The Mismatched Partnership of Adrianne Palicki and David E. Kelley

The Wonder Woman television reboot jumped back into headlines Wednesday with the news that Adrianne Palicki has been cast as the titular Wonder Woman. Palicki is best known for her supporting role as Tyra Collette on Friday Night Lights, a part Palicki played exceptionally well.

On the surface, Palicki is as close as you can get to the perfect casting choice for Wonder Woman. She is tall, beautiful and has shown significant acting skill. Ever since she left Friday Night Lights, I’ve been looking forward to seeing her career take off.

Palicki is in a rare breed of actress who is able to play strong and vulnerable equally well. Her stint as Tyra allowed her to play both in abundance. She just needed a starring role in a quality TV show, but unfortunately it does not look like Wonder Woman will be that show.

The Wonder Woman project already has a head writer and showrunner: David E. Kelley, who almost exclusively is known for writing legal dramas. His credits include L.A. Law, Ally McBeal, The Practice, Boston Legal and Harry’s Law.

Kelley’s biggest strength lies in his ability to write effective and powerful courtroom speeches; hence the widespread success of many of his legal shows. But just about everything else in his writing is suspect. Episodes written by him generally feature jarring tonal shifts, ridiculous plot lines and characters toeing the line between endearingly weird and annoying.

All of that already is a bad place to start, but the real reason why the partnership of Kelley and Palicki is doomed is because Kelley has proven time and again that he cannot write female characters. Kelley’s male characters tend to be relatively layered and interesting, but his females almost always are one-trick ponies.

Perhaps the most telling indictment of this weakness came in 1998, when Time Magazine ran a cover featuring a picture of Calista Flockhart (who played Ally McBeal) above the words “Is Feminism Dead?”

Harry’s Law also features a female lead, but it was not written that way. As the show title would indicate, Harry was supposed to be a man played by Lewis Black. But when Kathy Bates signed on they changed the character’s named to Harriet, but kept the show title and characterization.

Kelley’s inability to write a strong central female character already was apparent, but then the original script for Wonder Woman hit the Internet and things only got worse. Several websites ran reviews of the script, and none of them were positive.

The first time we see Wonder Woman fighting crime, the background music is Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.” Later in the episode, a lab full of scientists dances to Kanye West; and apparently at some point someone utters the phrase “You go, girl.”

All of this is packed into an episode that introduces main villain Veronica Cale as an evil scientist who also is a business rival to Wonder Woman’s alter ego, Diana Themiscyra. There’s also a subplot about Wonder Woman pining after a government man named Steve. Remember what I said about jarring tonal shifts?

To top it all off, website Bleeding Cool ran a screengrab of the leaked script they received and focused on a character named Spongebob saying “The fuck is your problem?” Kelley was selling this script to basic networks, not premium cable, so why he found it necessary to include an F-Bomb is beyond me.

Now, I fully realize there will be rewrites and the finished script likely will not be as bad as the leaked original. But regardless, it’s clear that Kelley does not have the ability necessary to write a successful Wonder Woman reboot.

The main character needs to be strong willed and determined, but Kelley’s attempt to modernize her turned her into a caricature. She listens to pop and pines after a former love; not exactly female empowerment.

The choice for Kelley to helm this project always seemed odd. Most throw Joss Whedon (Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) out as the obvious first choice, and he was signed on to write and direct a film adaptation that never came to fruition.

Personally, I think Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars, Party Down) would have been an excellent choice. Both Whedon and Thomas have proven capable of crafting multi-layered, interesting female characters. That is basically the only absolute requirement of a Wonder Woman TV show.

Given the proper writing, Adrianne Palicki could easily sink her teeth into the Wonder Woman character and turn it into a career-defining role. Unfortunately all signs point to the show becoming a failure. I hope I’m wrong or that this just turns into a speed bump in Palicki’s path to stardom, but I’m afraid that won’t be the case.

**For an extended review and breakdown of the pilot script by a critic who has read it, check out Televisionary’s review.**


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One response to “The Mismatched Partnership of Adrianne Palicki and David E. Kelley

  1. Pingback: Chuck’s Run of Incredible Luck Continues | Boy Greets World

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