Wonderfalls (2004) – Wax Lion, and Pink Flamingos

This week, I’m diving into the classic Bryan Fuller series, Wonderfalls. The show definitely did not get the love it deserved at the time, mainly because Fox, in their usual way of screwing over genre shows, aired them out of order. In fact, they only aired four episodes, leaving nine unaired, but the series found a bit of a cult following when the complete series on DVD.

Set in Niagara Falls, the series follows, Jaye Tyler (Caroline Dhavernas), an over-educated, cynical young woman who is working in a souvenir shop in Niagara Falls (it’s supposed to be the American side, but very obviously the Canadian).

She finds herself at the center of a series of strange occurrences when some of the souvenirs in the store begin to talk to her and send her on missions to help people and grow as a person.

The season opener, Wax Lion was written by Fuller and Todd Holland and debuted on 12 March, 2004, and features a solid cast, including William Sadler as Jaye’s dad, Lee Pace as her brother, Aaron, Katie Finnerman as her sister, Sharon. We also get some fun casting with the addition of Tracie Thoms, Tyron Leitso and Neil Grayston.

During a run-in with a customer, the wax lion she was going to buy begins talking to Jaye and offering her advice. It’s through this that Jaye begins to become more involved in her world, taking an active part in the lives around her, specifically, in this case, her sister’s love life.

The series opener is quirky, introduces its premise and its characters and promises through its delightful bantering dialogue that this is going to be something special.

The second episode as laid out by the showrunners was Pink Flamingos, though it was actually the fourth and final episode to be aired. Way to screw up Fox. It aired on 1 April, 2004 and was written by Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts.

This time out Jaye ignores advice from a talking pink flamingo which ends up with her dad in the hospital with a broken leg, leading to more revelations for the patriarch as the story progresses.

Her sister, Sharon, continues to hide her sexuality from her family, a secret that Jaye now helps her keep but the main story follows Jaye’s interaction with a former classmate, Gretchen (Chelan Simmons) who has moved the high school reunion forward. Jaye feels like she’s been given alternate advice, to help Gretch and then to destroy her.

It’s funny and shows that the series plans to go in unexpected directions with a couple of fun red herrings, and Dhavernas is simply delightful as she spars on the phone with Eric’s (Leitso) ex-wife and sparks something in the bartender’s heart.

I was immediately enchanted with the series again, and taken right back to the time I discovered it. I saw the first episode and bought the series as soon as it was released. It’s quirky and delightful, and everyone in the show is playing it just right.


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