"From the producer of Angel and Firefly comes Wonderfalls with 9 never aired episodes. Although a recent graduate of Brown University, Jaye Tyler decides to ignore her degree, live in a trailer and work at a tourist gift s... more »hop in Niagara Falls called Wonderfalls?-much to the despair of her well-to-do family. But Jaye?s aimless life takes a startling turn after a lion figurine begins talking to her. Her family calls it an "episode," but Jaye knows better. Fearing for her sanity, Jaye nevertheless starts doing exactly what an increasing number of inanimate objects tell her to do and is amazed when her outrageous actions begin changing people?s lives in unexpected ways. "« less
Steve E. (skeandco) from WEAVERVILLE, NC Reviewed on 1/15/2010...
The writing of Brian Fuller was one again great. You never know which way the story will go. Not like your normal sitcoms. It has you hook from the very first 'sode. Sorry to say FOX didn't really know what they had and cancelled it way too soon.
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Robert G. (rural631) from SPRINGFIELD, MO Reviewed on 6/25/2009...
Quirky, funny, clever, great cast. Why do most of the really good shows get canceled quickly and the lousy ones go on and on? Wonderfalls is definitely worth watching.
3 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
One of my all time favorite TV series - gone before its time
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 11/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Warning: Many spoilers.
The 2003-2004 television season was one in which critics and fans expressed their growing outrage at the decay of standards in commercial television. On the one hand, the WB decided to cancel the critically acclaimed ANGEL despite an unprecedented fan effort to save the show. A growing stream of increasingly offensive reality shows made many wonder if there was any future for scripted television, or whether we were doomed to see shows like the widely condemned THE SWAN. But for many, the low point of the entire season was the cancellation by FOX of the extraordinary new show WONDERFALLS after only four episodes, despite a host of great reviews, many of them proclaiming it the finest new show of the year. More than this, it was as if FOX were determined for the show to fail, first placing it on Friday evenings (the worst night of the week for attracting viewers) for three weeks, before putting it on Thursday night opposite a host of the most popular shows on TV, therefore dooming it to low ratings. With the great reviews, one would have imagined that FOX would have found the show a new time slot and built an advertising and promotional campaign around the critics' ravings.
Luckily, WONDERFALLS is being released with the four original episodes and nine more that were completed but not released. The great news for those who saw those first four shows is that the next nine are even better. Indeed, if you were angry at the cancellation of the show based solely on those four episodes, you will go ballistic when you see how good these others are. The writers were obviously in defense mode from the first. One of the executive producers, Tim Minear, had been victimized the previous year when he served as executive producer of FIREFLY, which FOX similarly killed prematurely. This time, they assumed that the thirteen episodes might be all they got. As a result, WONDERFALLS is essentially a single self-contained story in thirteen parts. It could easily have led to a second season with new story lines, but the one season they did produce tells a single tale, with no major loose ends at all by the end of the final one.
As most who have heard of the show know, WONDERFALLS is the story of Jaye, a slacker living in Niagara Falls, NY (though most of the footage at the Falls is from the Canadian side) and working in a menial job in a souvenir gift shop. Her life is mundane and unpromising, when suddenly one day inanimate animals start talking to her. A lot of people who hear this aspect of the show are turned off, but trust me, it really won't be an issue for long for anyone who gives the show a chance. We never do learn why the animals talk to Jaye (though in one spectacular episode a bronze monkey, in response to her question of why they are all singling her out, tells her, "Because you listen"). In one episode near the end of the season there are hints that Jaye might actually be a spirit seer, and if so it is highly satirical that in American consumer society that she would be addressed by artificial, utterly fake animals instead of the real animals that Native American seers acknowledged as spirit guides.
The animals don't really give Jaye much choice in the matter of whether she is going to heed their commands. She learns very quickly that if she doesn't do their bidding, they will drive her crazy by such stratagems as singing endlessly "One Hundred Bottles of Beer On the Wall." She also learns that if she refuses to do their bidding, things can go very bad very quickly, and that if she does things can go miraculously right. For instance, she is commanded to do a number of things through consecutive episodes that apparently destroy a potential relationship with Eric, the young bartender who came to Niagara on his honeymoon, only to have his wife (played by FIREFLY alum Jewel Staite, as unlovable in this role as she was adorable as Kaylee in that show) cheat on him their first night there. Eric seems perfect for the prickly Jaye, but the animals don't seem to want to cooperate. I won't give away the end of the series, but I think the final episodes end about as perfectly as one could hope. After thirteen episodes in which Jaye has functioned as a pawn of fate, seeing her finally a little happy and content is a wonderful moment.
The cast is absolutely first rate, and by the end of the series all make a great contribution. Caroline Dhavernas is really fine as Jaye. She is not supposed to be a good or lovable or nice person. She definitely isn't a saint. As she puts it in one episode, in which she inadvertently saves a baby from injury, "I'm not a baby saver!" She ends up being a good person despite her own best efforts to the contrary. Tyron Leitso is enormously likable as Eric, who seems to be way too nice of a guy to be involved with a brat like Jaye. But the chemistry between Jaye and Eric is great, especially as their relationship gets enormously complicated by life (and inanimate animals) later in the season. At first I was alarmed that Jaye's family was going to play such a prominent role in the series, but all the performers were so exceptional that it ended up being one of the show's greatest assets. William Sandler as her doctor father, Diane Scarwid as her author mother, and Kate Finneran as her lawyer sister (all three highly successful in their jobs) were great and serve to emphasize how unsuccessful in life Jaye has been.. And I really liked Lee Pace as her brother Aaron, a doctoral student in religion who is the first to catch on that Jaye has an unusual relationship with the powers that be via fake animals (something he first suspects when he catches her talking to a cow coffee creamer). And Tracie Thomas is quite cute as Mahandra, Jaye's best friend and the surreptitious lover of Aaron (a fact only revealed to the other characters only in the final episode).
This is one of my favorite series of all time, and while I profoundly regret that FOX didn't give it a chance, I am grateful that the producers managed to tell a brilliant and compelling story. And I loved the setting in Niagara Falls. It was one of those rare shows where very nearly everything was perfect, except that it appeared on a network run by the mentally challenged. See this! I promise one of the most enchanting experiences of your viewing life."
E. A Solinas | MD USA | 11/07/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Wonderfalls" was one of those outstanding cult shows that burn bright and briefly -- it lasted only four episodes before being yanked, with nine more as yet unaired. Now fans of this cult show are rewarded with the full series, in all its witty, quirky glory.
Twentysomething Jaye Tyler (Caroline Dhavernas) is an underachieving slacker. She has a philosophy degree from Brown University, but now works as a shopgirl at Niagara Falls and lives in a trailer. Needless to say, her ultra-successful family finds this galling and disturbing, even though they themselves are far from perfect -- her sister Sharon (Katie Finneran) is a lesbian, her parents are splitting, and her brother is just a weirdo.
Then weirder things happen to Jaye. Suddenly toys are talking to her, and prompting her to help the people around her -- returning purses, dealing with ghosts, helping an old enemy from high school, and deal with a long-dead Indian girl. Following the instructions of her "muses," Jaye begins to learn a few things about other people, and the quality of kindness.
It's an unusual idea for a TV show -- an embittered young woman hears "muses" talking to her, including a stuffed lizard, lawn flamingos and a brass monkey. Most people would just check themselves into a padded cell, but that doesn't make for scintillating TV watching. So instead, it becomes a deeply warped inspirational series.
What sets it apart from other series is the surreal touch and wicked sense of humor. It's never made clear why Jaye hears toys and bookends talking cryptically to her -- is it God? Aliens? Her own mind? Pantheistic souls in everything? Nothing is made specific, which makes it all the weirder and more intriguing -- especially since the toys give her advice even when she doesn't want it.
And the humor can be beyond weird, but is always funny, such as Jaye arguing with a cow creamer (shades of P.G. Wodehouse?) that she doesn't want a pancake. Another example is a solemn, intense moment after she scatters a deceased person's ashes.... and promptly gets fined for littering. The dialogue is witty and well-written -- not in a laugh track way, but in a smile-and-chuckle-softly way.
Caroline Dhavernas does a phenomenal job as Jaye. She narrowly avoids the sullen teen/twentysomething cliche, making Jaye's dissatisfaction with her family and life seem realistic. She can be nasty and incisive and angsty, but can also be sweet and even vulnerable. The supporting cast, such as nice-guy bartender Eric (Tyron Leitso) and Jaye's bizarro overachiever family, are surprisingly well-rounded for such quirky characters.
"Wonderfalls" is destined to remain a cult hit -- delicate, weird and thoroughly original. It didn't last long, but now everyone can enjoy what there was of it. Absolutely wonder-fall."
"Wonderfalls" is wonderful!
Henry Perkins | Santa Clara, CA USA | 12/04/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"[Summary: Too imaginative and quirky for FOX, but "Wonderfalls" is wonderful when you can view all 13 episodes. Higly recommended.]
"Wonderfalls" is an episodic comedy, set in Niagara Falls, New York. It's an "hour" (3/4 when subtracting commercial time) show, without a laugh track. Highly innovative, it uses its setting to great effect, including using View-Master slides for act changes and tourist tchotchkies to inspire unexpected acts of compassion in a previously lackluster protagonist.
OK, so you're a typical member of Generation Why Me, overeducated and undermotivated. You've found the ideal job working in a Niagara Falls gift shop, where you figure if you show up for work you've accomplished enough for the day. You just got passed over for Assistant Manager, losing out to a mouth breather who's still in high school. And now the knick-knacks you're supposed to be selling are talking to you, telling you to do things. You're not sure whether the voices are coming from God, Satan, or a tumor in your brain, but your biggest question is: "Why me?".
That's Jaye Tyler, youngest and weirdest of a family living in Niagara Falls, New York. Parents Darrin and Karen, sister Sharon and brother Aaron don't really understand Jaye. And neither did the FOX Network, which jerked "Wonderfalls" around mercilessly in their schedule and then dropped it, airing only four episodes after paying for thirteen. The people who buy new shows at FOX are a lot smarter than those (ir-)responsible for their schedules. "Wonderfalls" fell victim to the FOX Friday Night Curse, joining "M.A.N.T.I.S.", "Firefly", "Space: Above and Beyond", "Strange Luck", "John Doe", "VR.5", "The Lone Gunmen", "Harsh Realm", "Sliders", "Brimstone", "Tru Calling", "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.", "Alien Nation", "Roar", "Futurama", "Kindred: The Embraced", "Night Visions", "The Tick", "Werewolf", and "Wolf Lake". If you've got an idea for a strange new show, you might be able to sell it to FOX. But expect to be pre-empted, moved to a different night, and have the episode order shuffled. Bleah!
Thank you for reading my rant about FOX, and now I promise to get back to reviewing the "Wonderfalls" DVD collection. This includes three discs, with four episodes on Discs 1 and 2, and five on Disc 3. If you managed to catch all four broadcast episodes you've still got nine more that will be new to you. They include answers to questions like "Will Jaye find true love?", and yes, the all-important "Why me?".
In addition to the full 13 episodes you'll get commentary on half of them from the same foursome: series star Caroline Dhavernas ("Jaye Tyler"), Katie Finneran ("Sharon Tyler"), and co-creators Todd Holland and Bryan Fuller. Scotch Ellis Loring ("Dr. Ron Campbell", plus the voice of various muses -- the talking animals) joins them on one commentary. And there's even a music video, with Caroline and other cast members lip-synching their way through a rendition of the title song!
I'm not going to spoil the actual 13 episodes for you, but I will note that in the commentaries you'll find out the plans for important elements of Season 2 (the lesbian pregnancy) & Season 3 (Jaye in the loony bin), plus character traits of the Tyler clan that never got to show up in Season 1. Republican Party folk ballads, anyone?
The video and audio are excellent. While the broadcast episodes were cropped to fill the screen, they're presented in widescreen on DVD.
The "Wonderfalls" cast is eclectic. Caroline Dhavernas is a big star in her native Canada, but her repertoire pre-Wonderfalls is entirely dramatic. Happily, she shows a real flair for comedy here. Tyron Leitso ("Eric Gotts") was the de facto hero (i.e. he survived) in "House of the Dead". Katie Finneran mostly does stage work. Lee Pace ("Aaron Tyler") and Tracie Thoms ("Mahandra McGinty") were Juilliard classmates. William Sadler ("Darin Tyler") was the bad guy in "Die Hard 2", the sheriff in "Roswell", and the mummy in "Bordello of Blood". Diana Scarwid ("Karen Tyler") has been acting professionally since 1977, but "Wonderfalls" is her only regular TV series.
The locations are *almost* right. Niagara Falls, Ontario substitutes for Niagara Falls, New York. The interiors were shot in Toronto. With environments this close to authentic the lighting and other aspects of exterior shots are wholly believable.
If this spoiler-free review leaves you unsure whether to buy the "Wonderfalls" DVD collection, I apologize. I recommend the show highly, and like it so much that I didn't want to detract from your enjoyment in the slightest. It's hard to describe, but worthwhile to those who take a leap of faith."
The worst early cancellation ever
SJWolves | Redding, CA | 11/10/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Let's see. You are a network dying for quality programming. You get a promising new show on your doorstep. You say, "Ha, this sounds like a promising new show indeed! Let's put it on Friday nights at 9 p.m.!"
FOX did this in both the Fall Season of 2002 and the Spring Season of 2004 with equally intriguing (in different ways) and humorous shows Firefly and Wonderfalls.
At least Firefly got 10 episodes, Wonderfalls only got four. I was absolutely crushed when I heard this show was killed by FOX. I mean you only give a show that critics loved four episodes? Give it a chance to find an audience FOX! It's a quality show. I guess FOX decided they could only stick by one quirky, funny show so they went with Arrested Development (which is fine by me, that show is hilarious). You can't have too much quirkiness or funny-ness on your network on one time I suppose.
Anyway, why I loved Wonderfalls. Well, it was different from anything else you've seen on TV. When it came out people tried to compare it to Joan of Arcadia with the talking animals of Wonderfalls taking the place of the people who play God on Joan. I like Joan of Arcadia but Wonderfalls is not Joan of Arcadia.
Wonderfalls is supposed to be a satire of a girl in her early-mid 20's finding her way in the world despite having this crazy family of hers. Plus, she has wax figurines talking to her, telling her to do all sorts of odd things (or so it seems they are odd) to top it off.
I mentioned the show before but I think Wonderfalls is much more comparable to Arrested Development than Joan of Arcadia. Just think of Jaye Tyler (Caroline Dhavernas) the same way as Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman). Yeah, the circumstances are different but the shows revolve around those two characters in similar ways.
OK, now that I think about it mix Arrested Development together with Joan of Arcadia and you just about get Wonderfalls (almost). It's a great mix I think and I can't wait for this DVD to come out February 1.
Oh, get Firefly too if you don't have it. You can have the "Shows Too Good For FOX" twin-pack in your DVD collection."
Terrific new show on DVD
Amy Kufert-Brennan | coconut grove, fl United States | 11/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I read a lot more than I watch television. This is because it is so rare to find any intelligent, witty, well-written shows in television today. This show is the exception. It was a jewel of unique plots, excellent dialogue, and some philosophical/spiritual leanings that actually make sense to a jaded soul like me. So of course FOX killed the show. I've come to expect that any show of outstanding quality that comes along will either be killed or tortured out of shape to "dumb it down" and to appease the television gods that demand that all shows be insipid with stilted humor and/or have boringly predictable plot lines. So quick, like a little bunny snatch up this DVD collection while you can. While you are at it, for a great sci-fi collection check out Firefly (another victim of FOX) and in the "strange, but very cool" category Northern Exposure has two seasons out or coming out on DVD. I wish you luck finding other truly watchable shows."