Tag Archives: Cancelled Shows

A Wonderfalls Weekend

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The “Smoosh Faced” Lion That Started It All

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love Wonderfalls. For those of you who’ve never heard of this fabulous example of episodic television at its very best, Wonderfalls was a short lived, brilliantly written and acted FOX series from 2004. It’s about a 24 year old girl named Jaye Tyler, with an impressive, but utterly useless philosophy degree from Brown University, who works as a retail clerk at a gift shop in Niagara Falls. She has a quirky family, a supportive best friend, and a hunky love interest who came to town on his honeymoon, but stayed on and got a job as a bartender when he caught his new bride…er…servicing the bell staff in the honeymoon suite.

Click Here to Get Wonderfalls on Netflix

As if this engaging plot wasn’t enough, in the pilot episode, Jaye discovers that she has a special gift—animals talk to her. Well, not really animals, but objects with faces. Namely those sold in the gift shop where she works, cartoon characters on signs and the sides of boxes, totem poles, pink lawn flamingos, etc. And each time one of them talks to her, it tells her to do things, to save people, to affect the outcomes of their lives…And so she does, which inevitably leads to some madcap adventure or another.

The Original Pilot, Never Aired…Same Script, A Few Different Actors

If you haven’t seen these, you really should! I recently rented all thirteen episodes on three DVDs from Netflix, and enjoyed them just as much as I did the first time around. 

After I watched the last one this weekend, I looked around my house and realized I have amassed a lot of inanimate objects with faces over the years…And I wondered, if they could talk, what would they tell me to do?

I bet they’d say…

Why’d you move to Florida, anyway? 

Finish that degree, and make it the last one! Blockhead!

Dust us! Our dust bunnies have dust bunnies!

Yeah! What the rag dolls said!

You really should dress more fashionably…and coordinate your accessories for godsakes!

Don’t write that…you’ll be sooorrr-eeee

The Official Wonderfalls Music Video

Stupid Network Tricks; Gone Too Soon vs. Stayed Too Long

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Well folks, it’s that time of year again! That magical season when we learn whether or not our favorite shows will live to see another season, or leave us forever wanting more. I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that a lot of network execs seem to be a tad out of touch with what we the people want to see piped into our living rooms each evening, versus what we could do without.There were a few surprises on the cancellation list this year…shows I thought would carry on because they were either very well done, or had won awards, or seemed to have a pretty large, loyal audience. Go figure…But, then again, it’s not the first time there has been a significant mismatch between the shows that end up on the chopping block, and those which should have been on it years ago…

Here are my picks in each category for the worst cancellation and continuance mistakes of all time….

GONE TOO SOON:

“Wonderfalls” FOX, 2004

Synopsis: “Launched in March 2004 as a mid-season replacement, this supernatural comedy drama suffered a death as quick as its premise was quirky. Thanks in part to a punishing Friday-night time slot, Wonderfalls managed only four episodes before Fox pulled the plug. Less than a year later, however, the offbeat series found new life on DVD, where all 13 completed installments were released to brisk sales and critical acclaim (see Wonderfalls — The Complete Series). The brainchild of veteran director Todd Holland (Twin Peaks, My So-Called Life) and Dead Like Me creator Bryan Fuller, Wonderfalls chronicles the misadventures of Jaye Tyler (Caroline Dhavernas), a Niagara Falls, NY gift-shop employee whose snarky world view gets shaken up when inanimate objects — a wax lion, a stuffed chameleon — begin ordering her around. Convinced she’s cracking up, Jaye nevertheless follows the animals’ instructions and unwittingly helps a broad range of unusual characters: an elementary-school Romeo, a stuttering stalker, a faithless nun, a mysterious housekeeper, etc. Her partners in crime on these assignments include sardonic pal Mahandra (Tracie Thoms), buttoned-up lesbian sister Sharon (Kate Finneran), and overeducated, underachieving brother Aaron (Lee Pace). Though unaware of their daughter’s peculiar conversations with stuffed animals, Jaye’s stuffy parents Karen (Diana Scarwid) and Darrin (William Sadler) also figure prominently in her adventures. So does Eric (Tyron Leitso), a hot, heartbroken bartender whose honeymoon was recently cut short when he caught his bride servicing the hotel bellhop. As Jaye flirts with Eric, fights with her family, and struggles to maintain her ironic detachment, she comes reluctantly closer to understanding the nature of her unorthodox destiny”. Source: http://www.fandango.com/wonderfalls%5Btvseries%5D_v305155/plotsummary

My Take: Loved this one! It was smart, funny, and different–oh boy was it different. Of course, it gave up the ghost way too soon, thanks to unimaginative network execs and viewers, with zero tolerance for quirky genius. Sorry folks, I calls ’em as I see ’em!

“Once and Again” ABC 1999-2002

Synopsis: “Lily Manning (Sela Ward) is a 40ish suburban soccer mom living in Deerfield, Illinois. Recently separated from her philandering husband Jake (Jeffrey Nordling), Lily is raising her two daughters, insecure, anxiety-ridden 14-year-old Grace (Julia Whelan), and wide-eyed, innocent 9-year-old Zoe (Meredith Deane). For support, she turns to her more free-spirited younger sister, Judy (Marin Hinkle), with whom she works at their bookstore called My Sister’s Bookstore (renamed Booklovers later in the series)”. Lily’s life changes when, during the pilot episode, she meets Rick Sammler (Billy Campbell) in the principal’s office of Grace’s school, Upton Sinclair High School. Rick is a single father and co-head of an architectural firm, Sammler/Cassili Associates, which is located in downtown Chicago. Rick has been divorced from his uptight ex-wife Karen (Susanna Thompson) for three years and has two children, Eli (Shane West), a 16-year-old basketball player at Sinclair High who suffers from a learning disability, and sensitive 12-year-old Jessie (Evan Rachel Wood), who longs for the days before her family’s disintegration. Lily and Rick share an immediate mutual attraction and begin dating. Their budding relationship causes problems in both of their respective families. Grace strongly objects to Lily and Rick’s relationship as she still hopes to see her parents get back together. Karen, a public interest attorney at the downtown law firm of Harris, Riegert, and Sammler, is worried about the toll Rick’s new relationship would take on their children, particularly Jessie, who is shy and emotionally fragile. She is also working through her own feelings of jealousy that Rick is moving on to a new relationship. In addition to Lily and Rick’s relationship, the show also focused to a lesser degree on their exes, Jake and Karen, and their own struggles to move on in a post-divorce environment”. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Once_and_Again

My Take: One of THE best shows ever aired on television. The amazing intro alone was worth keeping it for. ‘Nuff said…:-(

Swingtown ABC 2008

Synopsis: “As America celebrates its 200th birthday, two generations of friends and neighbors in a Chicago suburb explore new freedoms and seek connections with each other in the midst of the socio/sexual revolution”. Source:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0928173/

My Take: Okay, this one is still a little difficult for me to talk about because I’m still mad about the fact that it was cancelled before it had a chance to play out. The long and short of it is that network execs clearly caved to pressure from morality groups that had probably never even watched one stellar, Emmy worthy episode of this amazing show. Everyone was shortsighted here, and had a kneejerk reaction simply because the plotline centered upon the 70’s and the practice of “swinging”. But, you have to trust me here, that was a very, very minor part of the show. It was well written, featured rich storylines, with deep, complex, interesting characters. And it was ultimately murdered by the morality police way before I was ready to see it go. The irony? The show actually would have deterred the practice of swinging, had it been allowed to breathe in and out for a couple more seasons…

STAYED TOO LONG:

E.R. NBC 1994-2009

Synopsis: “ER follows the medical personnel and patients in the emergency room of Chicago’s fictional County General Hospital. Created by best-selling author Michael Crichton (“Jurassic Park”) and produced by John Wells (“The West Wing”), Christopher Chulack (“Third Watch”), David Zabel (“JAG”), and R. Scott… More Gemmill (“Jonny Zero”), the Emmy Award-winning series has completed fourteen seasons as one of television’s highest-rated dramas.
The doctors and nurses of County’s ER confront the daily challenges of a busy urban hospital, including overcrowded waiting rooms, staffing shortages, and the impact of life-and-death decisions. While they teach the next generation of doctors, each must tackle the demands of their personal lives, at times unsuccessfully”. Source: http://www.tv.com/er/show/111/summary.html

My Take: What stinks after 15 years? Well, the usual fish and company, and nighttime dramas beating worn out plots and recycled storylines to death. By the time it was over, was there anyone left who really cared? That’s nothing against the fine actors, writers, etc., believe me. But this one is a good example of network execs and producers milking a menopausal cow that had done her duty and then some, and should have been retired long ago.

Grey’s Anatomy ABC 2005-Present

Synopsis: “Grey’s Anatomy is a medical drama about a group of surgeons working at Seattle Grace Hospital. The show centers around Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and her life as a third year resident at the hospital. In addition to her relationship with her neurosurgeon husband, Derek Shepherd (Patrick… More Dempsey), and best friend Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), it also explores her relationships with her peers and the other doctors around her. Each episode dives into different medical cases and personal dramas of the doctors at Seattle Grace, with Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.) at the helm of the surgical department.”  Source: http://www.tv.com/greys-anatomy/show/24440/summary.html

My Take: A musical episode??? SERIOUSLY??? Aside from the fact that we all thought Grey’s was one big music video anyway, come on guys, that’s a shark in a shark suit, jumping the shark. Please put it out of its Mc-misery before this gets really Mc-ugly…seriously…

Melrose Place FOX 1992-1999

Synopsis: “The lives and loves of a group of young adults living in “Melrose Place” in California. Each with their own dreams and drives, the inevitable conflicts, conquests, and consummations ensue”.  Source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103491/

My Take: Okay people, this one was the coolest of the cool–for the first oh, I’d say 3 seasons. Then it just got stupid. Once everybody had slept with everybody else in the building, and Kimberly came back from the dead the first time and took that wig off :::shudder::: it was time to cut it so that it could live forever in the Hip Hall of Fame. But what do the greedy execs do? Yep, they kept it going after it made campy look campy. Then, after it slinked off with its formerly cool tail between it’s legs, what did they do? Of course, they brought it back years later with new, baby faced actors. I actually watched that one and liked it, but I think America has had enough of the gang on Melrose, and it was cancelled toot sweet, hopefully never to return again. Let’s hope not anyway…let me keep my memories of the super engaging Allison/Billy/Amanda triangle from the first couple of seasons, will ya?!

Here’s hoping your current favorites and mine have survived the out of touch network axe during the annual chopping season! You’d think they’d get smarter at this after decades of practice, wouldn’t you…

Another Two Bite the Dust…

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Speaking of entertainment trends and nostalgia, as I have been lately, it seems that yet another favorite genre of mine is going the way of the dinosaur. The longtime favorite daily escape of at-home wives and mothers (formerly known as “housewives”), the daytime drama, is being yanked from the airwaves at an alarming rate these days. While those who stay home to tend home and hearth have always loved these “Soap Operas”, when video tape recorders became popular in the 80’s, this form of melodramatic entertainment also seemed to appeal to many a working woman (and man, yes, we’re onto you guys), as well as college students. Today, die hard Soap fans record their favorites digitally to watch when they get home from work. Soaps are also now available via streaming video online, which is how I enjoy mine. I watch  “The Young and the Restless”, each evening once I finally settle down to relax after a long day of homeschooling, housework, and completion of my own brain twisting grad school assignments.

Vintage “As the World Turns” Intro

Lately, those shows that have been on the air nonstop now for 40+ years are disappearing into the ether, never to be forgotten by those of us who remember watching them, and their familiar cast of characters, literally from the playpen on… The first to go in 2009 was “Guiding Light”, the longest running daytime drama in history. “Guiding Light” was so long running that it first began on radio in 1937. This one was a favorite of my mother and grandmother, as were all of the soaps on CBS. Another long term family favorite, “As the World Turns”, began in 1956 and ended the year after Guiding Light made its final exit. The “As the World Turns” characters were like members of the family….Lisa, Bob, Kim, John and especially Holden Snyder, who kept my heart racing for decades, from the moment I first saw him jump down from that hayloft–shirtless.

Josh & Reva in a Classic Scene from “Guiding Light”

Why do I like Soaps? Well, I guess I like them because I tend to get attached to television shows and certain characters. And really, what other show can you think of that has run half a century, featuring many of the same core characters, played by the same actors and actresses? “The Simpsons” is an up and coming contender, but since it’s a cartoon, it really doesn’t count. There’s just something comforting about knowing that those people are going to be there day after day, even if they have to defy scientific law and medical reality to return from the dead multiple times in order to show up for you. And, while the storylines really are silly at times, soaps can always magically pull it off–because they’re Soaps. I’ve seen some really great performances over the years on these daytime gems as well, and obviously Hollywood agrees. Several of today’s major stars “honed their craft” as it were, on soap operas–Meg Ryan, Tommy Lee Jones, Julianne Moore, Eva Longoria, just to name a few. Now it appears that two more Soaps are scheduled to end their multi decade run on television–One Life to Live, which premiered in 1968, and All My Children, that has been on the air since 1970.

Marisa Tomei AND Julianne Moore on “As the World Turns”

So what’s going on? Reasons given by the networks for the cancellations always seem to point back to high costs of production and increasingly lowered ratings–typically a deadly combination for any television show, or any business for that matter. This might explain the demise of one show, but four in under 5 years? That tells me something else is at play here. Have we, as a nation, “outgrown” the daytime drama as an entertainment genre? I like to think not, because I really do enjoy watching “The Young and the Restless”, so I don’t want to lose it. But, in many ways, the handwriting is on the wall for Soap Operas. A few, like Y&R, “The Bold and the Beautiful”, and “General Hospital”, seem to be hanging in there–for now. And new formats for daytime drama have hit the scene as well. Martha Byrne, “As the World Turns” fans’ beloved “Lily” for several years, has launched her own web based Soap,“Gotham”, which is delivered in under 10 minute “webisodes” featuring many familiar faces recruited from her “As the World Turns” days. Is this the future of Soap Operas? Perhaps…

But really…are we just too busy multitasking these days to “waste” more than six minutes and 21 seconds on infidelity, evil twins, the ever popular logic defying total plastic surgery to look just like your arch enemy, paternity tests every time the stork visits, and the inevitable Friday afternoon cliffhanger? Let’s hope not! Because I really need somebody’s life to be crazier than mine….