Wonderfalls: Wax Lion
August 7, 2015 10:42 AM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

Over-educated and unambitious retail clerk Jaye Tyler is coerced into helping a stranger, against her better judgment and desire to avoid human interaction, when a wax lion at the Wonderfalls gift shop begins talking to her.

This gets slotted as a "Bryan Fuller" show but aside from the magical realism* it feels way more like a Todd Holland show to me, group dynamics and manic pacing and all. Holland's husband is even the shrink and voice of the Wax Lion!

The fact that the show never aired the bulk of its run means it can be commonly found on Youtube if you're into that kind of thing.

IMDB uses the actual air order, not the order on the DVD - I'm using the DVD order.

The theme song was written and performed by Andy Partridge of XTC!! Here's the whole thing. Damn catchy.

Stray Thoughts

This is the most 90s TV show ever. I don't think it would've stood out at the time but man everything about the "unambitious Over-educated slacker in a retail job" feels like it takes place in a another planet compared to the current situation. Friend called it "Live action Daria" and I can totally see it.

I'd forgotten how much I love Sharon, actually all the Tylers - they make the point that they're weird stiff WASPs but don't really make fun of them for that.

*One description of magical realism I read was "everything is plausible except for one fantasical element like a coin rolling unstopped all over town to find the right person." and then boom that actually in this episode.

Trivia! Adam Scott was originally cast for the role of Aaron!
posted by The Whelk (24 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I managed to catch this episode randomly when it first aired. I didn't watch all of it then, but I remembered this exchange for a decade

(Jaye talking to the lion and monkey figurines)

"Are you God? Are you the Devil? If you don't say something in the next five minutes I'm going to assume Devil."


"Oh no"


"I'm a crazy person."
posted by The Whelk at 10:46 AM on August 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

I honestly can't remember whether I ever found/watched the unaired episodes so there may be totally new-to-me Wonderfalls ahead. I am excited. This was fun to come back to, although largely set-up, so I don't know that I have anything super-exciting to say about it.

Per the commentary, in addition to re-casting Adam Scott as Lee Pace, they also originally had Kerry Washington playing Mahandra and had to recast her. I love the casting they ended up with but I would not mind taking a brief day trip to the alternate universe where I can watch the show with Washington and Scott instead.
posted by Stacey at 11:31 AM on August 7, 2015

I spent the entire episode going "Where the hell do I know the actress playing Mahandra from" It was Deathproof.

The actress playing Jaye's mom was in that insane Brenda Starr movie I watched for The Toast!
posted by The Whelk at 11:37 AM on August 7, 2015

Oh god I just remembered Jaye's weaselly little fellow employee-promoted-to-manager. WHAT A WEASEL shut up dude I hate you even though your thing with the stopwatch was funny. (I'm only two episodes in on my rewatch so no one tell me if he becomes a redeemable and excellent character later, right now I'm enjoying hating him.)
posted by Stacey at 11:50 AM on August 7, 2015

Oh hey look it's my every six months reminder to get this theme song stuck in my head for a week.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:34 PM on August 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

I had forgotten a lot of the detail from this episode, but I have NOT forgotten how DELIGHTED I was when it premiered, only to slide into the inevitable morass of "Jesus, why do I even fucking bother liking or getting attached to anything ever if the grim, random Stephen Crane universe will just immediately take it away from me?" and general existential despair a few weeks later.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:15 PM on August 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

Well, if you're gonna twist my arm I guess I'll rewatch this series for the fourth for fifth time.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 9:03 PM on August 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

I was a big fan of Wonderfalls when it first aired, down to writing letters to networks and hunting for torrents of unaired episodes after it got canceled, so I'm glad to have an opportunity to break out my DVDs again.

I thought the ending of the pilot was a little weak -- the dialogue with Eric at the falls seems awkward to me, and the scene with the delivery guy feels unnecessary. Jaye's interactions with the Muses are great, though, and I love how expressive Caroline Dhavernas is.

I would not mind taking a brief day trip to the alternate universe where I can watch the show with Washington and Scott instead.

Yeah! I'd heard that Mahandra and Aaron had been replaced, but I didn't know who Adam Scott was at the time. The version of the pilot with the original cast is on YouTube and here's a cast photo if you want to take a look.
posted by ectabo at 9:30 PM on August 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

posted by HuronBob at 10:27 PM on August 7, 2015

Huh! Adam!Aaron comes off as older? More corporate? series Aaron always had a perpetual student vibe, partly cause he was always hunched over in some kind of sweatshirt. Kerry!Mahandra seems a bit flat but her hair is great.

Also, she has an episode devoted to her, but check out Grectchen Speck here! She shows up on Hannibal, season one, same actress, same character name.
posted by The Whelk at 10:43 PM on August 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

check out Grectchen Speck here! She shows up on Hannibal, season one, same actress, same character name.

Yeah, that was just about the best thing ever!
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 11:41 PM on August 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Can't catch a break that Gretchen.

I found a Wonderfalls /Hannibal crossover fic that looked promising but was just kinda meh-ly written and weird. Now I'm just assuming these otherworldly experiences is why Jaye Tyler left Niagra Falls, changed her name, and became a psychologist and teacher.
posted by The Whelk at 11:50 PM on August 7, 2015

So, if Mrs K and I decide to watch the whole of this, does the season wrap up satisfactorily, or will we be annoyed that it just stops going?
posted by kandinski at 12:56 AM on August 8, 2015

Whelk I was pondering how such a crossover would work. Maybe Jaye is referred to a certain very fancy therapist and a certain stag statue starts talking?
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:48 AM on August 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

It actually ends in a non rage inducing way!
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:48 AM on August 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, Fox brought on Tim Minear as an executive producer after the pilot. Minear had just been an EP on Firefly and had just been burnt by the network, so they planned the season as a complete story.
posted by ectabo at 7:57 AM on August 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh, this show was so awesome. I cannot bloody stand anything Hannibal Lecter so I could not watch that show regardless of who's in it, but I almost wish I could because of the same actors. I loved this cast so much. I loved the crazy premise so much. (I watched both this and Joan of Arcadia at the time.) God or whatever's personal domino effect worked so crazy well in this show. Yay rewatch!
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:13 PM on August 9, 2015

Thanks, showbiz_liz! Queuing it up right now...
posted by kandinski at 3:26 AM on August 10, 2015

Oh wow I had forgotten how incredibly long and incredibly paginated those recaps were
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:12 AM on August 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm so glad we no longer feel the need to describe every action done on a TV show
posted by The Whelk at 8:38 AM on August 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

My household watched this on Sunday night and now I realize I'm not sure if I ever actually watched any Wonderfalls episodes the whole way through or only caught pieces while my roommate was watching the series. Maybe I'll remember watching some of the later episodes, but this one felt totally new to me! I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to seeing the rest.

Thanks for the link to the original pilot, ectabo - it was really interesting to watch the same scenes with different people in them!
posted by jessypie at 9:35 AM on August 11, 2015

I don't know about this not feeling like a "Fuller" show, this feels very much like Bryan Fuller's first show Dead Like Me. Even though he left it after like six episodes, a lot of the underlying structure is there: 20-something disconnected woman, wandering through life, magic event throttles her out of her routine and gives her purpose where she had none. Actually, I usually think of Wonderfalls as a second try at that model after he was dissatisfied with Dead Like Me, although that's pure conjecture on my part.
posted by john-a-dreams at 8:52 PM on August 12, 2015

Well yeah a lot of the characters and situations are Fuller-y but the kind of direction and tone, more manic, more farcical, big close-ups and reaction shots....feels more Holland in that he'd master that in Malcom In The Middle ( and his Kimmy Schmidt episode) but they both thread the meddle between whimsical and cartoonish so it's hard to say what comes from where.
posted by The Whelk at 11:18 PM on August 12, 2015

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