Wonderfalls and the genre fan

I watched the premiere of Wonderfalls. I'd heard about the show, liked the quirky idea (young woman finds inanimate objects start talking to her), liked the setting (Niagara Falls one of the tackiest places on Earth), and basically had a free spot on my VCR on Friday nights. I didn't love it, I didn't hate it. Once I laughed out loud, which is pretty good because you don't often do that sitting alone in front of your tv. I liked it enough to watch it again, though I won't say it will become a regular thing for me or that its cancellation will bother me. But it doesn't suck, and that's saying a lot for tv today.

More interesting than Wonderfalls is the reaction of genre fans. I've noticed two major kinds of reactions. People who either like it or don't like it because they see it as a copy of Joan of Arcadia. Interestingly, the ones who like it generally don't like Joan and the ones who don't like it do like Joan. So the similarity really doesn't seem that much of a help. The other reaction is the decision not to watch it because it's on Friday night on FOX and some people have decided that guarantees the show won't be renewed and so they won't watch it lest they like it and then find it's cancelled. Often these people add a long list of cancelled shows they loved to their messages (usually the list includes Angel, Farscape, and Harsh Realm). I don't get either of those reactions.

I don't see a strong parallel between Joan and Wonderfalls. Yes, there is a surface resemblance. Both have female leads who have conversations with beings people don't normally have conversations with (avatars of God for Joan, wax lions and brass monkeys for Jaye on Wonderfalls). And both the female leads have families and names that begin with J. That's about it.

Joan is a 16 year old high school student of average intelligence. She lives at home with her reasonably happy and well adjusted middle class family in a more or less average town. She has a brother in a wheel chair, a mother who is now teaching, a father who's a cop, and a younger brother who's a science whiz. She has a couple of good friends and her major problems involve trying to establish a personal life while making it through school and keeping her parents happy. When the God avatars speak to her they usually tell her to do specific things - like pick up milk, help her parents, look after her brother. Generally the requests from God are about being a better person and doing things we'd see as clearly virtuous (like sharing the burdens of others and helping people in need). Joan talks back to God and while he never explains himself (or at least rarely does), he and she does reply and some of the conversations are actually clarifying.

Admittedly, I've only seen one episode of Wonderfalls. It could change. But then again, everyone else has only seen one episode and their opinions are based on it. So I think my analysis holds water. Anyway, Jaye is 24 and has a philosophy degree from Brown. She's working in a gift shop in Niagara Falls (no way an average town but a tourist trap). She lives in a trailer. Her family is wealthy and successful (her father a doctor, her sister a surgeon, her mother an author according to the show web site). Her brother, also according to the web site, is a lifetime student with several graduate degrees. She hangs out at a local bar (Joan, of course, is too young to drink). The animal figures which talk to her are unclear in their directions saying things like 'make me a match' and they don't really respond to her questions. She doesn't seem to like any of her family members (at least she's eager to get her mother and father out of her place and her sister seems to feel she hates her).

So, once you get past the surface stuff (and at a certain level of abstractions all shows are the same), these shows are really pretty different. They are in very different places, the family relationships are different, and the leads are significantly different in age and background.

This whole thing about the show will be cancelled so I won't watch just strikes me as pointless. By not watching, you pretty much guarantee the show will be cancelled. And please don't give me the "I'm not a Nielsen family so it doesn't matter if I watch or not". Of course it matters. People talks about shows they watch. Other people hear about them. And some of those people will be metered. It's funny that I never hear this argument raised when write in campaigns like the Save Angel campaign are discussed. No one ever says, why bother writing in if you're not a Nielsen family. Anyway, even if that lame argument were viable, it still doesn't matter. Why watch or not watch a show because it may be cancelled soon. All shows will be cancelled. Some sooner, some later, but it happens to them all. This would be the same as not reading short stories because they'll end soon. Or not reading novels by a dead author because there won't be any more. Watch the show. If you like it, watch it until it's cancelled. You'll have a few more hours of enjoyment than you have had otherwise. If you don't like it, don't watch and then when it gets cancelled maybe it will be replaced with something you do like. It's a no lose situation.

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