What Can Wonder Woman's TV Failure Tell Us?

So, what to make of the fact that no-one wants to buy DC Entertainment's Wonder Woman TV pilot? Was it really that bad, or do television networks just not believe that audiences are ready to believe a woman could fly in an invisible jet anymore?

There's a lot to unpack in this story, and not all of it has to do with DC, Wonder Woman or David E. Kelley. For one thing, ABC's passing on the project definitely looked as if it had political overtones, considering the network's corporate relations with Marvel Entertainment - and the fact that it's already got Hulk and Alias adaptations in the works - but there's something about ABC president Paul Lee's "We'd love to make a Marvel franchise work on our network" from this interview that suggests that, as much as anything, it might've been uncertainty about superheroes working on ABC in general that was behind the decision to say no to Wonder Woman.

(Also in that interview, Lee says "[Hulk and Alias] won't be the only two [Marvel] properties that we do, either." Is this referring to the rumored Cloak and Dagger series said to be in development, or yet more Marvel television? If it's the latter, the question might have to be asked: How many superhero shows can one network support?)

NBC's non-answer - Essentially, "We're not in a position to buy right now, we don't have our new president of programming yet" - is equally useless in saying anything about the pilot script being shopped around town, and so it falls to the remaining networks to leave clues about what we won't be seeing on a screen near us anytime soon.

According to the original Deadline report, the script "was never considered a fit for Fox" by Warner Bros, which could either be a good thing - No American Idol pre-emptions! No being cancelled midway through the first season because "the ratings weren't there"! - or a bad one; say what you like, but Fox's programming slate runs very nerd-friendly in terms of what gets commissioned (Even allowing for the recent deaths of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Dollhouse, the network still has Human Target and the regularly nerd-friendly Bones), not to mention smart and snarky (Lie To Me? House?), and willing to take chances (The Good Guys, Glee). Meanwhile, CBS was torn, with the script finding its advocates, which seems surprising considering the traditionally conservative streak behind that network's primetime drama (If it's not a CSI, it's an NCIS - or, at least, some kind of crime procedural). Does this mean we can read into things that Kelley's Wonder Woman would've gone for a more mainstream television approach, with episode-long cases - very syndication/occasional-viewer-friendly - emphasized over multi-episode arcs? Perhaps.

However the show would've been formatted, it's likely to have been epic. After all, the CW had to pass on the pilot because it was too expensive, which suggests that it was at least as ambitious as an episode of Smallville or Supernatural - which, admittedly, may not be saying much. But where would the money have gone? This is almost entirely conjecture, but going on Kelley's past efforts, I'm going to suggest that it wasn't on massive effects-heavy action scenes, but instead to Paradise Island... After all, Kelley likes his character interaction, and if you can't have drama from an island full of warrior women dealing with the daughter of their Queen who was made out of clay, you might as well leave the television business.

And again, what to make of the CW outright wanting the show, if only they could afford it? It's a confusing one - Smallville and the potential Raven series suggest that the CW would happily make any DC-related TV show, after all (I'm looking at you guys to pick up Human Target if Fox drops it, CW. Just pair it with Nikita. Trust me on this), in part, I'm sure, due to Warner Bros part-owning the network. But would Wonder Woman have continued the CW's Nikita aim of skewing towards the 18-34 demographic for both men and women, or gone for the younger Smallville, Gossip Girl crowd?

All of this speculation may be for naught, of course; no network picked up the pilot on this go-around, after all. But Wonder Woman is such a high profile character for DC - and this project in particular high-profile enough in the industry - that I can't help but feel DC Entertainment and Warners will keep at it until someone, somewhere is willing to make it happen. Fingers crossed that happens sooner rather than later.

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