The skewed perspective of a conservative Catholic employee-side employment lawyer living in the most exciting city in the Milky Way, Las Vegas, Nevada USA, who listens to a lot of really strange music and who, for some reason, lives and dies St. Louis Cardinal baseball

3/20/2005

"Wonderfalls" episode 5 - the first clunker

I'm in the process of devouring my Wonderfalls DVD. Finally, I am getting to watch the un-broadcast episodes of this great TV show.

Taking the episodes sequentially, Episode 5 - titled "Crime Dog" - is the first that wasn't broadcast. It was previewed on the last episode, but some time during the intervening week, the wonderful Wonderfalls was cancelled. Thank God this episode never aired. It was the first clunker and if it had been the last episode shown,. I would not have such a warm heart-place for this quirky show.

To use a phrase from the past, one that it in popular usage when this show would've aired, this is the episode where Wonderfalls "jumps the shark." I've got another eight to watch, so I'm definitely hoping it jumps back.

This episode has two very serious problems that are always a symptom of shark-jumping. What makes a great TV show, movie, comic strip or any work of fiction is staying true to alternate universe the author created. Even when there are weird quirks that couldn't happen in real life, those quirks are invoked consistently. The laws of physics may be repealed or suspended, but there is an internal logic to how they are circumvented. This episode shot down two mandatory conventions in maintaining a logical parallel universe.

First, it revealed a new character. Ordinarily, a new character is no problem, if there is a reason for not having met the character before. This episode featured the Tyler family housekeeper, an "illegal immigrant" from Canada. Given that this character allegedly had been the housekeeper for the Tylers for 20+ years, there has to be some logical explanation for her not being introduced in the prior four episodes. There wasn't. Jaye had eaten dinner at the parents' house in previous episodes, where was the housekeeper? The internal logic of this alternative universe was violated by this act.

It was violated even further by a subsequent scene. The shtick of the show is that inanimate objects in the shape of animals occasionally talk to Jaye, played by Canadian actress Caroline Dhavernas. They tell her things, but they don't speak on request and they don't converse. This episode, a cardboard cut-out of a bulldog in a police uniform (hence, the "Crime Dog") spoke on request, conversed with her, and did not really an instruction that she was to follow. The dog told her to do something, she disregarded it, and the episode moved forward. Part of the internal logic is not only the rule against conversations, but that the plot moves forward when she ignores the dictates of the talking object. That did not apply to the cardboard bulldog. Again, the internal logic was violated.

Add to this the fact that the episode was preachy on a political issue (in this case, illegal immigration), without really playing fair with the alternative viewpoints. The fairness doctrine does not exist and, even if it did, would not apply to an entertainment program. If there had not been the other flaws, this problem would not have bothered me. But there were the other problems, thus this becomes another symptom of a great show losing its steam quickly.

As I watch the later episodes, maybe this error will be avoided and the show will un-jump the shark. Or, and this is my huge fear right now, Fox cancelled the show not only because of low ratings, but because there was a huge quality drop-off in later episodes. I hope it's not the latter. But, even if it is, I got the first four episodes on DVD and those episodes are fantastic. Well-written, well-acted, well-"put together". The show is worth owning on DVD even if the remaining episodes stink worse than Suzanne Somers sitcom.
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