Distributed By: 20th Century Fox
Reviewed by Justine Manzano
Recently, when I reviewed Firefly, I discussed other shows co-created by Tim Minear that hit the belly-flop we call cancellation long before they were due. One of those mentioned was Wonderfalls, a show I had heard was brilliantly scripted and funny through reviewers and friends alike, but had not had the opportunity to enjoy. Then, one day, I turned to Cablevision’s LOGO (a gay and lesbian network that the show airs on due to the fact that one character on the show is a lesbian) and caught an episode on a lazy Sunday morning. It didn’t take long for me to grab the DVD.
The first line of the surprisingly catch theme song really says it all as to the show’s premise: “We’re bobbing along in our barrels/some of us dip right over the edge”. That’s pretty much want this show is about in a nutshell. The show circles around the drain that is the life of Jaye Tyler (Caroline Dhavernas), a graduate of Brown University who, finding no motivation in the “real world” works at a gift shop in her home town in Niagara Falls. This upsets her well-to-do family, which contain Doctor Darrin Tyler (William Sadler), popular travel writer Karen Tyler (Diana Scarwid), immigration lawyer Sharon Tyler (Katie Finnernan) and religion major Aaron Tyler (Lee Pace). If you caught that the entire family has rhyming first names except for Jaye, you get two points as it took someone pointing it out in a commentary for me to notice it.
While working in the gift shop, which is aptly titled Wonderfalls, she chokes on some food, nearly dies, and from that point on, inanimate objects begin to talk to her. In her words, she can hear the voices of “anything with a face”. They tell her to do things that are sometimes obviously good, sometimes seem just plain wrong, and sometimes manage to be absolutely confusing. Jaye can’t help but listen to them even as her not-quite-philanthropic self finds that they are leading her to help people in a very round-about way. As time goes by, she manages to drag her best friend, Mahandra (Tracie Thoms of the movie version of Rent) into her schemes and later gains the help of Eric (Tyler Leitso) the handsome man from New Jersey, who has moved to Niagara Falls after his wife cheated on him on their honeymoon there, after he gets a job at the restaurant “The Barrel” where Mahandra works. Most of the time her friends and family can’t figure out what Jaye is up to, and even she questions it. Is God talking to her through stuffed animals and a smoosh-faced clay lion? Or is it the devil? All Jaye can discover is that their reason for talking to her is, as they tell her, “because you listen.”
The show is brilliantly written, funny, and dramatically sound. The viewer can’t help but find themselves enthralled with Jaye’s misadventures as she struggles to figure out why she has been chosen, why the figures seem to be out to ruin her life, and why even a psychiatrist can’t seem to help her. Her quirky and rivalry filled relationship with her often disapproving, and often smothering, family as well as her intense attraction to Eric, whom she is holding at arms length until she decides whether or not she’s insane, keep you wanting more. You simply can’t wait to see what will happen next and how everything will turn out.
Fortunately, you don’t have to. Wonderfalls creators Tim Minear, Todd Holland and Brian Fuller knew they were on their way out and managed to wrap up their series in a 13 episode story arc, meaning the DVD gives a tentative, but not completely final, ending to Jaye’s story. Aside from the 8 unaired episodes included in the DVD, a large portion of those contain commentaries with creators Todd Holland and Brian Fuller, and actors Caroline Dhavernas, Katie Finnernan and Scotch Ellis Loring who pulls double duty playing Dr. Ron, Jaye’s therapist, and doing some of the voices that Jaye hears. Between that and the Making of and Special Effects Featurettes, and the Music Video to the show’s theme song, one can get completely enveloped in the Wonderfalls world. And believe me, you’ll want to.