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Open Letter from Tim Minear re "Wonderfalls"

Open Letter from Tim Minear re \"Wonderfalls\"

I've been away for a while, but hopefully I'm not forgotten. :)

There's some good TV sneaking back onto Fox here in the USA. But, it's on Friday nights, so it's a tough row to hoe.

I'm passing on this information in the hopes that some of y'all will check out Wonderfalls, or stick with it just a little bit longer if you are on the bubble regarding it.

Hi. My name is Tim Minear and I write television. Usually. Right now I guess I'm writing SPAM. But I'm not asking you to donate to some shady or even worthy cause. I'm not offering to enlarge any of your body parts (though I haven't ruled it out), and I make no claims of miraculous cures for exotic diseases. What I can offer you is sixty minutes (really about forty five, minus commercials) of quality entertainment if you do one thing: turn on your TV to Fox this Friday night at nine.

For the last year or so I've been working with a bunch of really talented people to make a new show for Fox called "Wonderfalls." We've made 13 episodes so far, and I really want you to see them.

Some of the folks at the network are telling me that "Wonderfalls" is the best reviewed new series they've had in ages -- maybe ever. I'm currently sitting on a stack of raves from all over the country, from major magazines, newspapers, small dailies, internet sites, etc. They seem to be doing me no good. Also, uncomfortable because of the sitting.

The big brains at the network, while happy with the reviews, tell me that good reviews don't bring in an audience. Guess they were right. We premiered on Friday, March 12th to less than great numbers.

There are several things stacking the odds against us. Our time slot, charmingly known as "The Fox Friday Death Slot" is quickly living up to its name. There has been much confusion and differing opinion over just how to promote this odd little series. Maybe the unique charm, heart and volcanic snark aren't coming through. I dunno. Fact is, I have no power over network promotion, I can't force Fox to air "Wonderfalls" on Monday nights, I don't have a Nielsen box or know anyone who does.

But I do have this keyboard, my cable-modem and a relationship with genre fans all over the world because of the internet. All of the shows I've worked on in the last several years have had loyal internet followings. From "Lois and Clark" to "The X-Files," from "Angel" to the short-lived but much-loved "Firefly." Ever since I've been associated with genre television I've had the extreme honor and pleasure (and sometimes hair-pulling madness) of interacting with fans of these shows via the internet. You are the most dedicated, passionate and, frankly, smartest fans around.
And I'm turning to you now because I believe you're a huge untapped resource.

I know that every one of you is connected to many others that I can't reach. If you can give a hand here, you might be keeping us afloat long enough for us to catch the tide. Worth a shot, anyway.

I know the network wants this show to work. They're willing for it to work. And if there's any way that my plea now will help Friday's numbers tick up just a touch, I think that would be a tremendous sign to them.

The next new episode of "Wonderfalls" airs Friday, March 19th at 9:00pm on Fox. Please tune in and mention it to someone else. Preferably someone with a Nielsen box.
So anyway, I thought I'd mention it. Oh, also, the network is going to repeat our pilot on Thursday, March 18th at 9:00pm after "Tru Calling." So if you missed it last Friday, here's your chance to catch it.

Thanks --

Tim Minear

PS - I know the conventional wisdom says that good reviews don't mean anything to potential viewers, but here's a taste of them anyway:

TV GUIDE (3/13-19), Matt Roush
"Ironic and romantic, WONDERFALLS is a true original. Surrender to its charms."

PEOPLE (3/22), Terry Kelleher
"The reason to watch WONDERFALLS is Dhavernas. With a star like this, a series doesn't really need a gimmick."

"A-" "...a revelation - a blessing, even.... Each of the four episodes I've seen is better than the one preceding it."

USA TODAY (3/12), Robert Bianco
"WONDERFALLS is such an unexpected treat"

LOS ANGELES TIMES (3/12), Robert Lloyd
"WONDERFALLS is so well done, so fresh and unpredictable, and so little in thrall to conventional virtues as to make the weary reviewer prostrate with joy... everything clicks here"

NEW YORK TIMES (3/12), Virginia Hefferman
"Beautifully shot and written with wit... Dhavernas is delightful."

NEWSDAY (3/12), Noel Holston
"the best pilot of the 2003-2004 season... Dhavernas is a find, a marvelously understated comic actress and her supporting cast is impeccable"

CHICAGO TRIBUNE (3/12), Steve Johnson
"the series looks and feels like nothing else on television... it all remains, almost magically, in balance, a delicate, roadside-attraction wonderland where mysteries of the cosmos, lowbrow popular culture, family dysfunction, longing and, mostly humor can coexist."

"unquestionably the best new drama series of the 2003-04 season... this is your time to love TV"

WASHINGTON POST (3/12), Tom Shales
"WONDERFALLS is wonderful... a prime example of risktaking originality, a brassy blast of fresh air any way you look at it."

BOSTON HERALD (3/12), Amy Amatangelo
"Executive producers Todd Holland, Tim Minear and Bryan Fuller have created a show unlike any other on television."

THE GLOBE AND MAIL (3/12), John Doyle
"WONDERFALLS is the best new drama in ages... Caroline Dhavernas is impeccable"

US WEEKLY ­ John Griffiths
"The writing is deliriously clever, the plots strangely Zen and uplifting, and Dhavernas is beyond winning as the loser-stamped Jaye. A fun, wild free fall."

POPGURLS (3/12), Allyson A Popgurl
"...get together with some friends, order in some Chinese, watch Wonderfalls at 9pm on FOX this Friday, and then go out to your favorite dive bar and snark with each other. Make it a regular Friday thing. You'll be happier for it."
Re: Open Letter from Tim Minear re \"Wonderfalls\"

What sort of show is Wonderfalls? With a name like that it could be a sports show in which people use barrels to ride over Niagara Falls.

The reviews did not tell me if it was a romance, comedy, documentary or science fiction.

What sort of ratings does 9 p.m. Friday get? Success should be judged against those figures.

What sort of audience are you looking for? Housewives? Buyers of computers?

One thing that does tend to mess up audience figures is that in the 1920s there was no such occupation as computer programmer. Consequently the standard categories traditionally used by the US Government and polling firms do not work for shows popular with geeks.
Re: Open Letter from Tim Minear re \"Wonderfalls\"

It's a drama with a lot of snarky humor, a 20-something slacker heroine with no goals and an Ivy League degree. The very things that make it unusual are the things hardest to promote.

The lead, Caroline Dhavernas, has a charm that makes you like even a snarky, snarly chick whose desire to disappoint her overachieving family is termed "an extreme sport" by her best friend, Mahandra.

Tim Minear (Angel, Firefly, X-files)is the show runner. The show was created by Bryan Fuller (Dead Like Me) and Todd Fuller (Malcolm in the Middle)

From: Official Wonderfalls Website
What if one day inanimate animal objects began talking to you? If that seems crazy, just imagine how Jaye Tyler feels!

Then, from a little later in the description:

Is the Universe conspiring against her? Is this real or just her imagination? Should she struggle with fate or surrender to destiny.

While each show tells a self contained story, there is an arc.

Tim relayed an interesting story about focus groups used for Wonderfalls. One was located in the Midwest, and one in the South. They had several groups in for several showings, having previously sent a VHS tape of one episode to some of them. There was a heavy preponderance of people in all the groups saying that they hadn't liked the first episode they'd seen with little preparation as to what they were letting themselves in for.

The second episode, that they watched as a group? All the focus groups loved it, gave it high ratings, declared they would watch it when it was aired, et cetera.

Surprisingly to me, men liked it more than women did. (Cuz I think Jaye's a slacker heroine for our time. Rachel from Six Feet Under with an Ivy League degree.)

So... exactly the kind of show you should give at least two viewings to, right?

Here's the kicker... the focus groups didn't get all the same first episode and same second episode. One group got #1 first, #2 second, but the other group got #2 first and #1 second. (And neither one got the pilot.) So it wasn't that one episode was so much better -- it just took people generally a little time to "get into" the series.

It might be that we can give the show some breathing room to see if it is as good as the critics (many of whom had 4 episodes to look at together) think.
Re: Open Letter from Tim Minear re \"Wonderfalls\"

It's a drama with a lot of snarky humor, a 20-something slacker heroine with no goals and and Ivy League degree. The very things that make it unusual are the things hardest to promote.
Thank you.

Sounds weird. The more a thing differs from the stereotype the more you have to learn before you can sit back and enjoy it.

Tell me when it crosses over to the UK, so I can watch it. If it stays a cult show try selling it to BBC4.
Re: Open Letter from Tim Minear re \"Wonderfalls\"

It's quirky and beguiling, and hard to categorize.

I'll let you know if and when I hear anything about it heading across the pond.
Re: Open Letter from Tim Minear re \"Wonderfalls\"

For those of us in reach of a North American Fox station, the Wonderfalls pilot will be rerun tonight after Tru Calling.

MMMM, Eliza Dushku and Caroline Dhavernas double feature. Sexay.

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