Saturday, 12 December 2009

Wonderland Revisited

Wonderland is an eight part television series, a gritty and realistic portrayal of the doctors and patients of the fictional psychiatric Rivervue Hospital in New York City. Wonderland first aired on ABC in the spring of 2000, but because of its controversal story, its dark tone and intense nature, it was taken off the air after only two episodes. - In Europe all eight episodes could be watched on various French, Scandinavian and Swiss TV channels.
In the US DirecTV's 101 network aired the entire series in January 2009, complemented by opening commentaries by series creator, producer and writer Peter Berg, and provided with a different music score.

Episode 3: Sanity.
(This was episode 1 in the US)

Intro. Madonna, humming. Group therapy.
Lupinta: "Sometimes I slap someone or stump with my foot when I'm angry ..."
"I just ... I just..."
"I love my wife, you should never hurt or frighten or hit ...
"Be kind."

7 A.M. in New York City. 'The Little Drummer Boy' introduces this episode. The song will also end it.
'Come they told me, pa rum pa pum pum // A new born King to see, pa rum pa pum pum.'
A couple make love. Feet on a scale. Staten Island Ferry. Yoga exercises. Children brushing their teeth.The hospital awakens.

I was trying to tell the story of this Wonderland episode. I can't. You need to watch it. Please do. And if possible try to get the original version with the original music score.

The ending. Group again. Lapinta: "I know it's not yet but I'm feeling a pretty strong sense of Merry Christmas. I've got a feeling of love. You know, it's so hard to get in that touch of love ... where you really feel that this is a regular part of who you are.
That's what I want. That's what I wanna work on. Being with my love, living with my love..
I'd need help with that. - I was wondering if you could help me with that."

Main cast:
Ted Levin - Dr. Robert Banger
Michelle Forbes - Dr. Lyla Garrity
Michael Jai White - Dr. Derrick Hatcher
Billy Burke - Dr. Abe Matthews
Martin Donovan - Dr. Neil Harrison
Michelle Barker - Julie McCray
Patricia Clarkson - Tammy Banger
Leland Orser - Wendall Rickle

Series creator: Peter Berg

Quote from Wonderland, Dr. Rober Banger:
" When the pressures of modern society become too great for a person, when one's chemical dynamic becomes such that they are unbalanced, that they cease painting within the lines, they come to us. These are the people that society would prefer just go away -- the shadow people. The shadow people that project upon us their shadow and remind us just how tenuous mental health is. Our worst fears. They remind us how easy it can be to slip."

Wonderland isn't for everybody. It is visually demanding and stunning. And it is honest, authentic, realistic and true.


"The best one-season wonders of the ’00s -
Wonderland (ABC, 2000) Peter Berg’s first TV series was often too frenetic by half, but in its dedication to showing a mental hospital The Way It Really Is, the series sported a verisimilitude that few shows even dare approach. Filled with actors who went on to flit through numerous other acclaimed series of the decade—Michelle Forbes and Martin Donovan, to name two—Wonderland could be darkly humorous, but it was often just dark, willing to go to places of bleak despair. Since it was kind of like a major-network Oz, and since it was on after Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, it was quickly shown the door, though DirecTV’s Channel 101 has broadcast the previously unaired episodes."

"It isn’t about ruptured spleens and heart attacks. It’s about the mentally ill, the psychotics and schizophrenics and the severely depressed. It’s about the doctors who take care of these special cases, the so-called gatekeepers holding the barbarians back from society.
Produced, written and directed by Peter Berg (himself an alum of “Chicago Hope,” as well as an independent filmmaker), “Wonderland” is a riveting if challenging bit of television. Berg and a team of writers spent months at New York’s Bellevue hospital, where they were allowed to witness and interview doctors working with the mentally ill."

"To further the effect of being in what is essentially an asylum, Berg uses hand-held cameras and lets the actors improvise when needed. This gives “Wonderland” a gritty, realistic feel. But the technique also adds a sense of chaos to the viewing experience. Watching “Wonderland” is a sensory overload, as patients scream at the top of their lungs, bang on things, turn TV channels rapidly and provide a kind of non-stop white noise over the show’s dialogue."

"I wasn’t totally shocked. This profession is 90% discouragement. It’s 90% rejection and disappointment and bad reviews or people dismissing your work or ignoring it. It’s really not even 10% of the time where you get the rewards." (Martin Donovan)

"Actually, because of some of the work I've done in the past, I was fairly familiar with it. I did a series about 10 years ago, called Wonderland, for ABC, that was set in Bellevue Hospital in New York, and I played the psychiatrist heading the emergency room. So, for quite a while I hung out with forensic psychiatrists, and spent a lot of time speaking to their patients. I once spoke to a man who killed his children ... so I had a fairly large grasp of that world."
Source: Michelle Forbes,

"Dank einer quasi-dokumentarischen Kameraführung und tollen Schauspielern - darunter Ted Levine, Patricia Clarkson, Martin Donovan und Michelle Forbes - erreichte "Wonderland" 2000 eine Unmittelbarkeit und Vielschichtigkeit, die nur wenigen der hochgelobten Serien, die seither entstanden sind, eigen ist."

(I'm sorry but I lost some of the sources of the quoted reviews.)

The cast and crew attend the DIRECTV Premiere of Wonderland, January 2009: