Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 20, No. 45, Ed. 1 Friday, March 12, 2004 Page: 41 of 72
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The cynicism in 'Wonderfalls' feels rehashed, but there's room to improve
By Arnold Wayne Jones Staff Writer
Mysticism on television is big these days. On
"Joan of Arcadia," a high school student gets reg-
ular visits from God, telling her to go on elabo-
rate kinds of scavenger hunts that invariably ben-
efit others in "mysterious ways." HBO's
"Carnivale" pits emissaries of good and evil in
the 1930s Dustbowl, and charac-
ters on recently cancelled pro-
grams like "Touched by an
Angel" and "Miracles" find sol-
ace in spirituality.
From this backdrop,
"Wonderfalls," which debuts
this week on Fox, exudes a slight "been there,
done that" vibe. Where it tries to distinguish itself
is with its weirdly fantastical imagery (talking
animal statuary, for instance) and snarky attitude.
Although obviously still a work in progress, it
has the potential to blossom into something hip
and funny — if only the writers take it in the right
Wonderfalls is the name of a Niagara Falls
gift emporium on the New York-Canada border
where a Brown-educated underachiever named
Jaye (Caroline Dhavernas, doing her best Parker
Posey impersonation) works without much
enthusiasm. She simultaneously fails to impress
her bosses, who don't think she's up to the job,
and her parents (Diana Scarwid and William
Sadler), who think such work is beneath her. Jaye
Starring Caroline Dhavernas,
Katie Finneran, Bill sadler and
Premieres Mar. 12 at 8 p.m. on FOX
exists in a nether world where she's neither
happy nor miserable — a loser who has no one to
blame but herself.
It takes less than a minute watching the pilot
to get a sense for what the show is going to be
like. The deadpan, cynical narration resembles
Showtime's "Dead Like Me,"
while the zooming, itchy cam-
erawork and bizarre comic ele-
ments recall "Malcolm in the
Middle." (When the credits
roll, you realize why that is: the
show's creators are openly gay
Bryan Fuller and Todd Holland, who were key
creative voices on each of those series.)
Unfortunately, the "Dead Like Me" ethic wins
the culture war over the much more clever
"Malcolm." "Wonderfalls" instantly seems like a
retread of the sarcasm and disaffection that may
have once seemed cutting edge but now looks
suspiciously like the absence of originality.
Fuller, who wrote the first episode, tries to be
creative by making Jaye mildly schizophrenic,
it's not clear where he's going with it all. Jaye
sees all the coincidences as a leading to some
greater purpose, but maybe she7s reading too
much into her mania, struggling to tie together
the odd events in her life so that a plan emerges.
Is "Wonderfalls" aiming for a comic portrait of
burgeoning insanity, or is it merely peculiar for
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Katie Finneran plays a bitter woman outed to her slacker
sister on the pilot of 'Wonderfalls.'
its own sake? The direction Fuller finally decides
on may be the key to whether the series stakes a
claim as a quirky gem or a rudderless ghost ship
quickly claimed by audience indifference?
It may be too early to tell, but there is genuine
potential here. So far, the only really interesting
relationship is the one between Jaye and her sis-
ter Sharon (Katie Finneran), a lipstick lesbian
who remained successfully closeted until a disas-
trous blind date outs her. Their scenes together
show a believable example of childhood rivalry
on the verge of developing into a mature, adult
RUGBY JOCKS FOR SALE
Gay or straight — athletes are hotties. It's
no surprise that people clamor for dates with
sweaty sportsmen. The Dallas Diablos, the
Metroplex's amateur gay rugby football club,
realized this and decided, "If ya got it, sell it."
On Sunday night, 10 of the team's single
men go on the block for a fund-raising bache-
lor auction. (There's also a rugby couple who
will go on a double date with you and your
sweetie.) Packages up for bid include not only
the man himself, but prizes donated by area
restaurants and other businesses. Proceeds go
toward the Diablos' trip to London in May,
where they will participate in the Mark
Bingham International Rugby Tournament,
named after the heroic gay player who died on
United flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001.
Woody's Bar, 4011 Cedar Springs, March
14 at 7 p.m. 214-522-4548.
— Arnold Wayne Jones
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03.12.04 I da I las voice I 41
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Vercher, Dennis. Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 20, No. 45, Ed. 1 Friday, March 12, 2004, newspaper, March 12, 2004; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth238885/m1/41/: accessed September 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.