When Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman appeared on TV from 1975-1979, her hair was perfect, her superpowers always prevailed, and her sense of justice never wavered. Every episode followed basically the same outline—stop some would-be villain’s nefarious plot—but the specifics of government agent Diana Prince’s cases were often wonderfully silly. Here are a dozen of our most beloved, most bonkers episodes.
The first season of the Wonder Woman TV series actually took place during World War II, where Diana had adventures like going undercover as “Diana Paradise” in the Miss GI Dreamgirl of 1942 beauty pageant to expose its dapper musical director, who’s secretly a sleazy war saboteur. This requires her to wear a disguise on top of her disguise, deal with mean-girl fellow competitors, show off her dance moves (heavy on the jazz hands), and endure an onslaught of aw-shucks sexism from Steve Trevor, who doesn’t think frumpy Diana is pretty enough to pass as a contestant. (Later, he asks Wonder Woman if she’s a good cook.) Spoiler alert: Wonder Woman stops the evil plot... and she wins the pageant, even though she’s technically not even entered, while everyone idly wonders where Diana is.
Season one was mostly about Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor fighting the Nazis, and this episode—which features Dick Van Patten as the overly flirty pageant host—is about as kooky as it gets. And yep, that includes the episode that pits Wonder Woman against a Nazi-trained gorilla named Gargantua, played by a hard-working actor in a fake-looking gorilla suit. That is indeed ridiculous, but it’s small potatoes compared to what the show had in store in seasons two and three.
When Wonder Woman returned to TV for her show’s second season, she had a new network (CBS instead of ABC) and she had progressed to the present day, also known as the late 1970s, a time of spectacularly campy music and fashion.
Here Martin Mull plays Hamlin Rule, a jumpsuited pop star with plenty of groupies—including a core group of leotard-clad beauties he’s mind-controlled (using his magical flute and a strobe light, natch) into robbing his own box office hauls, as a “fuck you” to the promoters who take huge cuts of his profits.
His latest discovery is the rebellious daughter of Diana’s co-worker Joe, a Hamlin Rule devotee played by Eve “Jan Brady” Plumb. Wonder Woman foils Hamlin’s evil scheme, but even she can’t save you from getting his terrible flute jams stuck in your head. For the record, “Pied Piper” was season two’s sixth episode... and happily, the show would only get weirder from this point forward.
This episode makes zero sense. The short version is that it’s about a psychic and telekinetic kid (played by Mike “Bobby Brady” Lookinland) whose Polaroid photos can capture spirits, a talent which is exploited by his cruel aunt and uncle. See, they run cons on world leaders to keep border wars going in countries that are willing to pay them for this service. And the spooky pictures somehow help them do this, as do rigged seances. Meanwhile, the kid is somehow actually legit.
“Seance of Terror” also has perhaps the most dramatic variation on the “Diana gets knocked out” plot device.
This episode also lets the viewer know in no uncertain terms that while Steve Trevor and company may never realize it, both IRA (the computer that helps Diana with her cases) and Rover (the agency’s robot dog who serves... some purpose, I guess) know Wonder Woman’s true identity.
This episode has it all: magicians who are also evil alchemists, a Nobel-winning scientist, a rooftop chase, a billion-dollar con scheme involving the ruler of a (fictional) oil-rich country, and Ed Begley, Jr. as a nerdy Diana admirer whose eager attentions border on stalking.
Oh, and there is also a kidnapping masterminded by mimes. MIMES.
In which The New Adventures of Wonder Woman discovers the totally groovy world of skateboarding, and has Diana travel to sunny California to visit her teenage goddaughter, Jamie. Too bad her vacation plans of hanging on the beach and watching Jamie slay the local skate competition don’t go as planned, thanks to the local sleaze merchant and his secret gambling empire. When the girl is inevitably kidnapped, Wonder Woman fires up a new mode of transport in pursuit.
Spoiler: Wonder Woman saves the day and everyone goes out for pizza after. Did you know Diana Prince loves anchovies?
In this Christmas-themed episode, Frank Gorshin (best known as the Riddler on Batman ‘66) plays an eccentric toymaker who creates suspiciously human-like androids for (of course) sinister purposes.
One of his giant dolls is an exact copy of Wonder Woman—which sure gives Diana a start when she comes face to face with her secret superhero self. Obviously the two Wonder Women have to fight—surrounded by chattering, clanking, creepy wind-up monkey toys—and the real version beats the robot, though neither the toymaker nor his greedy accomplice realize the truth until it’s too late.
Real-life teen dream Leif Garrett plays Lane Kincaid, a fictional teen dream who gets kidnapped in the most Wonder Woman way possible, by a gang of chloroform-wielding dudes in ski masks. A groupie happens to see the grab, but she doesn’t see the second part of the plan: the teen dream’s long-lost twin brother is brought out of... wherever... to take his place, including behind the microphone at a huge concert, where he’s an unexpected sensation.
Fortunately, Wonder Woman makes sure both twins survive for their awesome joint performance in matching Spandex pants. And for no reason other than it looks freaking cool, she rides in to save the day on the Wonder Motorbike, wearing the Wonder Catsuit.
A gang of thugs targets an Irish cobbler, hoping to steal his secret gold stash so they can buy plates for printing counterfeit money. Plates that are smuggled into the country via attack dog and a cobbler, incidentally, who MAY BE AN ACTUAL LEPRECHAUN. But the rascally old man doesn’t want Wonder Woman’s help recovering “me gold!”—since legend says he has to do it all by himself.
Considering all the bizarre elements this plot entails, the episode is actually mostly just scenes of guys in sport coats screeching around in vans and getting into fistfights. Still, Wonder Woman—whose very existence, IRA the computer points out, is just as mind-blowing as the idea of a real-life leprechaun repairing shoes in D.C.—manages to lasso down a helicopter.
Which is, apparently, a really good way to earn a leprechaun’s respect. Just FYI.
A dolphin-napping kicks off this wacky episode, which also sees Wonder Woman don her Wonder Wetsuit and battle a pack of eager sharks:
The purloined dolphin is part of an elaborate scheme, in true Wonder Woman tradition; this one involves military secrets, a greed-driven land scheme, and a big-ass oil spill. (Unfortunately, even though the dolphin is rescued from the bad guys in the open sea, it goes right back into the water park to do backflips for tourists at the end of the episode.)
Diana goes undercover as aspiring singer “Kathy Meadows” to investigate an extortion plot against the record label that quickly signs her. There are shenanigans galore, including a novelty trio (one of whom is played by Rick Springfield) that wears white face make-up and rolls in a groovy van; a rocker who faked his own death to increase the value of his music; and a Carpenters-like duo (one of whom is played by Judge Reinhold) that’s secretly evil beneath their wholesome exterior.
There’s also the poignant/ironic moment when “Kathy” has to tell the record exec that’s fallen for her that she’s not who she says she is ... she’s, uh, government agent Diana Prince. And then she sings, healing his broken heart. Aww.
Wonder Woman comes up against her oddest adversary yet: a billionaire’s disembodied brain.
It has one googly eye, is telekinetic, and has a terrible scheme:it’s plotting to get itself transplanted into the strapping young body of an unsuspecting Olympic hopeful. And though it has no mouth, it’s capable of taunts: “I am invincible! Mwa ha ha haa!” Not so fast, Disembodied Billionaire Brain. You clearly haven’t met Wonder Woman yet.
The most unlikely threat to national security comes in the form of a leisure suit-wearing, disco-dancing mind-reader, who leeches classified info from the brains of government employees... in a mirrored room... in the back of a club presided over by Wolfman Jack.
Fortunately, Diana tracks down another psychic who happens to be just as powerful as the Disco Devil, except not evil, so he’s willing to side with the good guys.
Wonder Woman encountered a lot of psychics over three seasons, but this storyline—which ends with the two men losing their powers as the result of a telepathic mind-meld—is one of the strangest by far. Its dance-club setting only makes everything more surreal, though our hero does get the chance to teach a frisky dance-floor lurker the meaning of “beat it, creep” along the way.