The obvious point of comparison for “Wonderfalls” would be Bryan Fuller’s “Dead Like Me,” a cult series launched the year before the first arrived in 2004. (Its own tale of doom will have to wait another day.) Both shows centered on disgruntled young women whose lives are turned upside down by higher powers, sending them on a reluctant journey of self-discovery. From there, of course, the two drift apart, “Wonderfalls” focusing on Jaye’s coming of age into someone who slowly accepts that, yes, it’s okay to care about others and find a real one. meaning to his life.
Indeed, long before the modern age of television gave us gripping anti-heroines on shows like “Yellowjackets” and “Killing Eve,” Fuller and “Wonderfalls” co-creator Todd Holland (a veteran of the prolific TV who did extensive work on “The Larry Sanders Show” and “Malcolm in the Middle”) delivered just that with Jaye. He’s a character whose contempt for the world is palpable and who constantly says or does the wrong thing, which makes it all the more endearing and relatable. Caroline Dhavernas is perfect in the role, and it’s no wonder Fuller wanted to work with her again years later on “Hannibal.”
Dhavernas’ teammates are, by and large, on par with her, including a fun, laid-back Lee Pace as Aaron and Tracie Thoms as Mahandra, Jaye’s longtime friend and a cynical companion with a heart of gold. If Tyron Leitso is less engaging as Jaye’s love interest, Eric, it’s only because the character is the show’s calm amidst the storm of deeply flawed people who all benefit from the good deeds Jaye does at home. reluctantly (many of which, at first glance, appear to be the opposite of “good”). Even Jewel Staite (of “Firefly” fame) is having fun as Eric’s ex-wife Heidi, who’s as much of a shit as Jaye in her own way.
Along with great characters, quirky wit, and rich substance, “Wonderfalls” offers style to spare (another fundamental quality of Bryan Fuller’s work). Scenes transform as if they were photos in one of the ViewMasters that customers can purchase at Jaye’s workplace, and the camera is often whistling, panning, or capturing the image. action from eerie angles to highlight the quirky and heightened nature of the show’s reality. There are entire episodes shot and lit to mimic the tropes of specific film genres (like noir and thrillers), as well as whimsical scenes that dive into the characters’ imaginations.
Even the talking CGI inanimate objects look decent by early 2000s standards – though it’s the simple, cryptic phrases they repeat to Jaye that really stick in your memory (“Drop your ass!”, “Lick it ass!”). light switch” and my personal favorite, “Have a pancake!”).