Monday, July 8, 2013

Wonder Woman 3.17: The Richest Man in the World

Airdate: 2/19/79

Marshall Henshaw, an ultra-wealthy tycoon, plans to sell a special device that can jam entire missile systems to a small European country. Somewhere along the transfer, a third party stymies the sale and ditches Henshaw out the middle of nowhere. Since he’s a bit of a recluse, no one recognizes him, and so he, and a poor boy living out in a shack, try to get back to civilization and try to stop those who now have a device that could potentially threaten world peace. The evil-doers turn out to be working on the inside, one of them being Henshaw’s own paramour; Steve and Diana – and Wonder Woman – all work together to get things back to normal.

Decent enough show with the highlight being the plot arm dealing with the now-poor Henshaw and the bottle-collecting vagrant he enlists the help of – sort of a modern twist on The Prince and the Pauper. Some nice commentary on class, and good chemistry between the two. WW’s action sequences continue to look more and more gimmicky – fast motion, slow motion, sloppy editing. The show perish the thought, is starting to get a little slack here and there. And keep your eyes peeled for the scene where the evildoers steal the missile device  - the worst security in the show’s history!

The heir-apparent: "The Incredible Hulk,"
now the Friday night superhero.
And that brings me to some information about the show at this point. When the ratings of a series start to slip (as was the case with WW in the fall), network execs will often try to reschedule it, sometimes to try an help it in a better time slot, but mostly to see if it can prove itself somewhere else in the week. CBS did the latter with WW: Friday, January 12th, 1978 was the last time it had the WW/Incredible Hulk/Flying High lineup (actually on that night they rebroadcast the Hulk 2-hour season premiere “Married). The following Friday they showed the godawful Captain America 2-hour pilot (which crashed and burned), and then the next Friday was Hulk-less – they moved the great green one to Wednesdays, with the Friday lineup being WW/The Dukes of Hazzard/Dallas. It stayed this way for about a month, but the Hulk was suffering, in part because many affiliates were committed to airing a historical drama instead, so CBS put it back on Fridays starting on 2/23/79, but they liked the 8:00 timeslot it had on Wednesdays, so they kept it at 8 (this, of course, would remain the CBS Friday night lineup for the next 2 ½ seasons). Guess what got bumped?

So Wonder Woman was kicked to Mondays, starting 2/16/79 (when the above episode aired), against Little House on the Prairie, which pretty much owned the timeslot. Needless to say, all the world was not waiting for her on Mondays, where she got trounced in the ratings (this was before Mon became the “Must See TV” night for CBS). Scrambling, the network dumped her on Saturdays beginning 3/10/79, where she was destroyed by Ponch and Jon of CHiPs. After a couple of weeks, they pulled it – airing zero reruns, and dumping the five remaining contractually-obligated-to-air episodes on two successive nights in May, and on three successive Tuesdays in late Aug/early Sept. What an end for the woman who singlehandedly won WWII for America!

But as I alluded in my above review, the show had been faltering in quality too. The formula for each episode was getting a little tedious, and the attempt to attract a younger audience with episodes about skateboarding, rock concerts and rollercoasters was all too apparent. Perhaps it was all for the best, but it’s too bad the series couldn’t have ended with a conclusive finale, and in a more dignified fashion.

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