“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.