- Actors: Cara Pifko, Michael Riley, Michael Healey, Siu Ta, Michael Murphy
- Directors: Anne Wheeler, David Warry-Smith
- Writers: Bernard Zukerman, Dani Romain, George F. Walker, Joseph Kay
- Producers: Bernard Zukerman, Frank Siracusa
- Format: NTSC, Import
- Language: English
- Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
- Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
- Number of discs: 3
- Studio: CBC
- Release Date: Sept. 6 2005
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- ASIN: B0007YXRI6
This Is Wonderland: The Complete First Season [Import]
Set in the highly charged world of the lower criminal courts, This Is Wonderland is a painfully funny, gut-wrenching portrait of the complex tales of human drama which unfold daily in the seething crucible of Canada's busiest courthouse. With 15 Gemini nominations for Season One (more than any other dramatic series), viewers can continue to expect to be surprised, riveted and entertained by This Is Wonderland.
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The acting is superb and utterly Canadian.
I have never encountered a television series or film which showed the depressing nature of mental health courts (i.e. parties being remanded to jail cells due to lack of beds available in the mental health hospital ward), as well as inconsistent criminal sentencing of defendants accused of rather minor offences. While we all would like to think that any defendant going to court and facing a judge would be respectful and courteous, this series provides several depictions of defendants who brazenly talk back to the judge, interrupting their own attorney, and essentially "shooting themselves in the foot".
Alice De Raey (Cara Pifko) came out of law school with idealistic notions about the day-to-day grinding of the criminal justice system. A fellow defense attorney - public defender, Eliot Sacks (Michael Riley), teaches Alice the ropes of surviving in the jungle-like environment of providing criminal defense in a lower-court setting. Judge Maxwell Fraser (Michael Murphy) effectively captures the essence of a lower-court judge, he's definitely jaded and feels a lot of pressure given the heavy case docket he must wade through each morning and afternoon. Meanwhile, over in mental health court, Judge Malone (Eric Peterson a/k/a "jack---" of Corner Gas fame) is very convincing as he demonstrates the difficulty of making decisions regarding the appropriateness of MH commitment for a specific individual, as well as the appalling lack of institutional support which sometimes results in a detainee being held in a jail instead of a MH facility.
Come to think of it, This is Wonderland excels in terms of effective casting and development of the characters. Adding icing to the cake, woven into the fabric of each episode is plenty of humour and irony. This is part of how attorneys, judges and other parties involved in lower-court proceedings cope with the stress of heavy workloads and often feeling as though things are out of control.
It's really pathetic that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation abruptly canceled the series in February 2006 even though viewership was high for a Canadian-produced, 100% Canadian content series. The production company, Indian Grove Productions, did sponsor a web site on which 50,000 viewers signed an online petition requesting a stay of execution, but to no avail. It appears that CBC has prevented the release of the complete second or third seasons on DVD. While there may have been some sporadic reruns of the series on Canadian cable channels, for all intents and purposes the program has been unjustly and shamefully buried into obscurity. I would conjecture that Indian Grove is barred from issuing the series on DVD without CBC's consent (not just a matter of paying royalties, but the CBC's management unreasonably interfering with a new video release. There may have been some "bad blood" and very harsh feelings from the CBC's management when they received those 50,000 petition signatures, and that ill will may have continued for several years.
Stranger still, unlike quite a few other Canadian television series (Da Vinci's Inquest, Heartland, The Border, Intelligence) which have been offered to U.S. local television stations, public television networks, and second-tier networks like ION, This is Wonderland has never actually been officially televised in the United States. A handful of media markets near the border (Seattle, Detroit, Buffalo) received the original CBC telecasts, which is how I came to know and love This is Wonderland.
Shouldn't some bureaucrat at the CBC grow up a bit and see if they can do some negotiating with Indian Grove and the other parties involved so that the second and third seasons could be released to viewers? Perhaps they could also offer This is Wonderland for telecast within the U.S.A., i.e. mHz Networks comes to mind. This is Wonderland has remained one of my favourite television series ever. It's time that somebody got off their high horse and released the remaining seasons for circulation.
This series was great, and it was a Bad Decision to let it drop. But, unfortunately, that happens far too often with CBC shows.
And, why is there so few DVD sets of successful Canadian shows ? Rick Mercer's excellent Made In Canada, at least 4 seasons aired, and only the 6 episode season came oit, and is now very out of print.
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