The Pilot Pirate: “Wonder Woman” and “Ringer”

Welcome back to The Pilot Pirate, where we preview the latest scripts looking for a home on the 2011-12 primetime TV schedule. Each week, we read and preview some of the projects interest to the community, breaking down scripts to help you, the optimistic TV fan anxiously awaiting the next Modern Family or Glee, keep up with the onslaught of pilots in contention.

A reminder: These are early stage scripts that are likely to be revised and, in some cases, drastically change before filming, and only some of which will make it to the airwaves.

This week: Wonder Woman and Sarah Michelle Gellar‘s Ringer

Pilot: Wonder Woman (drama)
Writer: David E. Kelley
Network: NBC
Logline: The series pilot is a reinvention of the iconic DC Comics title in which Wonder Woman — aka Diana Prince — is a vigilante crime fighter in Los Angeles but also a successful corporate executive and a modern woman trying to balance all of the elements of her extraordinary life.
Cast: Adrianne Palicki (Friday Night Lights, Lone Star)
Director: Jeffrey Reiner (The Event, Friday Night Lights)

The characters:
Stay with me here: Adrianne Palicki‘s Wonder Woman has three identities: Diana Prince, the superhero and Diana Themyscira, chairman of Themyscira Industries.
Etta Candy, Diana Themyscira’s personal assistant. Thirtyish, chubby, always cheerful (basically a stereotype)
Steve Trevor, love interest, early 30s
The Animals, Themyscira Industries’ evidence team; headed by Ryan Miller; the Animals break up their day by dancing, sometimes to Kanye’s “Golddigger.”
Veronica Cale, Wonder Woman’s nemesis, mid-40s; beautiful, highly educated, accomplished, runs a successful pharmaceutical company in the country and has deep-seated Wonder Woman envy
Henry Demeter, late 40s, CEO of Themyscira Industries
Myndi Mayer, publicist, press secretary and Wonder Woman’s BFF

The biggest difference in David E. Kelley’s Wonder Woman is the iconic superhero’s three identities. Stay with me here: It’s common knowledge that corporate do-gooder Diana Themyscira and Wonder Woman are one in the same; meanwhile, Diana Prince — here the mousy assistant to Diana Themyscira’s personal secretary Etta Candy — the secret identity of Diana T/Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman’s identity crisis is just the tip of the iceberg in what’s wrong with this script. While original Wonder Woman Lynda Carter has faith in in Kelley — an attorney-turned-writer with hits including Ally McBeal, Boston Legal and this season’s Harry’s Law — the writing here is simply too dated. While the fight scenes are adequate — it’s no Charlie’s Angels — it’s Kelley’s complete failure at writing strong women that ultimately dooms this script.

While Harry’s Law may see Kathy Bates as the ass-kicking attorney that the drama revolves around, Kelley originally wrote the role for a man. His version of Wonder Woman/the Dianas is insecure and inconsistent when it comes to who she really is. The all-powerful Diana T. cries into her pillow in her Penthouse apartment after bumping into a now-married Steve Trevor, the former love of her life, whom she dumped four years prior because “Superheroes need to feel in control, it’s written right in the handbook” not long after testifying — and completely owning — a packed Congress in a heated debate. A mopey Diana Prince drowns her sorrows over drinks with Myndi after failing to understand that women in 2011 can indeed have both a career and a family after driving to work earlier in the day singing Blondie’s “One Way or Another” confidently in the car. Diana T. takes great pride and joy in drawing the line with marketing people over a “fat Wonder Woman” action figure — as well as an overly top heavy version — then complains to Myndi that she just wants to be one of the guys. This reads more like a daytime soap than the iconic 1970s heroine we’ve waited years to see again.

The real kicker here is how corporate Kelley’s Wonder Woman is: she’s a celebrity who is beloved by everyone tourists snap photos of her and the press flock to news conferences — where she takes the podium to Jeffrey McDonald’s “Wonder of You.” She’s on the cover of magazines, has iPod/iPad applications and big-breasted action figures — “Big tits save lives,” she says — Kelley’s “clever” justification for how Wonder Woman can maintain her penchant for collecting airplanes.

I read the script twice — once before Palicki was cast and once after — and Kelley’s complete failure at writing women just leaps off the page. There really is only one writer who should be tasked with writing Wonder Woman and he’s got his hands full with another superhero franchise: The Avengers’ Joss Whedon.

While Kelley does his best to throw in nods to the character’s mythos — the lasso of truth is present and Wonder Woman’s classic costume hangs in the back of her closet — there’s too much “Ally McWonder Woman” here for this script to really be excited about. So far, the only promising part of the project is the casting of Friday Night Lights alum Palicki. With Reiner signed on to direct the pilot, let’s hope the mini-FNL reunion inspires Kelley to bring in more of the team that made the Texas-set football drama such a critical success.

Weekly Pilot outlook: There’s no wonder here.