An Open Letter to David E. Kelley RE: Wonder Woman

It doesn’t matter if you assemble a brilliant cast and dodge all the network pitfalls if the end product sucks — so I’ve got some suggestions

First off, congratulations on the new "Wonder Woman" series. You deserve a ton of credit. In a matter of months "Wonder Woman" went from DOA to making casting headlines every other week.

Your choice of leading lady, Adrianne Palicki (left), is everything you want in the role; beautiful, towering, athletic. The project appears to be well on its way.

And yet…

There are serious concerns, namely with the script. Early reports are less than encouraging. It doesn’t matter if you assemble a brilliant cast and dodge all the network pitfalls if the end product sucks. NBC doesn’t want another "Cape" or "Bionic Woman" (the reboot version).

Now don’t get defensive. You don’t need me or anyone else to tell you how good a writer you are. Your track record speaks for itself: "Picket Fences," "Chicago Hope," "Ally McBeal," "The Practice," "Boston Legal," "Boston Public."

You’ve also had your strikeouts. Don’t deny it. But more than that, you’re not really a genre guy. Your one foray into anything genre was "Lake Placid." That movie has it’s supporters, but, to this put this as politely as possible, they are utterly delusional. I’d go into all the things you did wrong in that movie, but that would take up the entire post (or two). Suffice it to say, Betty White cussing up a storm was the lone highlight.

Because you don’t have any sci-fi or comic book cred, there are some understandably nervous people out there. The details we’ve been getting so far (the show will feature business boardroom politics and pop music) have an "Ally McBeal" vibe to them.

So what to do? Here are some suggestions.

1. Step down from the project and hand everything over to Joss Whedon.


Not happening?

Was worth a shot.

2) Then have dinner with Joss and pick his brain.

I mentioned NBC doesn’t want a "Cape." What they do want (and this is supreme irony for anyone who knows their TV history) is another "Buffy." I think they’d be very happy with a show that can last seven seasons and generate a loyal fanbase. The failures of shows like the new "Knight Rider" and the last few seasons of "Heroes" really show just how successful "Buffy" was as a series. So how did he do it?

Well, for starters, he loved writing super heroic action and made no apologies for it. Bottom line, you need the right mindset for a project like this. If you’re embarrassed by your heroine stopping bullets with her jewelry or forcing people to tell the truth with a golden lasso, it’s going to show in the final product. Maybe you have the right mindset, and maybe you don’t.

Maybe you’re secretly a huge comic book fan. Though I doubt it, seeing as you didn’t chose a character who was already a lawyer, like She Hulk.

But Joss Whedon does have that mindset. There are only a handful of writers as good as him in this genre of storytelling. So sit down. Have a few drinks. Hell, invite the cameras. It’ll be a good promotional stunt for both "Wonder Woman" and "The Avengers."

3) Talk to some other people whose brains you should be picking.

You definitely should talk to somebody when you’re dealing with material this far out of your comfort zone. Hey, I’d recommend anybody interested in writing a legal drama have a long talk with you. But talking to a comic book writer can be tricky. Tim Kring turned to Jeph Loeb. That didn’t work out that well. Loeb is capable of great stuff like "The Long Halloween," but is also capable of writing "Ultimates 3" and "Ultimatum," which Comics Alliance dubbed two of the worst comics of the decade. Again it pays to be a fan. If you don’t know that going in, you’re going to just let the comics go wild just because he’s the comics guy and you’re not. Sort of like the IT guy at work. He might be horrible at his job, but but you’re never going to know unless you gain some knowledge.

But there are some people who definitely won’t steer you wrong.

Gail Simone: This lady is one of the best writers of superheroes and heroines today. She changed the comic book landscape with her Women in Refrigerators website. She turned a bunch of B-listers into one of DC’s most popular titles, "Birds of Prey" (and the TV series was not her fault; she had nothing to do with it). Her track record is pretty outstanding.

Bruce Timm and Paul Dini: If I were running DC I’d make it mandatory that anyone involved in adapting our characters (anyone not named Chris Nolan that is) have to sit down with these two. Timm and Dini are the unsung heroes of the modern super hero movie. "Batman: The Animated Series" took these characters seriously back when Hollywood was content to give us Bat suits with nipples on them.

There are plenty more. Consider Greg Rucka and Brian Michael Bendis, just for starters.

4) Come down publicly on the costume debate.

DC recently changed Wonder Woman’s costume. So the question is, What will Wonder Woman wear in your series? It sounds silly, but think about it for a second. Not to sound all Tim Gunn, but the name Wonder Woman conjures up a specific image.

To the left is what she looks like as of this writing.

So where do you stand?

No, the strapless bathing suit and calf-high boots aren’t exactly practical, but they are an iconic look. It would be bad if you nobody recognized Wonder Woman.

On the other hand, you have to applaud the thought behind the new look. You just have to be careful: DC may have gone too far. She looks like she’s going clubbing instead of crime fighting. Or maybe it’s business casual Friday at the office.

Hmmm. Suddenly your pilot script makes a bit more sense.