Anyone who knows me knows that I love Jaye Tyler, ably played (to perfection) by Caroline Dhavernas, the major character in the series ‘Wonderfalls’ and that, despite the fact it ran thirteen episodes, is my favourite TV series in a very long time.
I am not here today to write a review of ‘Wonderfalls;’ it is good and I think you should pick up a copy of the complete series. No, today I am here to say a little on discontinued series.
In the UK an in-production sitcom will have between six and eight episodes per year, whilst in the States it is a solid twenty-two. A one hour drama in the States will also have twenty episodes whilst in the UK it can vary. Somtimes six episodes, sometimes thirteen or any, really, any old number. Thus, any show that only runs for thirteen episodes in the States can be deemed a failure on some level whilst in the UK that might make it a success.
Two different countries, two different economies of production.
Still, it makes me wonder.
‘Wonderfalls’ ran for thirteen episodes and its production was shut down due to low ratings (in the States they tend to make shows as they are being broadcast whilst in the UK they tend to wait until everything has been shot before they screen it) after only four episodes had been shown; shows now, apparently, need to rate well on the opening night or its doom and gloom time (no longer can American TV producers argue that you need to wait for the audience to grow and appreciate a show as advertising dollars are everything). Bryan Fuller and Todd Holland, the creators and producers of ‘Wonderfalls’ were aware that the show might not resonate with the viewing public and so they did their best to wrap most of the major questions of the storyline up in the thirteen episodes they produced. Thus ‘Wonderfalls’ does tell a complete story, and it turns out to be a fairly interesting one in that the overall arc of the story is not about the ‘gimmick’ but rather about the characters. This telling of a complete story is fairly novel in some ways; most shows that get canned mid-season over in the States tend to leave the viewer wanting (but never being able to get) more, and so I commend Messrs. Fuller and Holland in doing the right thing by their viewers (rabid fans that we are). I suspect that wise producers will be doing this more; many shows get enough funding for half a season and then are at the mercy of the fickle public… A little judicious planning and suddenly you could make a virtue of not going to a full or second season… Still, that’s neither here nor there.
I suppose what I am clumsily getting at is that, perhaps, we should look upon these half-seasons as mini-series. I would dearly love to see what a second season of ‘Wonderfalls’ might have been like. I imagine it could have been very good or that the gimmick might run out of steam and it would all break down. I am sad that the producers were not able to delight or disgust me with the continuing exploits of Jaye and her friends and family. But if I were a producer I would be thinking that thirteen episodes is a good run. That if this were a series in the UK I might not have been given even that number. That having a show run for seven years at twenty-two episodes per year might be an unrealistic expectation.
What I seem to be trying to say is that a story is a story is a story and that a writer (or writers) know that the medium can impose limits upon that story. If you are aware of those limits then it is quite possible to make virtues of them. And, sometimes, those imposed limits can do your story a lot of good. ‘Wonderfalls’ tells a story that I am going to return to again and again.
Pity that I won’t get to spend as much time doing it again and again as I would have liked to, though…