer Space, Part 2 (4/5)
Basically The Day the Earth Stood Still with less good special effects. Tim O'Connor is neat as the alien Andros, sent from a space council to judge the human race; he's practically wearing the same costume that he would wear as Dr. Huer on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Doing it in two parts gives the story room to breathe, and some arguments on both sides about the good and bad of humanity. The council could have just waited when it comes to the human race traveling in space, though; fifty years later, our government would just derail the whole thing, anyway.

12. Formula 407 (1/5)
From Nazi Americans who sound like they have bad French accents to an Argentina where no one has an accent at all. The show is so close to over, it feels like no one's trying anymore. They don't even hide the stunt doubles well at this point, and stunt footage is being reused. It's too bad, because some of the humor on this show can be surprisingly sophisticated.

13. The Bushwackers (3/5)
The Nazis rustling cattle in Texas is just an excuse to jam Roy Rogers into this show. He's sincere and he makes a lot of points about children who need to be adopted--weaving his charitable concerns into the episode--but the kids are all stereotypes, and particularly annoying ones. Lynda Carter also seems very sincere in this one, despite a lot of the things I've heard about her over the years. Roy insisted she not wear the revealing costume, so Wondy has a light sweater and pants here.

14. Wonder Woman in Hollywood (4/5)
Another fun episode written by Jimmy Sangster, and featuring the second and (alas) final appearance of Debra Winger as Wonder Girl. Robert Hays puts in a good turn as a cowardly war hero, with Harris Yulin as this week's Nazi spy. I like the sincerity of Wonder Girl; Debra Winger is so good I wish she'd gotten her own spin-off. Glad to see this season ending on a strong note.

Overall, it's a fun season of TV. It ain't poetry, but the characters are approached with emotional sincerity and even when the show cheaps out here and there, it has something to say. I think it especially succeeds in the character of Wonder Woman herself. Lynda Carter is fantastic in the role, very optimistic and genuine in a way that's not necessarily naive or guileless, but just kind of wholesome. I like my Wonder Woman this way; she believes in the best humanity can achieve, but she's not stupid. She's very feminine, very feminist, but not a mouthpiece for preachy messages. She's a woman, and a wonder. It's something Hollywood just can't balance nowadays, for reasons that completely escape me--it's seen in Hollywood as a problem that can't be solved, how to make someone an action hero and a woman at the same time. Pathetic.

Whatever happens in the second season, as the show transitions from the 1940s to the 1970s in its setting, this first season is a good one.

Next Week: Useless List Coming

I forgot I was going to do a list of the 100 best movies of the first decade of the new century. (Not when everyone did it in 2010, but after the decade was actually over, as in this house we count decimal units correctly from 1 to 10, not from 0 to 9, thus making a decade 2001 to 2010.)

Anyway, I don't feel particularly qualified or willing to do a pretentious "best" list, so I'm going to do another of my subjective favorites lists. The 100 movies I personally liked the most from 2001 to 2010. 20 a day, Monday through Friday, with thin justifications for why I like each, or something.

That's next week. Something to skip, maybe.

Thursday, September 01, 2011


You need to watch this.

Touched from colin giles on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Laurie McAllister 1958-2011

It's with sadness that I've learned that Laurie McAllister, the final bassist of the Runaways, has passed away. There's not much in the news about this, but from what I keep reading, her untimely death was due to asthma-related health issues.

Laurie was the final bass player for the Runaways, replacing Vicki Blue in November 1978 and playing the final live concerts, including their final show, on New Year's Eve of that year. She also appears in some of the promo material for the group's final album, And Now... the Runaways, despite not actually playing on the record. The Runaways broke up in January 1979.

Laurie went on to play bass in another Kim Fowley band, the Orchids. They released one album in 1980.

Laurie McAllister is a part of one of my favorite rock legacies of all time; the greatest all-girl band that ever recorded and one of the best rock bands of all time, full stop. I wish her loved ones well in this difficult time.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Just Go Home, Elise

Yip yip yip yippy yap yap yap I'm a leader, bitch.

The only reason Elise made it to the final 5 over other, more talented cooks (I'm thinking specifically of Jamie) is that the producers of Hell's Kitchen are subscribing to the bullshit Prevailing Wisdom that every reality shows needs an antagonist; a Puck or an Omarosa. I don't know who finds that fun to watch, but I'm sure not one of those people.

Elise is awful, and she's a shitty cook, and the fact that she's still on just because she's the court jester makes everything else that happens on this show completely inconsequential.

Kristen Bell Mondays

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I think this is the end of the line. After 129 weeks, I've decided to retire Kristen Bell Mondays. It's been a fun ride, Miss Bell, but I think now it's time to say goodbye to one of my longer-running features. Her loveliness continues on all over the internet.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Song of the Week: "I Do the Rock"

Tim Curry, attempting to butch it up on Musik Laden in 1979. I never heard this song until about 11 or 12 years ago when I checked out Rhino's entire set of New Wave music from the 1980s from the library. I made five tapes of 80s music for my car, and this was on the first one. I fell in love with its cheesiness right off the bat. I think it took Becca about 78 listens to really have any affection for it, though.