It had a great, promotable brand, top female superhero, Wonder Woman, experienced TV creator behind it, David E. Kelley, and an appealing star, Adrianne Palicki. So why didn’t the Wonder Woman pilot go to series? We’ll probably need Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth to find out what NBC’s executives really thought of the pilot and why exactly they decided not to go with it, but here are some potential reasons.
Despite some negative early speculation, the pilot was not a disaster as some suggested. People who have seen it describe it as “ambitious” and “well crafted”. But its screenings and testing were very mixed. “The audience couldn’t buy into the modernization,” one insider said. There were early signs of resistance against updating the classic franchise and the character when fans slammed the superhero’s new, contemporary costume. “It was a conceptual thing,” another insider said. “Do we need a comic book hero?” While superheroes they have done gangbusters on the big screen, there haven’t been successful recent comic book-based TV series except for the teen angst-filled Smallville, which was not a straight adaptation of the Superman comics but rather an original prequel. Maybe that’s why there was ambivalence in the marketplace when Kelley’s Wonder Woman spec was first taken out in early January. There were no takers until Bob Greenblatt started at NBC and picked it up to pilot, along with another Warner Bros. TV drama, Michael Patrick King’s A Mann’s World, while passing on two high-profile WBTV projects set up at NBC by the previous regime, the J.J. Abrams-produced Odd Jobs starring Michael Emerson and Terry O’Quinn and Josh Schwartz’s Ghost Angeles with Rachel Bilson.
The question is whether the demise of Wonder Woman will give ABC a pause in their push to get on the air a superhero series from corporate sibling Marvel. The network has two high-profile comic-book shows in the works: Hulk with Guillermo del Toro and David Eick and AKA Jessica Jones with Melissa Rosenberg.
One things is for sure: With Smallville ending its 10-season run, Fox canceling Human Target and NBC passing on Wonder Woman, there will be no comic book-based series on broadcast TV for the first time in a decade.