"Does the little wax lion ever tell you to burn things or hurt people?"
"No... he's probably working up to that." - Eric Gotts and Jaye Tyler, "Wax Lion"
What would you do if everyday objects began talking to you? And nobody else could hear them? And they weren't just being chatty, they had assignments for you; tasks that you really should take care of because it makes the world a better place? If you're Jaye Tyler
, then you'll eventually start listening. Wonderfalls
follows the life of twenty-four year old college graduate Jaye (played by Caroline Dhavernas
) as she works at Wonderfalls, a Niagara Falls gift shop
. She's snarky, sullen, sarcastic, lives in a trailer park, and is the youngest of a family of great successes. Early in life she made a vow to wind up overeducated and unemployable, something that she has completely succeeded at accomplishing. One day small inanimate objects - a wax lion
, a brass monkey
, a wind-up penguin
toy, and so on - begin speaking to her. They urge her to do their bidding and, of course, nobody else can hear them. They are not chatty objects; they speak only when they have something to say and they do not answer Jaye's questions. Once Jaye begins following their directions ("Bring her back", "Have a pancake", "Get off your ass", etc.) she begins to make the lives around her change for the better, not to mention her own.
The big mystery behind Wonderfalls is, of course, whether or not these objects really are speaking to Jaye (in the first episode she fears she's gone crazy once a little wax lion begins talking to her). If they are, who is putting the words in their mouths? The wax lion and the wind-up penguin toy offer no answers, only tasks. Many people will compare the series to shows such as Joan of Arcadia and Touched by an Angel (Wonderfalls was originally titled Touched by a Crazy Person), but Wonderfalls is unique in its own way. While the former productions rely on heartwarmth and earnestness, Jaye's world is endowed with dark humor and snarky joy. She wants the objects to shut up so she can get back to wasting her life; making the world a better place is not on her agenda. Once she accepts that brass monkeys and teddy bears have a mission for her, she follows their cryptic instructions in order to get them to stop talking. For example, when a stuttering girl named Bianca turns up at Wonderfalls to return Jaye's stolen wallet, a toy chameleon says to Jaye: "get her words out." Jaye begins finishing Bianca's stuttery sentences, but yet the chameleon persists: "Get her words out." Later Jaye learns that Bianca is actually at Wonderfalls to write an article about Jaye's "Gen Y" generation: intelligent people who choose a life of falling through the cracks in society. Jaye offers Bianca total access to her life, hoping to give her all the material she needs to write her article. Unfortuately, Bianca becomes enamoured with the slacker lifestyle and begins to take over Jaye's life: she dresses like her, talks like her, and even steals her job and friends. Once again, the chameleon speaks: "Get her words out." Jaye takes it upon herself to write Bianca's article, sends it off to the editor under Bianca's name, and when the article is purchased, Jaye sends the usurper on her way and reclaims her lifestyle. While Jaye's motivation in helping Bianca was to simply to get her own life back, the chameleon had bigger things in mind. "Get her words out," indeed.
Wonderfalls is one of the most charming, smartly written, and genuinely entertaining television shows to come along in quite a while. Created by Bryan Fuller (of Dead Like Me and Star Trek: Voyager) and written by a crew that includes people such as Tim Minear (from The X-Files and Angel), Wonderfalls manages to swing from comedy to drama and back again without missing a beat, providing an elegantly structured hour of entertainment. FOX ordered thirteen episodes in 2003 and then, in a move that surprises few people who know how FOX treats good television, they held the show until March 2004 and dropped it into the Friday night 9:00pm death time slot (a place where shows such as Dark Angel, The Lone Gunmen and Firefly have gone to die), then decided to move it to Thursdays at 9:00pm ET following Tru Calling. This lasted for one week, and then FOX cancelled the series. Rumors persisted that the creators continue the shop the show around to various cable channels (all broadcast networks passed on the series when offered), but a DVD set of all thirteen episodes was released in February 2005.
"Why do you talk to me?!"
"Because you listen." - Jaye Tyler and the brass monkey, "Cocktail Bunny"