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From Azcentral.comWonderful ’Wonderfalls’ deserves shot
By Bill Goodykoontz
Monday 15 March 2004, by Webmaster
Wonderful ’Wonderfalls’ deserves shot
Mar. 12, 2004 12:00 AM
So how can we kill Wonderfalls?
What excuses are left to not watch another potentially great Fox show? Card game? Toenail trimming? Back waxing?
Why should Wonderfalls, which premières tonight, work where others have failed? That it’s one of the most delightfully written, expertly cast and effortlessly acted new shows of the season means nothing, obviously. Fox has a Dumpster full of once-promising shows rotting away meeting that description. Even the ones that survive, such as Arrested Development, which should at least finish out the season, attract audiences you could fit into a large closet.
Wonderfalls is hard to categorize, its allure even harder to explain. Let’s start with "quirky," which it is, in a big way. Not exactly a hallmark of hugely popular shows, alas. It’s about Jaye (Caroline Dhavernas), a Brown graduate living in a trailer and toiling at a retail job in a dead-end little tourist-trap gift shop at the lip of Niagara Falls. Jaye’s slacker life goes about as you would expect - until inanimate objects start talking to her.
Animals, specifically. Plastic ones, stuffed ones, ones sewed onto aprons, any kind but the real ones. A dented wax lion, for instance, may tell her to not give a customer change owed her from the cash register. Odd, yes, but as Jaye quickly learns, things work out best when she listens. The seemingly random events the talking-trinket-inspired actions cause set off a chain of occurrences that eventually leads to a meaningful conclusion. She helps other people despite herself.
This sounds silly, of course (and a little like Joan of Arcadia, but not as much as you’d think), as if it ought to air on Saturday mornings between commercials for Alpha-Bits and Barbie playhouses.
Not so. Wonderfalls is a decidedly adult comedy, free of the burdens of a laugh track or studio audience. At an hour long, it’s tempting to call it a comedy-drama hybrid, but there’s no real drama. There are plenty of wonderfully bizarre moments that touch your heart, though, and if I get any sappier I’m going to have to stick my head in a toilet and hire someone to flush.
Wonderfalls never gets sappy, in large part because Dhavernas plays Jaye as if she’s sucking on a lemon, a confirmed curmudgeon with a heart buried deep under layers of cynicism. Probably. She’s the most likable TV crab since Lou Grant, constantly downplaying the expectations of her overachieving parents (William Sadler and Diana Scarwid) and siblings (Katie Finneran and Lee Pace).
There’s a lot of magic going on here. But Wonderfalls’ toughest trick will be getting people to watch.