The Writers' Room

The Writers' Room
Why David E. Kelley's Wonder Woman Must Succeed

Elizabeth Grunewald | 11 Nov 2010 18:30
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David E. Kelley has a very particular approach to his craft. Much like Aaron Sorkin or Joss Whedon, his work is almost instantly identifiable. Deeply layered storylines, singularly talented ensemble casting, controversial topics, and a tone that can't seem to make up its mind? You're likely watching L.A. Law, The Practice, Ally McBeal, or Boston Legal (my personal favorite; I just can't get enough James Spader in my life). His characters have definitive quirks, and he sure does enjoy shuffling them from one of his shows to another. I do so love those extended universes... it's safe to say that I am a general fan of David E. Kelley's work. That having been said, I'm filled with trepidation as regards his next venture. In October of this year, Kelley announced that he was writing a television treatment for Wonder Woman, to be pitched to the big networks. NBC has picked it up, and the show is tentatively slated to run in 2011. This could end one of two ways, but we can't leave this up to chance: David E. Kelley's Wonder Woman show has to be good. (I'm worried that it won't be.)

I'm sure that Kelley wants it to be good-no one wants to fail, particularly fail expensively on network television-but I have some serious concerns. Casting is going to be key. No, I'm underplaying it: casting is going to be crucial. Kelley needs to find an actress (perhaps an unknown, or at least a lesser-known) that can both redefine Wonder Woman for the generation that grew up on Lynda Carter, and introduce Diana Prince to a new generation of impressionable minds. I would love to see Gina Torres (who, I now discover, is actually voicing the character in DC Universe Online; looks like my instincts are good) in the role; I think she can project the vital blend of strength, femininity, approachability, and compassion. The afore-mentioned tone is also a big one. Kelley's shows walk a fine line in regards to humor and comedy, and while I know there have got to be comedic situations in Diana's life, they will have to be handled with care. Why? There has been a serious lack of consistency in the writing of Diana over the years, and this has caused the lack of public understanding, which itself is inspired by lack of exposure. (It's a complicated web.)

For example, if I asked the average Joe or Josephine about Batman, they would likely be able to get out that his parents were dead, he was really rich, and he lived in Gotham city. To be fair, a lot of people would tell me that he could fly, but we'll forgive that for the purposes of this argument. If I did the same with Superman? People would know that he's an alien, he can't handle his kryptonite, and he's got a bunch of powers, many of which they would likely know. If I asked people what they knew about Wonder Woman, I would get descriptions of her costume, maybe something about a lasso, perhaps a mention of an invisible jet. None of her history, her beliefs, her personality: people know about Wonder Woman's clothing and accessories.

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