CT Reviews: Wonderfalls

Wonderfalls

[By Jeremy Grayson]

My first regular series for Critically Touched was Freaks and Geeks, which I pitched to Mike in the waning days of 2012. It was and remains a wonderful show, albeit an awfully short-lived one – I reviewed all 18 episodes in the space of just six months.

My second series for CT was The West Wing, which aired a whopping seven seasons and 155 episodes (edging out even the website’s flagship show, Buffy). I began writing the reviews in late 2013 and, nearly four years later, I’ve only covered the first five of those seasons.

It’s been tough keeping my mind so focused on just one show, even one I love as much as The West Wing. And I’ve broken up the monotony from time to time, with a handful of film reviews and a whole slew of blog posts. But I’ve never attempted to regularly review a third show, assuming it would be better to wait until The West Wing was complete.

Well, call me the impatient type. While I still plan to cover The West Wing right to the end, the time has more than passed to throw another show into the mix. So please give a warm welcome to… Wonderfalls.

I’ve considered reviewing this series for quite a long time, having first floated the idea to Mike back in the spring of 2013. It’s a short series (13 episodes), and one that’s long appealed to me with its mix of dark humor and quirky drama. And now, after years of waiting, I’m finally going to review the whole series, from the first episode to the last.

For those unaware, Wonderfalls was an hourlong dramedy that aired on Fox in the spring of 2004. Created by Bryan Fuller (the man behind Hannibal and the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery), the show centers on a young woman named Jaye, played by Caroline Dhavernas (from the aforementioned Hannibal and the delightfully named Mary Kills People) whose humdrum life is thrown out of whack when she discovers she can communicate with nonliving animal figurines. The show features a traditional case-of-the-week structure (each episode presents a different type of animal figurine, like a wax lion or a lawn flamingo), along with more serialized character arcs for Jaye, her friends, and her unconventional family. The supporting cast includes Lee Pace (from Halt and Catch Fire), Katie Finneran (from The Inside), and William Sadler (from… pretty much everything).

The show’s offbeat sense of humor means it’s not one for all tastes, and there are some flaws in its development of tone and story. (It doesn’t really become “great” until the last few episodes.) Nevertheless, this is one of the more unique and unusual one-season shows that television has ever produced, and I look forward to delving into it over the next few months, starting with a review of the pilot next week.

If you’ve seen the show already, I hope you’ll enjoy revisiting it with me. If you haven’t watched it, the series is currently available on DVD, and episodes of decent quality are constantly being uploaded to YouTube. (A high-quality version of the pilot can be found here.) Be warned that Fox, in typical Fox fashion, aired some of the episodes out of order (and didn’t air some of them at all). Wikipedia has the proper chronological order here.

Wonderfalls may have had a short lifespan, but I’m quite glad to add it to the slowly-growing roster of shows on Critically Touched. I hope you’ll join me in my quest to rewatch and review it.

Just don’t forget to lick the light switch.

(Side Note: For those wondering about the Buffy connection I hinted to last week, Tim Minear – a writer/producer who wrote several excellent scripts for both Angel and Firefly, was one of the creative forces behind Wonderfalls. Before joining Ryan Murphy, unfortunately-cancelled shows were kind of Tim Minear’s thing.)

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2 thoughts on “CT Reviews: Wonderfalls”

  1. A few years back I tried watching “Wonderfalls” but couldn’t really get into the story. Have you ever watched the show “Pushing Daisies?” It too was created by Bryan Fuller. It stars Lee Pace as a pie maker who has the ability to reanimate the dead. It was a wonderfully written show that unfortunately lasted only two seasons due to a writer’s strike.

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    1. Yes, I’ve seen some of Pushing Daisies. It’s a beautiful-looking show, but unfortunately never hooked me with its story or characters. It always felt a bit too loose and flighty for my tastes.

      Wonderfalls has some of the same ingredients (quirky characters and stories), but it’s a bit more grounded in reality. The show can be uneven in the way it tries to reconcile the reality and the fantasy, but that’s part of why I’m interested in reviewing it.

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