Wonderfalls

“Wonderfalls” is a yet another fun, quirky series Fox managed to kill after only thirteen episodes. (What do they do over there? Have interdepartmental wars to destroy each other’s projects?) Like Brisco County, it’s got the plot force of a drama, but it’s full of comedy and mysticism. It features a disaffected twenty-something girl named Jaye. She’s never done anything for anyone else, and even though the Great American Family and Dream system functioned perfectly for her, she’s hurled herself through its cracks by getting a useless philosophy degree, taking a retail job where her manager is a high school student, and living in a trailer that somewhat resembles the inside of Jeannie’s bottle. She’s not your typical self-centered little TV princess: she’s just totally apathetic.

And then the animals start talking to her. Fake animals. Any toy or logo with a face. They tell her to do stuff. Invariably, when she doesn’t do as she’s told, something bad happens. When she does do what they tell her, she finds herself getting involved with people and helping them against her will. Sometimes she helps them by hurting them. It’s all very strange. Like, you know, life. As the story continues, this accidental involvement and concern for others sparks a genuine interest in others. It’s not that she becomes a loving, caring saint who helps people: she just drops the defensive shield of self-inflicted isolation she’s had for years. She just opens up.

The women of the show are pretty fascinating. Jaye’s mother is a relentlessly together society lady – perfect hair, perfect clothes, perfect modulated voice – but she definitely has some wisdom, a good marriage, and genuine concern and love for her children. Jaye’s older sister Sharon is an accomplished lawyer – very together, like Mom – who can be tough and dominant (which slightly concerned me in that she’s a lesbian, and that strikes me as a stereotype of lesbians), but is really quite vulnerable and strong: she years for acceptance from her younger siblings who always preferred each other to her, and she very often seems a little out of her element in social settings. But she’s always there for any member of the family.

Even Jewel Staite’s hussy wife character, Heidi, is interesting. She cheated on her husband with the bellhop during their honeymoon, and the husband eventually ends up dating Jaye, and of course that’s when Heidi comes back asking for another chance. At first, she’s just “Heidi-Ho” to the gang: a cheating scumbag who broke a sweet man’s heart. By the end… she’s still pretty much that, and that’s what’s cool. There’s no redemption. No explanation (unless you buy her story that she’d never performed oral sex before and just wanted to practice on the bellhop before doing it for her new husband).

Among the guest characters, there’s a wide variety of women. There’s the girl who was Little Miss Popular in high school whose now stuck in a tragically perfect marriage… until she realizes she’s miserable and ditches it. There’s a geeky zoo worker who’s obsessed with getting a pair of endangered Macaws to breed. There’s a runaway nun who’s lost her faith, and a Russian online bride whose intended turns out to be a twelve-year old budding sociopath. Where most writing teams can only see in women mothers, queens and love interests, this show sees characters as individual as real people.

But only for thirteen episodes.

Comments

  1. Ifritah says

    I just recently watched the first and second episode of this show. I was so very depressed to hear they only made 13 episodes!

    Turns out, a big reason the show flopped was because Fox aired the episodes out of order. *Grumbles*

  2. Jennifer Kesler says

    Fox does the most unbelievable things. I think they must actually sit around going, “Oh, shit! We have a great show here! How do we kill it?” They’re notorious for shifting runaway hits to different time slots over and over until people completely lose them – that’s what they did to Brisco.

  3. scarlett says

    I always wondered why they do that – can they not handle having a show about realistic people as a hit, so they sabotage it so they can say ‘see? people don’t WANT realism! They want stylised, sexualised rubbish!’

  4. Jennifer Kesler says

    Your guess is as good as mine. It’s a bit of a joke in the industry, how Fox kills their successful shows. I can’t think of any logic to it. Maybe they’re just unfathomably stupid.

  5. Patrick says

    Actually, while thirteen episodes were filmed, Fox killed the show after airing only THREE. How the hell can a show be deemed a failure after only three episodes? Success comes from bulding an audience.

    I sbsolutely love Wonderfalls, and one of the things that made its cancellation easier to bear was that the thirteen episodes filed represented a complete season, and the show’s creators wrote the season as a complete arc. So for anyone who thinks they should avoid renting it because of a Firefly-esque “What? That’s ALL?”, you don’t have to worry about that here. While I would have loved to see the show go on, it doesn’t leave you hanging at the end.

    Still, what is wrong with Fox? Do they have something against letting their shows succeed?

  6. scarlett says

    When a friend of mine and I rented the first season of Firefly, we were floored that it was the only season. Still can’t get by that such a good show got cancelled after one season.

  7. Jennifer Kesler says

    The only theory I’ve come up with that makes sense is that somehow different departments at Fox come up with different shows and management pits them against each other for bonuses and promotions, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to sabotage each other’s shows.

    Sounds like the sort of strategy someone like Rupert Murdoch would employ.

  8. scarlett says

    Yeah, sounds like him :P
    Ugh, that reminds me of a distressing incident I had – someone thought my uni was called Rupert Murdoch University. I went to great pains to inform them it was just plain old Murdoch University, it was named after a Murdoch long before Rupert who was actually a decent human being…

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