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Ask Matt (Wonderfalls mention)

By Matt Roush

Wednesday 31 March 2004, by cally

Ask Matt

Due to the volume of questions received, Matt cannot answer all questions or reply via personal email.

Question: I share your enthusiasm for Curb Your Enthusiasm, Scrubs and Joan of Arcadia. These series all share (at times) a pessimism about the human condition that the creators turn into well-written humor. Joan (especially) turns her often apathetic "whatever" attitude into positive results, with a little help from her friend. This brings me to Wonderfalls. The lead character’s snarky, superior, "I’m so cool because I don’t care" attitude is a total turnoff to me. Her "quirky," "wacky" family exists only in the world of TV, and is in stark contrast to Joan’s TV family. This show is being embraced by critics, but if it dies a well-deserved death, it isn’t because the great unwashed masses can’t recognize quality television. I sampled this show and found it insufferably smug. - Jim B.

Matt: Thanks for this opposing view. Funny, but when I first watched the original Wonderfalls pilot last summer, I had much the same reaction: She was too overbearingly smug, and the show itself (the family, in particular) much too precious. Maybe because of all the disappointments I’ve weathered this season between then and now (Karen Sisco, Boomtown, Ed, you name it), when I more recently returned to watch a handful of episodes of Wonderfalls, I found myself unexpectedly charmed. I love the offbeat setting of Niagara Falls, I find Jaye more exasperated with life than smug about it, and while I concede your point that the zaniness of Jaye’s family is the sort of thing you only find on TV, I’ve come to think TV could use a few more shows with oddball characters. Without a doubt Wonderfalls is uneven - of the episodes I’ve seen, some are noticeably more satisfying than others - but I respect its ambition and am glad that in such a dispiriting TV year, someone’s still trying. The fact that a number of people will find the show off-putting is not a surprise. I can’t imagine feeling neutral to it. You’ll either love it or hate it, and is that such a bad thing, really?

Question: Wonderfalls isn’t a bad show but the main character seems so much like a clone of the main character in the vastly superior Showtime series Dead like Me. It really looks like they gave the lead actress of Wonderfalls some tapes of Dead like Me and told her to give her best impression of Ellen Muth. I know that the creator of Dead like Me is also the creator of Wonderfalls, but stealing ideas from yourself is still stealing. - Sven L.

Matt: And here’s where I admit that Dead Like Me was, to me, a complete turnoff. Ellen Muth’s performance was like curdled milk: sour, unpleasant and left a bitter aftertaste. Talk about a smug, self-impressed series. But that’s just me. Quite a few of this column’s correspondents enjoyed it. And for those who’ve written in wondering about Dead like Me’s whereabouts, a second season was ordered, but hasn’t been scheduled yet to my knowledge. I’m guessing it will return in the summer.

Question: Doesn’t it seem logical for Fox to move Wonderfalls to Thursdays, after Tru Calling? The encore of the first episode which aired in that time period did better than the first time it aired on Friday. Both shows have the same audience and would help each other. There is one other plus too: Forever Eden and Playing It Straight could die on Fridays. This is Fox, which is known not for doing the logical thing, but for killing shows. Any thoughts? - John

Matt: Friday or Thursday, both are probably death traps for Wonderfalls. But you’re right that according to the ratings, a slightly larger audience tuned in to check it out on Thursday, and it’s somewhat more compatible with the I-hear-dead-people conceit of Tru Calling. So yes, it would make sense to give that programming strategy a shot. And I continue to refuse to believe anyone would want to see Forever Eden on any night of the week. What a dud.