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Monday, January 23, 2012

Post Mortem of David E. Kelly’s Wonder Woman

How does an Emmy winning writer completely ruin one of the most iconic superheroes? Simply by being himself.

When it was first announced I wrote about my concerns for David E. Kelly bring Wonder Woman to the small screen. When the network yanked the plug after viewing the pilot episode I didn’t know what to make of it. Without seeing the episode I couldn’t tell if Kelly had knocked it out of the park and the network suits had simply turned their backs on the unfamiliar or if he’d stunk up the joint and the execs were showing a rare moment of competency. Well a short time ago I finally saw a large chunk of the pilot via the popular That Guy with the Glasses website.

Wow. Worse than I thought. Here’s the video below.

Granted this isn’t the whole pilot but I could barely get through this video. When you can’t even watch something when it’s getting the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment you know it’s bad.

One thing that stands out to me is the point I made originally; that David E. Kelly is the LAST person who should be put in charge of a comic book adaptation. I had a lot of people tell me that great writing is great writing and that genre doesn’t matter.

Oh but it does. It really does.

Especially when a writer has made a career in a genre that is incompatible with another. I know that sounds crazy in this age of constant mashups but there are some genres that don’t play nice with each other at all. Legal dramas are not necessarily more realistic, most of Kelly’s legal dramas contain more fantasy than Lord of the Rings. But legal dramas are based on the notion that the legal system is vitally important if not the final word on any given argument. Superhero comic books are based on the idea that the law is something you can set aside. Much like physics in Star Wars, the actually law gets in the way of enjoying a good comic book.

So what does Kelly do? He can’t stop being himself. Instead of high flying adventure the only thing he can see are all the civil liberties being violated. And he makes the crucial mistake of thinking that’s what comic fans really want to see. Comic book fans aren’t for civil liberties anymore than they are for guys killing themselves trying to swing from rooftop to rooftop like Spiderman. As a result he turns in a show that is openly hostile to the idea of civil liberties and in the process shows off his own contempt for the genre he’s writing in.

Now there are writers out there who can pull this off. Who can move from one ethos to a completely different one. But those individuals are truly rare. And David E. Kelly for all his accomplishments clearly isn’t one of them.

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