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Newcomers' Guide to Old TV: 'Wonder Woman' in 5 essential episodes

Love the new movie? Here's where to start with the 1970s classic.

Many of us have seen the television show Wonder Woman, but there are many more out there who have not. Fortunately, there is plenty of time to catch up on the classic on MeTV. But where to start? There are dozens of episodes. We selected five essential episodes that capture the essence of the series, that can make any newcomer an immediate fan.


Who knew that "Themyscira" would become one of the buzzwords of 2017? Warner Brothers' Wonder Woman movie has lassoed up nearly half a billion dollars at the box office. Expect many mini Diana Princes to show up at your doorstep this Halloween. The 75-year-old character has not seen such popularity since the late 1970s, when Lynda Carter perfectly embodied the superhero for three seasons on Wonder Woman.

So much of what we now commonly associate with the character, from her iconic costume to her hair and physique, was born from this 1975–79 show. Riding the trends of the time, in the late 1960s, DC had altered the character to be something closer to James Bond in the pages of her comic book. She wore a white jumpsuit and studied martial arts under a mentor named I Ching.

Likewise, when ABC first tried to bring the character to the small screen in 1974, Wonder Woman was more of a superspy, sporting an athletic jumpsuit, as worn by Cathy Lee Crosby. A year later, the network went back to the drawing board — and the WWII origins of the character — recasting the role with Lynda Carter, setting her three decades in the past, and supplying a steady supply of Nazis villains for punching. 

After its first season on ABC, the show jumped to CBS, and leapt into the modern era, as Wonder Woman now fought crime in the 1970s. Thus, in three seasons, Wonder Woman offered two rather different takes on the character. Though, people today mostly think of the groovy contemporary version, thanks to all those flared pants, feathered bangs and disco grooves.

So, if you caught the new blockbuster movie and want to get deeping into this classic take, where do you start? Here are five episodes that will give you a great taste.

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1

"The New Original Wonder Woman"

Pilot

Naturally, we have to begin with the origin story. For the most part, the plot of this TV movie pilot lines up with what fans have seen in the comic pages and in the feature film. After a dogfight with a Nazi plane, Air Force pilot Steve Trevor crashes on uncharted Paradise Island in the Bermuda Triangle. There, he discovers an all-female civilization from Greek myth. Against the wishes of her mother (a glorious Cloris Leachman), Diana Prince accompanies the soldier back to the real world to fight the Germans. Unlike the recent movie, however, this gem shows off her awesome invisible plane. Always the feminist, Wonder Woman offers up inspiring lines like, “Any civilization that does not recognize the female ... is doomed to destruction. Women are the wave of the future, and sisterhood is stronger than anything.”

2

"The Feminum Mystique" Parts 1 and 2

Season 1, Episodes 4 and 5

A few episodes in, the story returns to Paradise Island, as the Nazi Captain Radl seeks the mystical metal used to make Wonder Woman's bullet-deflecting bracelets. Here we are introduced to Diana's little sister, Drusila. That's right — in one of her earliest roles, Debra Winger plays Wonder Girl! We see more of Diana Prince in her homeland, as she leads an Amazon militia against the invading Kriegsmarine. For added geek-culture goodness, look out for Carolyn Jones stepping into the role of Queen Hippolyta. You probably know her best as Morticia Addams on The Addams Family.

3

"Anchluss '77"

Season 2, Episode 2

After flinging the character into the ultra-mod modern day, producers could not resist pittting Wonder Woman against the Nazis one more time. In 1977, the no-good Nazis are hiding out in South America, where they've cloned Adolf Hitler to ignite the Fourth Reich. Well, not if Wonder Woman has anything to say about it…. Spicing up the classic villains with a heaping dose of comic-book camp, this episode is filled some some awesome action. Wonder Woman takes on a tank! What more do you need? Well, we'll tell you what more: Lynda Carter pulls off one of the craziest stunts in 1970s television (which is saying something) when she dangles from the strut of a hovering helicopter. 

4

"Amazon Hot Wax"

Season 3, Episode 16

We would be remiss if we did not include one of the lighter, more stereotypically 1970s outings. As cool as the muscle-flexing traditional superhero episodes can be, much of the series operated more like a Carter-era cop show, albeit with a star-spangled swimsuit and cute robotic "dog." Wonder Woman swam with the dolphins, skateboarded down highways, fought a telepathic disco dancer…. In the awesomely titled "Amazon Hot Wax," Diana Prince enters the seedy world of the record industry, where Rick Springfield fronts a band that looks like a cross of KISS and Kraftwerk. More importantly, this adventure spotlights the talents of Lynda Carter, who shows off her pipes in the recording studio. The line between the actor and character truly blurs here. It's stayed blurry ever since.

5

"The Boy Who Knew Her Secret" Parts 1 and 2

Season 3, Episodes 20 and 21

Near the very end of its run, after all the UFOs and brainwashed gorillas, Wonder Woman tells one of its most serious and emotional stories in this two-parter. Each episode typically ends with Wonder Woman breaking out into a beaming smile. But not this one. Why? Her identity has been revealed, as a teenage boy spies Diana transforming into Wonder Woman. She ruefully wipes his memory, but a photo in his pocket at the end suggests the secret might stir up again in his mind. The tightly written tale hints at where the series might have gone in a fourth season — not only in a more dramatic tone, but also to Los Angeles, as the dialogue sets up Diana's move to the City of Angels.

6

SEE MORE: EVERY LYNDA CARTER 'WONDER WOMAN' COSTUME, RANKED IN ORDER OF WONDROUSNESS

Of course, you should also seek out an episode featuring these wonderful looks. READ MORE

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