Fox Broadcasting Co. got an early start on series orders for the 2003-2004 season, giving 13-episode pickups to two very different drama projects: the reality-bending dramedy Wonder Falls and the youthful serial The O.C. The former has been described by openly gay creators Todd Holland (Malcolm in the Middle) and Bryan Fuller (Star Trek: Voyager) as Touched by a Crazy Person.
Wonder Falls revolves around a Niagara Falls souvenir shop worker, played by Caroline Dhavernas, whose life is forever changed when she has a nervous breakdown and finds that inanimate animal figures--plush toys, ceramic figurines, cartoon characters, etc.--are communicating with her. The cryptic messages she receives from her not-so-furry friends lead her to endeavor to help those in need.
The O.C., created by Josh Schwartz, is a fast-paced coming-of-age soap set in the affluent and status-conscious world of Newport Beach, Calif. Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Go) directed the pilot. The show aims to lift the veil on the seemingly idyllic Orange County beach community by examining it from the perspective of a 16-year-old outsider, played by Benjamin McKenzie, who comes into contact with a range of colorful characters, including an idealistic public defender played by Peter Gallagher.
Both series will begin production within the next few weeks. The early pickups for Wonder Falls and The O.C. are part of Fox's pledge to launch original scripted series during the summer months this year, in part to counteract the scheduling disruptions the network faces in October because of its commitment to the Major League Baseball playoffs, Fox entertainment president Gail Berman said. "We felt that both of these shows were in good shape and that they were the kind of shows that could premiere well in the summer," Berman said. "Both shows have very strong female appeal. That's our goal for the summer--to be able to capitalize on the women [viewers] who have returned to the network [this season] for American Idol and other reality shows." That said, Berman was quick to add that Fox has not finalized its summer rollout plan and that one or both shows could wind up on the fall-winter premiere slate.
Either way, Falls creators Holland and Fuller said they are gratified by the early pickup nod for the offbeat concept that stemmed from Holland's fascination with the idea of telling the story of Joan of Arc in a contemporary setting.