There’s Life After Network Cancellation

I recently discovered Wonderfalls, an intelligent, irreverent, and highly original TV show.
It’s the story of Jaye Tyler (Caroline Dhavernas), a twentysomething with a Philosophy degree from Brown who works at a Niagara Falls gift shop. (Her adolescent and adenoidal boss is not-so-affectionately referred to as “Mouth-Breather.”) The hook: the animal-shaped toys and tchochkes she encounters in her life speak to her. As in, they literally speak to her and tell her what to do. Jaye just wants to be left alone, interacting with the world begrudgingly and indifferently only when she has to, but the critters in the show get her involved in other peoples’ lives and ultimately– and in a very convoluted manner– make them better off than they were.
Oh, and Wonderfalls is also a canceled TV show: dumped by Fox after only four episodes in early 2004.
The critics raved about this show when it was first aired. More than one referred to it as “the best thing on television.” Not being one to fall for superlatives, I didn’t bother with it until the complete 13-episode series was released on DVD and I read even more glowing reviews. Finally, I rented Disc One from Netflix and stuck it in my bag for my trip to Japan. I cursed my laptop battery when it died in the middle of an episode called “Karma Chameleon.” It was that good. Within the next couple weeks, I’d finished watching the entire series, and felt better for the experience.
Okay, maybe that’s exaggerating, but there’s something to be said for watching a TV show or movie or whatever and having it wind up a satisfying experience.
I also came to the realization that Wonderfalls’ cancellation was ultimately a good thing.
I remember when I was heavily into another, more successful TV comedy-drama, Northern Exposure: the first episode I ever saw (where Shelly gets addicted to satellite TV) blew me away and I was hooked for the next few seasons.
Then the show got really, REALLY stupid. Dr Fleishman became a mountain man. Lovable, simple-yet-wise Ed became an idiot. Ruth-Ann got really mean. And most egregious was the sudden center-staging of Chris the DJ as a pontificating, overblown, wordy dime-store-philosopher-wannabe who made me want to pull an Elvis and shoot out the TV screen.
There, I feel better.
My point is that the 13 episodes of Wonderfalls complete a very nice story arc, and by virtue of the show’s not living past its first season it never got the chance to get stupid. And thanks to the hard work of the show’s fans to get the show released on DVD, the show lives on in its absolute brilliance, never to be described as “the formerly-great Wonderfalls.”
It’s heartening to see something so wonderful live on in one medium despite its failure in another. It’s very much in line with the overarching theme of Wonderfalls, that everything happens for a reason.