Wonderful Wonderfalls

1.31.2005

By Jeffrey Epstein

The premise of the TV series Wonderfalls was definitely quirky. Inanimate objects (like a wax lion and monkey statue) begin telling the sardonic Jaye to do things'and they won't leave her alone until she does. What resulted each week was a series of mishaps and madcap adventures that ended up somehow doing good'after wrecking havoc. While the show was lauded by critics, the initial ratings were low and Fox yanked the show before it found a following. Luckily, the complete first season (including unaired episodes) is on a new DVD that's available in stores this week. We sat down with the show's out cocreator, Bryan Fuller (who devised the show with openly gay writer-director Todd Holland), to get the dish on the show and the DVD.

Are you glad the show is finally arriving on DVD?
I think it's really fantastic because it beats the crap out of it sitting on a shelf where nobody can see it!

Now that almost a year has passed, how do you feel about the cancellation?
I feel a lot better than I did when it first happened. The cancellation was initially really difficult and there was a lot of scrambling and writing to other networks [to ask them to pick up the show] and sending them wax lions. I desperately fought for it not to go away. We came very close with Lifetime, and there was some interest in ABC Family, and I think what killed the deals was that the studio [Fox] was talking about releasing it on DVD quickly so it didn't make sense for a network to pick up a show that was going to be on DVD by the end of the year.

Other than Jaye's sister, were there any other gay goodies that we missed?
There's an episode on the DVD called 'Safety Canary' where Sharon, Jaye's lesbian-Republican-lawyer sister, breaks up with her bisexual girlfriend. The girlfriend goes back to her ex-husband and has sex with him. Then Sharon changes her mind and has sex with her ex-girlfriend. But when her girlfriend had sex with the ex-husband she got active sperm in her vagina and when she had sex with Sharon, that sperm got into Sharon's vagina. And we were going to play a whole miracle birth where Sharon doesn't know how she got pregnant because she's never had sex with a man.

I was going to ask if there was one storyline you wish you had been able to write. It sounds like that's the one.
That would have been it. The whole lesbian pregnancy miracle birth would have been so fun to explore. It brings up so many issues for the characters to explore, and would have resulted in Sharon having to come out to her parents because she was very much in the closet.

What are some of the extras people will like?
There's a documentary that has Todd and myself and Caroline [Dhavernas] and Katie [Finneran] and [executive producer] Tim Minear talking about the show. It's about how you make a TV show and everything that went into the show. So if that's interesting to you, it might be interesting.

Will you and Todd work together again?
Totally. There were two studios involved with the show, Regency and 20th Century Fox, and when the show got canceled, Regency asked us to sit down with them and come up with a feature pitch of Wonderfalls. That's something that Todd and I are working on. It's very unlikely that there will be a feature, but we're working up a pitch for it, and we're going to bring it in.

Dead Like Me, which you created and then left, was recently canceled. While you were no longer a part of the show, how did you feel?
On one hand, it was sad because I loved those characters and I loved that cast and it was a fantastic crew. And it was the first show I created. It was sad to see it go away. On the other hand, it was closure to that experience. I was with a studio [MGM] that didn't have a lot of trust for someone who had created their first show, so it was very difficult. It was proud and humiliating and beautiful all wrapped up in one. There were definitely some bruises. But I'm moving on into future things.

You tend to write strong, snarky, female leads. Does that somehow tie into being gay?
I think it's definitely informed by that. You can also get away with a wider range of emotional expression with a woman than you can with a guy. So a female character can be snarky and still be likable and enjoyable. But if you take a guy through those same paces, you're going to have a different experience and different view of that character. I don't hardly ever see characters as male or female; I see them as individuals. But I think you can get away with a lot more with women characters.

What are you working on now?
I'm working on [a pilot called] The Assistant for NBC about the assistant in the corporate offices of a television relationship counselor ' la Dr. Phil, although in this case, the doctor is much more like Bill O'Reilly. The assistant is the type of guy who looks for good in the world, wants to do good in the world, and has put this man on a pedestal only to realize he's nothing like his onscreen persona and is a son of a bitch. It's about the reconciliation of your wants in the world and the harsh reality of the world. And everybody isn't always as they seem.

Do you think it's important that you weave gay characters into the stories you tell?
Yes, it's absolutely important to weave gay character into stories. It's not always easy because there's resistance'not active resistance'but a nervousness from the studios and the networks. When I was doing [the TV miniseries] Carrie, there was a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation between two girls. The network was concerned about the 'lesbian kiss.' There's definitely hesitation because networks are run by very conservative corporations. After my experience with Wonderfalls, where we had a lot of difficulty with the lesbian material'we were told that by no means could these women kiss or have their lips meet in any way'I know that there's going to be resistance, and it's a matter of earning those moments. So when it comes time to play them, we can't be shut down so easily.

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