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'Wonderfalls' and Failed Pilot Syndrome

I actually can't disagree with Phil's assessment of Wonderfalls based on its pilot episode. I thought it had a lot of potential, but there were numerous things in the Wonderfalls pilot that rubbed me wrong, the lead character Jaye being the biggest problem. She wasn't just quirky, she was nasty and generally unpleasant.

But for whatever reason -- mostly because I don't believe that you can tell all from a pilot -- I stuck with the show. And every week it got better. By the time its last episode aired, it was hitting all cylinders, a drama with a weird Malcolm in the Middle comedy vibe to it. (As opposed to Joan of Arcadia, which had a good first eight episodes and then basically cratered... but that's another article.)

I see the failure of Wonderfalls as being yet another example of Failed Pilot Syndrome. My favorite example of this is the failed X-Files spin-off The Lone Gunmen. That show's pilot was absolutely, mind-bogglingly atrocious. And yet, the successive episodes got better and better. Taken as a whole, Lone Gunmen was a creatively successful show. But it didn't matter -- viewers tuned in for the pilot, got a load of crap, and tuned out forever.

It makes you wonder. For all of the grumbling of producers who have to re-shoot their pilots, sometimes it's probably for the best. Sometimes I think TV reviewers should always watch a show's second episode before reviewing the show. (In fact, most of our fall TV reviews at TeeVee are late for that very reason. The pilot's just not enough.)

And now the exception that proves the rule: Firefly's original pilot kicked ass. The "replacement" first episode mandated by Fox? Not so much.


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