Review: Wonderfalls - The Complete Series / Cert: 12 / Directed by Various / Screenplay: Various / Starring: Caroline Dhavernas, Katie Finneran, Tyron Leitso, Lee Pace, William Sadler / Release Date: October 28th
Here at Starburst Magazine we like a quirky TV series - sometimes the quirkier the better. Case in point: Wonderfalls, a deliciously eccentric US comedy/drama/whatever-you-like from 2004 which ran for just 13 episodes (but found itself ignominiously cancelled after just four had been broadcast), only now finding its way onto DVD in the UK. It might take you an episode or three to find its rhythm but it’s a series which quickly works its very peculiar magic and by the end of the thirteenth episode you’ll feel wretched at the realisation that there’s no more to come.
Created by Bryan Fuller (who would go on to produce the equally-perverse cult hits Dead Like Me and Pushing Daisies) Wonderfalls starred Caroline Dhavernas (now appearing in Fuller’s current hit Hannibal) playing twenty-four year old graduate Jaye Tyler who’s wasting her life in a mundane job at the Wonderfalls souvenir shop near Niagara Falls. Self-obsessed and moody, Jaye finds her life changing when inanimate objects - usually depictions of dumb animals in the form of wax figurines, cow creamers or apron illustrations - start to talk to her, delivering messages which send her off on unusual escapades in which she finds herself reluctantly helping people to change their lives or rectify past mistakes. Whilst all around her - her larger-than-life family, her best friend Mahandra and Eric the bartender - are baffled by her increasingly-erratic behaviour, Jaye’s jumping through hoops, hopelessly compelled to obey the instructions of her lifeless ’muses’.
Like most of Fuller’s shows there’s an extreme air of heightened reality about Wonderfalls, a sense that we’re watching stories being told in a world which is a bit like our own but also quite a lot different. Wonderfalls is so refreshing - especially nearly ten years on - because it’s not an action show, there’s no jeopardy and the closest it gets to a story arc is the will they/won’t they relationship between Jaye and Eric. Wittily written and packed with broad performances and snappy, inventive direction, the show’s stories are resolutely low-key affairs; Jaye helps a guy on an extreme diet regain his sense of self-esteem, she helps put right an injustice regarding the first (and only) woman to go over the Falls in a barrel, she helps a lost mail-order Russian bride whose prospective husband turns out to be a thirteen year-old boy.
Delightfully-engaging and off-beat, in truth it’s hard to see how Wonderfalls could ever have been anything more than a one-season... er… wonder; the potentially short-lived novelty of its central premise seems to give the show its own in-built obsolescence. In reality Wonderfalls was always too wacky to live but at least now its European fans can take solace from this well-presented three-disc boxset which will forever commemorate the weird wonder of Wonderfalls.
Special features: Commentaries, ‘Greetings from Wonderfalls’ documentary, visual FX featurette.