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Chasing after the mad heart of the hatter

17 Cara Pifko as Alice De Ray Photo by Russ Martin1A lament for This is Wonderland

by Ariane Blackman

Lewis Carroll’s original Wonderland, Alice, a bored young girl, follows a white rabbit down a hole and ends up in a topsy-turvy world where, among many other weird, wonderful and dark characters, she meets a Mad Hatter. The Mad Hatter happens to be a crazy rabbit wearing a tall hat. But there is also a deep, dark and wonderful logic to this. Hatters – that is, men who made hats in England at the turn of the 19th century – sometimes displayed symptoms of madness because of the glue fumes they inhaled while making the hats.

In George F. Walker and Dani Romain’s unique television series This is Wonderland, we follow a young lawyer named Alice into the chaos of Canadian justice in Toronto’s Old City Hall and meet madness in three senses of the term: crazy people, angry people and the weird inner workings of justice itself gone “mad.” In this world, everyone has a place on the crazy merry-go-round.

But in February 2006, after three seasons and three Gemini awards, the CBC announced it was cancelling the series. In the eyes of many devoted fans, the CBC too had gone mad. It was a simple matter of ratings, we were told: CBC dramas were henceforth to be more “audience friendly.”1 So this article, originally intended to introduce Inroads readers to an important series, now becomes a kind of requiem, a lament for a real loss to Canadian viewers. At the same time, it is a reflection on whether This is Wonderland could have been more “audience friendly,” to use the CBC’s terminology.

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About the Author

Ariane Blackman


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