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From Dvdexclusive.com

Fans Snatch Up Wonderfalls DVD - Success of axed show surprises execs

By Susanne Ault

Friday 18 February 2005, by Webmaster

The Fox network killed the fantasy/sci-fi TV series Wonderfalls after four episodes, so the show’s early success on DVD is surprising, to say the least.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment shipped almost 100,000 units of Wonderfalls to retail for its Feb. 1 bow, and the studio already has sold through about 25,000 copies.

"It’s totally surprising," said Bryan Fuller, Wonderfalls co-creator/co-executive producer. "I ordered 50 copies off Amazon.com myself to get it going. I was hoping it would do well, but honestly I didn’t think that many people knew about it."

In fact, the title ranked as an Amazon Top 20 seller. And a number of bricks-and-mortar retailers were taken off guard and ordered additional units last week.

"We brought in a cursory amount of it because we didn’t know what to expect with its lack of TV exposure," Tommy K’s CEO Frank Slugaski said. "It’s selling very well though. The only way you can gauge whether a [canceled] show will do well is check Web sites, go into chat rooms, but that’s very time-consuming."

Tommy K’s was scrambling to order more units last week, Slugaski said.

Although Wonderfalls was a blip on TV screens during its April-May run, it had the makings of a cult DVD title. The involvement of co-executive producer Tim Minear stamped the series with a fantasy/sci-fi pedigree from his past work on Angel and Firefly, and the genre is famous for cultivating voracious Internet fan bases.

Fox sensed the Internet love from www.savewonderfalls.com, which fans created after learning of the show’s impending demise last spring. Via the site, Fox staged its first live Webcast DVD launch Feb. 1.

Nearly all the Wonderfalls cast participated in the event either from New York or Los Angeles.

"Actors do want to support a show because it will further its longevity," Fuller observed. "But after the show is dead and gone, it’s weird to get people to turn out."

Hundreds of people logged onto the Webcast. The group included such key consumer cheerleaders as E! Online TV blogger Kristin Veitch. In another boost, the Museum of Television and Radio in New York hosted a Wonderfalls marathon the weekend before the DVD launch.

Retailers are aware of the wild popularity TV on DVD sets can have, regardless of the fate the shows might have suffered at network hands. Family Guy, another Fox network cast-off, went on to sell more than 3 million units over various Fox disc titles, leading the studio to slot fresh Family Guy episodes to air in May.

"It’s part of a growing trend that will likely grow further, where we’ll see good quality programming getting a second life that didn’t have it in all the years before DVD," Virgin DVD product manager Chris Anstey said. "The strange thing about Wonderfalls is that when we were first solicited, it wasn’t immediately recognizable. But I asked around the office and people said they really loved the show. That gave me some good info."

Few shows that have been cut off as quickly as Wonderfalls have since enjoyed life on DVD. But Anstey noted other relatively speedy TV to DVD transitions outperformed retail expectations, including Freaks and Geeks, My So-Called Life, The Ben Stiller Show, Firefly, Greg the Bunny and Mr. Show.

"When you have a work that is not available, it makes folks ravenous to get their hands on it," Amazon.com DVD editor Doug Thompson said. "This has led to the great interest and sales on DVD with canceled series like Wonderfalls, The Family Guy and Freaks and Geeks to name a few."

New Regency Prod., a sister movie unit to Wonderfalls’ Regency Television production company, hopes to develop a Wonderfalls feature film with Fuller and co-creator/co-executive producer Todd Holland. But it’s unlikely there will be fresh TV episodes a la Family Guy, as contractual differences between actors and voice talent make reunifications trickier with live-action series.

"But the Family Guy thing is interesting," Holland said. "I’ll be curious to see if those same [DVD] people show up on a weekly basis to watch it on TV. These people didn’t have to tune in every day. TV on DVD might be changing the way we watch TV."

Holland also would want to make extra sure that the Fox network would handle the show with care.

"I’d want to know they were committed," he said. "I don’t want to be heartbroken twice."