Jaye Tyler is a young woman with a useless Ivy League degree and no desire to pursue a career, working as a retail clerk in a Niagara Falls souvenir shop. Magic Realism asserts itself when inanimate objects—everything from statues, bookends and plush dolls to cartoon business logos, but always animals in some form—begin to talk to her. Their cryptic clues lead Jaye to bettering the lives of people around her (usually in cleverly-conceived, indirect ways) while simultaneously causing her to seriously doubt her sanity. Worse, if she attempts to ignore their commands, they badger and pester her until she relents.To her aging post-yuppie parents, her closeted lesbian overachieving sister, and her atheist theology-grad-student brother, she is undergoing a stress-related psychotic episode. Despite Jaye's apparent life of Dismotivation (dead-end retail job, trailer-park home, vintage clunker car), they would rather believe stress is the cause rather than the effect of her episodes. Her best friend and confidante merely believes that Jaye will tell her the truth about whatever is wrong when she's ready, rather than accept the actual truth that Jaye has already disclosed. Additionally, relationship tension is provided by a local bartender that Jaye is attracted to, but to whom she seems unable to admit the attraction, much less make a commitment to.As the story continues, Jaye finds herself under increasing stress as she struggles to deal with the often bizarre commands that she seems compelled to follow and the cascade of events she unwittingly touches off.The Fox network aired four one-hour episodes of the series before cancelling it, though thirteen episodes had been completed. Tim Minear, one of Joss Whedon's co-creators on Angel, wrote and executively produced, ensuring snappy post-modern dialogue and convoluted plots.The show's creator, Bryan Fuller, also created Dead Like Me, which may explain some of the similarities between the two shows; for example, the slacker female protagonist with a traditionally male name stuck in a dead-end job. (Fuller went on to create Pushing Daisies, starring Lee "Aaron Tyler" Pace alongside a female with a traditionally male name.) A series arc of sorts was planned; the second season was to focus on Jaye's sessions with her therapist, and the third was to have had Jaye committed to an institution. The show also shares characteristics with Joan of Arcadia, which premiered a few months earlier, as it is (very loosely) based upon the Joan of Arc legend.Many people missed its broadcast run, being unable to figure out when it was on. It still managed to scrounge up a few fans, though, who petitioned to get a DVD set, which collects all 13 episodes.
This show provides examples of:
Aborted Arc: In the episode about the lovebirds, Sharon's girlfriend is implied to be having second thoughts about their relationship and might have been seeing her ex husband again. The subplot between them ends on an ambiguous note of her having something to say but being interrupted by Sharon making out with her. What happens between them is never mentioned afterwards for the rest of the series.
Almost Kiss: Done in "Wound-Up Penguin" between Jaye and Eric. Happens again later with Mahandra and Aaron in "Safety Canary".
Alpha Bitch: Deconstructed with Gretchen Speck-Horowitz.
Basement-Dweller: Jaye finds it irritating that Aaron is considered more successful than her, even though he still lives in the family home and she doesn't (he doesn't actually live in the basement, though, he has his own bedroom).
Black Best Friend: Mahandra. (Though for the purposes of collecting casino money, 1/8th Native American on her grandmother's side!)
Brilliant, but Lazy: Jaye got an Ivy League philosophy degree, but lives in a trailer and works in a giftshop because it entails less work. There was an entire episode that deconstructed this with as much detail as they can.
Brother-Sister Incest: Not in the show, but according to both Caroline Dhavernas and Katie Finneran, there are pictures of Lee Pace and Caroline making out while in character. For no other reason than because it was funny.
California Doubling: Niagara Falls, Ontario (and environs) doubles for Niagara Falls, New York (ditto). Of course, anyone who's actually been there will realize that the view directly across includes the American Falls, which would be on the left if one was actually on the American side.
Cassandra Truth: Nobody—except, possibly, her brother Aaron—believes Jaye when she says that inanimate objects talk to her.
The Chosen One: Jaye, possibly, although it's entirely unclear why and by whom she was chosen if that is the case.
Cut Short: Depending on where you viewed it. The original Fox broadcast was cancelled after a mere four episodes. However, due to the fact a complete first season was filmed, international viewers saw the complete season, episodes were also shown in L.A. theaters, and ultimately the complete storyline (which although mapped out as part of a multi-year arc was written in such a way that the first season stood on its own) came out on DVD.
Cutting the Electronic Leash: Eric does this in "Barrel Bear." His throwing his cellphone into the falls is to symbolizing the letting go of "Old" Eric and embracing "New" Eric.
Dueling Shows: Wonderfalls had the unfortunate luck of being made at the same time as Joan of Arcadia, which had a very similar premise but was more family oriented and optimistic. All of Fox's attempts to keep people from thinking Wonderfalls was ripping it off were the exact wrong things to do. Delaying the premiere of Wonderfalls didn't help either (see Executive Meddling, below).
Executive Meddling: When they found that the show Joan of Arcadia would be released around the same time as Wonderfalls with a very similar premise, Fox decided to hold off on premiering Wonderfalls, not wanting to risk looking like a rip off. Of course Joan ended up being a huge hit and by releasing the show a few months later they definitely looked like they were ripping off the show. Smooth.
However, it can be argued that the decision to delay the broadcast allowed the producers to complete filming of all 13 episodes of the first season so that, when Fox cancelled the show after only four episodes, fans were still able to view the complete storyline, even if they had to wait a year or so for the DVD.
In a less show-endy way, they also made the show change its opening credits because they didn't have enough shots of Jaye smiling, and they had them cut out a shot of Eric fainting because he wasn't "manly enough".
The people at Fox apparently thought there were too many blonde girls in the show, and had Sharon's love interest wear a rather fake looking brunette wig throughout the season.
Fake American: French-Canadian Caroline Dhavernas as Jaye (and yes, that extended to the French-Canadian dub for the show, which she also recorded).
Within the show, "Crime Dog" has an illegal Canadian immigrant pretending to be a naturalized American citizen.
She's also an English Canadian, pretending to be a French Canadian, with a very badly faked accent.
Friends with Benefits: Aaron and Mahandra get together for "Friend sex, which is generally cleaner and more disease-free than stranger sex." As a side-note, their story was inspired by one of the creator's friends, who said she got together with her husband because of friend sex.)
Getting Crap Past the Radar: The various references to Heidi cheating on Eric can get pretty dirty ("She always said I shouldn't open my mouth to strangers." "Kind of ironic, you know...considering"), as is the policewoman's comment about how she could tell Sharon was a lesbian from her short fingernails. ("Lesbians always trim their nails like that. You know why?")
In Lovesick Ass, the kid's name is Peter Johnson and his dad is Dick Johnson. They managed 3 penis euphemisms across 2 people, not bad.
Hollywood Atheist: Averted with Aaron. He's an atheist, but he is also incredibly fascinated by religious studies and is the first person they go to when needing a theological expert. And the events surrounding Jaye seem to shake his lack of belief, possibly enough to make an agnostic out of him.
In "Totem Mole", he seems to credit the possibility that Jaye is The Chosen One of the Native American tribe around which the episode centres.
And now Gretchen Speck (she dropped the 'Horowitz' in the divorce) has appeared on Bryan Fuller's new series Hannibal. With Caroline Dhavernas as one of the main characters in that series.
Ivy League For Everyone: And it seems of the three Tyler children, Sharon is the only one putting her degree to actual use. With Aaron simply continually piling on more religious study degrees to avoid getting a job, and Jaye working in retail after getting a bachelor's in philosophy.
Last-Second Word Swap: Jaye yells at a donkey toy about telling her "Girl needs a boy" like she'd already heard that day. It finishes, "...Donut. Girl needs a donut."
Left Hanging: Whatever was to become of Sharon and Beth's relationship was left on the rather ambiguous note in Safety Canary.
Les Yay: Behind the scenes. In the bonus features on the DVD Jaye and Sharon's actresses frequently talk about each other's cleavage and having "nice boobs", and Sharon commenting on how playing a lesbian was fun because "girls are nice to kiss, they're really soft!"
Although she did follow that by saying, "I don't like them as much as boys, unfortunately."
Lipstick Lesbian: Sharon Tyler. About the most butch thing about her is that she smokes and drives an SUV.
Noodle Incident: Several various mean tricks Jaye's pulled on her sister go only half-explained.
Odd Name Out: The Tylers consist of Karen, Darrin, Sharon, Aaron...and Jaye.
The Other Darrin: Initially, Adam Scott was cast as Aaron and Kerry Washington was cast as Mahandra. They filmed the pilot but were unable to commit to a full series, so the roles were recast with Lee Pace and Tracie Thoms and their scenes were refilmed for the broadcast version of the episode.
Heidi was played by Corry Carpf during a brief flashback in "Wax Lion", and replaced with Jewel Staite when the character appeared in the last five episodes.
Remember the New Guy: Yvette is apparently an incredibly close house keeper of the Tyler's and is considered like one of the family. Despite the fact that she is neither mentioned nor seen before or after the episode she appears in. This is because they couldn't afford to have her actress appear unless they wanted to cut down Mahondra's role.
This Loser Is You: To the point that an entire episode focused on Jaye's status as an archetypal twenty-something with limitless possibilities before her but absolutely no direction.
The Unfavorite: Averted, Jaye is considered the least successful member in her family, but they don't hold it against her. Instead they simply lower their expectations for her and celebrate every little accomplishment she makes, as a way to encourage her to keep improving.
Viewers Are Morons: Fox absolutely hated the episode "Crime Dog" because of its How We Got Here narration, thinking that fans wouldn't be able to understand what was going on.
Woobie of the Week: The show premise, atleast for the first two-thirds of the season. Then it became less focused on her accidentally doing good deeds and more on Heidi and Eric and beginning go into detail about just what exactly is causing her "powers".