In 1984, the movie Electric Dreamswas released, providing a prescient view of the capabilities computers would eventually have. At the same time, as one of the first films directed by a music video producer, Steve Barron, the film made heavy use of MTV style montages during some of its musical sequences.
The film opens with a montage at the airport as a technophobic Miles Harding (Lenny van Dohlen) tries to catch a flight. The scenes in the airport establish how pervasive technology is in the world, with shots of computers, printers, computerized toy cars, and calculators. Upon arriving at his architectural firm in San Francisco, a friend shows Miles his electronic organizer. The conversation is seen through the lens of a surveillance camera in the company’s elevator. Miles goes to buy one, but is talked into purchasing the latest computer from the store clerk.
Although the computer Miles purchased looks like an Apple available in the early 80s, it had capabilities more in line with a modern Alexa. Within moments of unboxing the computer, Miles is connecting it to run his blender, coffee machine, stereo, and home security system. When he hacks into his boss’s computer to gain the information he needs so the computer can help him design an earthquake resistant brick, the computer begins to malfunction and he pours champagne on it, resulting in a computer that begins to gain sentience.
While all this is going on, Miles gets a new neighbor, when classical cellist Madeline Robistat (Virginia Madsen) moves into the upstairs apartment. Despite making a bad first impression on her, when they bump into each other in a grocery store, the strike up a relationship. Miles is as awkward around women as he is around computers, but Madeline is intrigued when she hears music coming from his apartment, playing a duet as she practices and thinks it is Miles.
By chance, there is one actor who I’ll be returning to several times in the course of these articles. Lee Pace appeared in a support role in Wonderfalls, which aired in 2004. He returned as the main character in Pushing Daisies from 2007 through 2009. And in between, he appeared in the movie The Fall, released in 2006.
The film is the story of Roy (Pace), a stuntman during the silent movie era. A stunt gone wrong lands him in the hospital without the use of his legs and also results in the girl of his dreams leaving him for the film’s leading man. While in the hospital, Roy makes the acquaintance of Alexandria (Catinca Untaru) an inquisitive young girl in the hospital with a broken arm. To pass the time, Roy begins telling Alexandria a complex story of a group of antiheroes fighting against the evil General Odious (Daniel Caltagirone). The story is depicted the way Alexandria imagines it, with the various characters bearing resemblance to the hospital staff and patients.
One of the features of Pushing Daisies was the over saturation and use of color throughout the series. The Fall also makes use of oversaturation to good effect as it helps divide the films reality from the fantasy sequences described by Pace and imagined by Alexandria. Roy’s story begins as an escapist fantasy to while away the time for himself and Alexandria, but it quickly becomes apparent that the tale is more than just a story and has dark ramifications, both within the story Roy is telling and for the life in the hospital that he and Alexandria are experiencing.
This is the second article in an occasional series called either Now Streaming or Not Streaming, depending on the availability of the television shows or films I’ll be discussing. In addition to discussing the works, I’ll also note the availability of the works. The series also ties into an issue of the Hugo Award winning fanzine Journey Planet I’ve recently published which has appreciations of more than thirty television series that were cancelled within two seasons.
Sometimes a show’s cancellation is, at least in part, the result of the coincidental similarity with another show. On September 18, 2006, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, an hour long drama built around the production of a weekly comedy sketch show, debuted on NBC. Three weeks later, on October 11, NBC debuted 30 Rock, an half-hour long comedy built around the production of a weekly comedy sketch show. While 30 Rock ran for seven seasons and 138 episodes, Studio 60 only lasted a single series and 22 episodes.
A couple years earlier, a similar situation happened when Joan of Arcadia debuted on CBS on September 26, 2003. It ran for two seasons and told the story of a woman who was given tasks to perform by God. Six months later, on March 12, 2004, Fox aired the first episode of Wonderfalls, a story about a woman who hears voices giving her tasks to perform. After airing the first four episodes out of order, Fox cancelled the show. Fortunately, one of the executive producers, Tim Minear, had experience with Fox (he had worked on Firefly), and they had plotted the series to complete a story arc within the 13 episodes initially ordered. The full run aired on Canada’s Vision TV six months after it was cancelled in the United States, where viewers had to wait until the DVD set was released in early 2005 with all the ‘sodes in the correct order.
So, what is Wonderfalls and why is it so Wonderful? …