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Scott Mendelson

Scott Mendelson

Posted: October 2, 2010 03:51 PM

Well, I did not see this one coming at all. The Hollywood Reporter is, um, reporting that David E. Kelly has inked a deal with Warner Bros. Television to create a new Wonder Woman television show. No word on where the show will air or when it might premiere, but this is what happens when you spend ten years not making a movie. First Superman, which spent a decade in development hell only to have its thunder stolen by Smallville, and now Wonder Woman. Well, if the Warner Bros. feature division couldn't get off their asses and put together a big budget Wonder Woman movie (which Warner Bros. would love to have in theaters for July 19th, 2013), then we'd might as well let one of television's quirkier talents take a shot at the pioneering feminist superhero.

This is a fascinating move for the one-time king of television. A former real-life attorney, he made his mark by writing dozens of episodes of LA Law and then Doogie Howser MD before creating Picket Fences, Chicago Hope, and his twin-titans of the late 1990s, The Practice and Ally McBeal. Ally McBeal took some heat in its day, as pundits couldn't decide whether its complicated, nuanced, and flawed female protagonist (played by Calista Flockhart) was a feminist icon (quite possibly) or a sexist caricature (absolutely not). Either way, it was, in its prime (seasons 1, 2, and 4) a deliciously satisfying piece of character-driven comic writing, with career-making or defining roles for Peter MacNicol, Jane Krakowski, Lucy Liu, and Portia de Rossi.

The Practice was a more straightforward legal drama, with an unflinching look at the criminal justice system from the eyes of a small and scrappy defense firm. With wip-smart writing, a sense of topicality that put even Law and Order to shame, and fine performances from the likes of Dylan McDermott, Steve Harris, and Camryn Manheim, and or a brief time it was literally the best show on network television. Even when the show's long-running arcs went off the rails (with the firm being threatened by not one, but three serial killer clients over a few years), the show took the time to craft incisive looks at post-9/11 law enforcement. Even if the final season was a glorified backdoor pilot for five-season spin off Boston Legal (with James Spader and William Shatner in arguably a male-driven and social issue-crammed variation on Ally McBeal), the show was engaging and thoughtful to the end.

Most of David E. Kelly's output has been in the realm of legal dramas, with the most recent exception being the wildly uneven but often stunningly-good Boston Public, which concerned the facility at a large public high school (which turned Chi McBride into a star and gave Anthony Heald and Loretta Devine the best roles of their long careers). The closest thing to action being the witty horror comedy Lake Placid (which ironically starred Bridget Fonda and Oliver Platt, who were his original choices for Ally McBeal and The Practice's Bobby Donnell) and the five-episode Gina Gershon spy series, Snoops. One thing's for sure, Kelly will not be shying away from the angry feminism that marks the better Wonder Woman stories, nor will it shy away from whatever topical issues that can be tossed in for good measure. The irony is that, while the merits of Kelly as a writer of women is sometimes in debate, the only more overtly feminist television writer I can think of is one Joss Whedon, who of course spent years crafting an ill-fated Wonder Woman movie for Warner Bros. Well, if you can't make it work with the man who created Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you could do worse than the man who created Ally McBeal.

Okay, who do you think should play the iconic role? Jordana Brewster, Amy Acker, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Christina Hendricks, someone more of a movie star, or someone more of an unknown? That's what the comments section is for.

Scott Mendelson

 

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