Instead of taking a look at an old film, this installment of reVIEW is about the sadly cancelled Bryan Fuller co-created TV series Wonderfalls. Consider it a companion piece to TV Watch 2007 (3), where I heartily recommended Fuller’s new ABC series, Pushing Daisies.
“It’s a really quirky, smart, feel-good show about a pathological narcissist who wakes up one day to discover the universe has sort-of forced her to become fate’s b!tch.”
-- Bryan Fuller, when asked to describe Wonderfalls
Classic Gen Y underachiever, Jaye Brewster (Caroline Dhavernas) has a Philosophy degree, but works a dead-end job at the souvenir shop of Niagara Falls. However, inanimate animals—wax lions, metal monkeys, stuffed donkeys—begin to speak to her, giving her cryptic instructions, which she finds herself hesitantly following, inadvertently helping others, when all she’d really rather do is nothing in particular.
That’s the quirky premise of a great TV show called Wonderfalls (one of its working titles during its development, Touched by a Crazy Person), which almost never got seen.
Fox, you see, unceremoniously pulled the plug on the show after a mere four episodes, despite the fact that it was a critical darling. Apparently, the show wasn’t racking up the ratings Fox would have liked, and the network wasn’t willing to wait for an audience to discover its witty charm.
(It should be noted that this isn’t the first time Fox has speedily kicked a show off the air. They’ve done it to Chris Carter twice, despite the phenomenal hit he gave them in The X-Files—with his virtual reality series Harsh Realm, and the X-Files spin-off, The Lone Gunmen.)
The magnitude of this injustice is compounded even further when you consider that, a) Wonderfalls was actually a really good show, and b) as I’ve pointed out before, this is a world with three CSI’s. Three CSI’s and we can’t have room for one unique show with a voice all its own, managing to fuse the inertia of Gen Y slackdom with the inevitability of destiny, turning in an existential comedy bristling with witty dialogue, and pop culture referents and metaphors aplenty.
“She’s a snarky character, so she’s going to be snarky about the things that she encounters in her life. When tchochtkes start talking, let the snark reign.”
-- Bryan Fuller, discussing Jaye
As Jaye Brewster, Dhavernas (from a host of Canadian productions) displays a refreshing, disarming quality, even when she’s in her persnickety slacker mode, and witnessing the character’s torturous metamorphosis from self-involved, aimless cynic to confused, hesitant Samaritan is a peculiar joy.
Surrounding Jaye with their own brand of insanity is her family, father Darrin (William Sadler, from The Green Mile and Kinsey), mother Karen (Diana Scarwid), sister Sharon (Katie Finneran, from You’ve Got Mail, and the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead), and brother Aaron (Lee Pace, from Soldier’s Girl).
Of particular note amongst the Brewsters is Scarwid (from What Lies Beneath and Party Monster), whose Karen is the aloof, snotty socialite who nonetheless loves her family (though she may not particularly understand them).
Ultimately, Wonderfalls is a show that manages to give us a funny glimpse at the workings of those “mysterious ways” we keep on hearing about. It’s like an Early Edition or a Touched by an Angel, but with a lot more wit, and a lot more brains; a show that displays the causality of destiny, and how every little thing we do, no matter how seemingly insignificant, impacts somewhere, on someone, thus keeping the great engine of life moving in perfect synchronicity with the Will of some higher, manifest Power, a Power that, apparently, has a pretty hip (and often absurd) sense of humor.
Parting shot: Though only four episodes of Wonderfalls were broadcast on Fox, thirteen were actually filmed, and all are available on DVD.
(Images courtesy of aintitcool.com, episodeguides.com, hollywoodjesus.com, and logoonline.com.)
(The above is an altered version of a previously published article entitled “The Causality of Destiny (Or, The Greatest TV Show You May Never See).”)