Great Finite Shows – Wonderfalls

Some shows are murdered.


There are many, many shows that live out full, long lives with season after season, sometimes inexplicably, until they fade into tired corpses of what they once were. However, other shows are cut down before they even begin to reach their potential. Maybe they got a season, maybe two if they were lucky. Some barely registered at all, with a half-season or less. But there was something about them, some spark of greatness or potential that makes their loss much more tragic than the end of a show that slunk into its tenth or eleventh season on the tired fumes of well-worn plots.


Wonderfalls was an hour long mid-season show that began in March of 2004. It starred the absolutely adorable Caroline Dhavernas as Jaye, a post-college-aged slacker working at a Niagra Falls gift shop who is pretty disgusted with everything and everybody in her life. One day a wax figurine of a lion begins to talk to her, instructing her to take certain actions. At first she thinks she’s gone nuts (which is pretty understandable when inanimate object begin talking) but on impulse she follows the lion’s advice, and soon an intricate tapestry of cause and effect opens up as she grudgingly follows the advice of the lion.


Eventually the wax lion is joined by many other random objects that all begin nudging Jaye to follow specific if random directions. Each show is both a puzzle and a maze, presenting a smartly-written plot that guides Jaye through a series of byzantine and sometimes cruel actions that lead to mysterious circumstances she can only guess at. Although she often questions her own sanity, she can’t question the results of the actions the various items make her take, and soon she begins to trust these objects despite herself.

As the anchor of a concept that could go wildly off the rails, Dhavernas gives an exceptionally strong performance as Jaye, who is simultaneously vulnerable and strong, sarcastic and sweet. Whether she’s screaming furiously at a lifeless object or watching the aftermath of the Rube Goldberg-styled ripple effect she sets up, she provides a believable, frantic core to the chaos that is created around her. As the walled-off Jaye begins to grow, we see that the objects are not only attempting to change the destinies of those they instruct Jaye to help, but Jaye herself.


Frankly, the show would fall apart under a lesser performance. She’s joined by a strong cast, notable among them Lee Pace of similarly doomed Pushing Daisies fame.


The show was tossed around and disrespected by Fox, who clearly didn’t know what to do with it, and Wonderfalls was finally cancelled after four episodes. A total of thirteen were made, and all are available as a complete series on DVD. Since they knew of their cancellation, the show received a satisfying if bittersweet ending.


You won’t be able to get the theme song out of your head for quite some time, I guarantee.


Wonderfalls was a unique concept that was put down far too early. We only got 13 episodes of this world, but it’s important to mention that each show is so full, so dense, and so gripping that those 13 episodes provide more meat than several seasons of lesser show.

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Tags: Cancelled shows, Fox, Pushing Daisies, Wonderfalls

About Ibentmyman-thing

Ibentmyman-thing spends a lot of time talking about (and sometimes to) toys, and also makes them, as seen here. If there was a tv show about his life, it would be on Fox, and would be cancelled after ten shows.