Episode Title: Beauty on Parade
Original Airdate: October 13, 1976
Lynda Carter’s journey toward one day being Wonder Woman actually started in 1972 when she won a local beauty pageant in Arizona. She then went on to win the Miss World USA pageant. This led to acting classes and eventually being cast as Wonder Woman in 1975. So, it makes sense that the producers of the show would capitalize on Carter’s history with pageants for this week’s episode…Beauty on Parade.
It seems that Fort Russell is having a problem with saboteurs blowing up shipments of equipment for the construction of a new radar scanner. Steve Trevor and Diana Prince are sent to get to the bottom of the problem. The base commander, Col Flint, believes his base to be secure; no unauthorized personnel. However, it just so happens that a bevy of buxom beauties are on the base to “raise morale.” All of them are contestants in the Miss G.I. Dream Girl Contest. The finals are being held on base and are hosted by radio star Jack Wood (Dick Van Patten). It turns out that the contest has visited several bases, all of which have been hit by saboteurs. Diana proposes getting an agent into the contest to check things out and willingly volunteers. Steve doesn’t think Diana is up to it, commenting, “I’m afraid this calls for a really gorgeous girl; someone who looks great in a bathing suit.” Someone please slap Steve for me.
Despite what Steve says, Diana takes it upon herself to show up at rehearsal as the blonde Diana Paradise. Some of the girls protest letting her in, but when Jack Wood catches sight of her dancing talents, he lets her right into the contest. One girl in particular, Rita, informs Diana that she’s not going to let anyone stand in her way of winning. Meanwhile, Steve is driving around the base when he is suddenly pursued by a bunch of gangster types who try to run him off the road. Lucky for him, Wonder Woman stops them from escaping by lifting their rear wheels off the ground. With her golden lasso she learns that these guys were hired to get rid of Steve.
Back at the base, Diana makes a bigger enemy in Rita when Jack Wood recruits her to be his assistant for his magic act. That night, she transforms into Wonder Woman and ends up thwarting another act of sabotage at the base’s power station. However, the bad guys get away again. It’s turns out, though, that the saboteurs are actually the folks running the rehearsal for the contestants, Lola Flynn (Anne Francis) and Monty Burns (Bobby Van). In actuality that’s just a smoke screen. Their real mission is to assassinate one General Dwight D Eisenhower.
Steve ends up proving that he’s not totally useless, figuring out the Eisenhower connection to all this sabotage. Unfortunately, Etta can’t reach Diana to tell her. Meanwhile, the slimy Monty becomes suspicious of Diana and rigs some heavy equipment to crash down on her during the show. But then Rita steals Diana’s costume and takes her place in the magic act. Luckily, Diana sees Monty cutting the ropes and changes into Wonder Woman in time to save Rita. Etta then fills Wonder Woman in on the Eisenhower plot and she heads off to help Steve rescue the General. She manages to pick up a downed telephone pole and throw it at the bad guys before catching a rocket fired from a bazooka in mid air and hurling it back at Monty. Oh, and if you’re wondering who wins the Miss G.I. Dream Girl Contest…it’s Wonder Woman, of course.
This episode manages to be wonderfully convoluted and an awful lot of fun all at the same time. First things first, how fun is it that the bad guy’s name is “Monty Burns?” I kept wanting him to fold his hands together and say, “Excellent.” Even more fun than a coincidental Simpsons tie-in is the whole beauty pageant scenario of this whole episode. There’s something just so quirky about beauty pageants in general and that certainly rubs off on this episode. I loved Dick Van Patten as the smarmy host of the show. It’s funny to see him make various inappropriate comments directed toward Diana and the other girls. For example, when auditioning Diana asks him, “What would you like me to do for you first?” Van Patten replies, “If I answer that question the draft board will say that I’m young enough to fight.” Ewww, and to think he was the dad from Eight is Enough!!
Needless to say, Lynda Carter is really in her element when it comes to the pageant aspect of the story. She clearly knows how to play things up from her past experience in such contests. At the same time, you definitely get the impression that she’s enjoying doing a sly parody of the sorts of things she would’ve dealt with on the pageant circuit. There’s some nasty moments where the other girls in the contest are fighting…even almost coming to blows over someone spending too much time in the shower. There’s a fun moment where Rita discovers that Diana’s blonde hair is a wig and another girl comments, “That’s the only thing false about her, Rita. Can YOU say the same?”
The big takeaway from this episode, though, is that Steve Trevor is the biggest idiot in the world. How on earth could he not think Diana could go undercover in the pageant? He and Lois Lane need to get together since neither one of them can see a person’s face beyond a pair of glasses. And here’s the thing…when Diana is in pageant mode, she is jaw-droppingly beautiful! If the pilot and the first two episodes of this show didn’t convince you that Lynda Carter was absolutely stunning, this one should seal the deal. But old Steve Trevor just doesn’t even notice. We do briefly start to think he’s grown a brain when he says, “Seeing you in that dress makes me realize you look like somebody.” After a moment’s pause he says, “Joan Crawford…around the ankles.” This man is in charge of Top Secret military secrets people. Think about that for a moment.
I haven’t really hit on the Wonder Woman action in this one. Those scenes are nice and she does some fine feats, but ultimately they are overshined by the pageant scenes. I should mention, though, that this episode marks the first appearance of the iconic Wonder Woman transformation used throughout the rest of the series. In the previous episodes, Diana spins in slow motion to transform, and even ends up still holding her uniform after changing into Wonder Woman. Now, she does a fast spin which causes a bright red, white, and blue explosion of light which she emerges from as Wonder Woman. A vast improvement, if you ask me.
One last thing I want to mention about this episode is that viewers had to wait quite a long time for it. There was a roughly six month gap between the original airing of our last episode and this one. The wait was worth it, though. Ultimately,, this a very entertaining episode with some solid action, several funny moments, and Lynda Carter at her sexiest. Next time, though, we don’t just get Wonder Woman, we get Wonder WOMEN! Prepare to meet Wonder Girl…as played by a future Academy Award nominee in The Feminine Mystique Part 1.