For most of December, we had a trio of DVDs from Netflix in the house, holding up our queue. The complete Wonderfalls, a TV show that was cancelled for no reason whatsoever. It resided in a shadowland between Gilmore Girls and West Wing on the one hand, and vintage supernatural shows such as Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie on the other. It also learned valuable lessons from Raising Arizona and Sliding Doors. It was witty, surreal, funny, sappy, deep, flaky, dazzling.
A cynical and world-weary 24 year-old woman named Jaye, with a philosophy degree from Brown, has returned to her native Niagara NY, and now lives in a trailer park and works at a souvenir shop near the Falls. One day, inanimate objects begin talking to her, exhorting her with cryptic requests to do things (“Ask about his wedding ring” “Get her words out”) or to not do things (“Don’t give her money back”). She quickly learns to comply, because the objects nag her mercilessly until she does, or smugly rub her nose in it when she doesn’t (“told you not to give her money back”).
Her family is quirky, and seemingly nothing like her; they’re all driven and successful, she’s stalled and under-employed. Also, all their names rhyme: Darren, Karen, Aaron, Sharon. As the episodes progress (there were thirteen in the season; only four ever aired before the show was axed by the typically imaginative and perceptive TV execs), the animals grow more, well, animated; the storylines weave into richer patterns; the characters and relationships deepen.
I found the show very moving, and I easily identified with this girl who is — by her own admission and in accord with her family’s perceptions — a black sheep wracked by the contradictory motives of apathy and compassion.
Most importantly, of course, is that the brilliant theme song was composed and performed by one of my greatest artistic heroes, Andy Partridge.
Watch the show and you’ll soon enough start imagining what the cow creamer might say to you and how it might change your life.