The 2013 fall TV season brought Alice and her friends from Wonderland back to television. Alice, the Mad Hatter, that crazy White Rabbit and all the other characters from Lewis Carroll’s stories should feel right at home on the small screen. “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” is, after all, hardly the first time that the curious young lady who rashly chased that rabbit graced TV screens. Alice’s wonderful adventures in TV land have run the gamut from musical productions to murder mysteries.
The Fred Waring Show
One of the first popular variety shows in TV history was “The Fred Waring Show.” Waring’s brand of musical entertainment debuted in 1949 and would last until 1952. On March 18, 1951, “The Fred Waring Show” presented a musical version of “Alice in Wonderland.” On July 26, 1951 the animated Disney version of “Alice in Wonderland” opened in movie theaters. Coincidence? Hardly. Walt Disney previously filmed a special appearance to introduce the show and several members of the movie’s cast appeared on the show. In essence, one of the first appearances by Alice and her Wonderland friends on TV was an hour-long commercial for Disney. Any sense of deja vu you may be feeling is entirely justified.
The New Alice in Wonderland (or What’s a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This?)
Another apt addition to the title might be a 1960s Time Capsule. “The New Alice in Wonderland…” was an animated musical special that not only attempted to bring Alice into the modern world, but also give the characters an added dimension by linking them with famous celebrities. What was hip and contemporary in 1966 is hopelessly outdated for most members of today’s viewing audience. While Sammy Davis, Jr. as a swinging hep(Cheshire)cat and Zsa Zsa Gabor as a aristocratic Hungarian Queen of Hearts may have been the latest in pop culture referencing at the time, the joke will fly right over the heads of a great many fans of Alice in Wonderland today. Not to mention that Hanna-Barbera is hardly the first animation studio one would entrust with making a timeless cartoon version of Alice and her adventures through the looking glass.
“The Adventure of the Mad Tea Party” brings full time mystery writer and part time real crime sleuth Ellery Queen out to Broadway producer Spencer Lockridge’s estate in the country that is still close enough to NYC to fall under the jurisdiction of Ellery’s homicide Inspector dad. Ellery arrives on a dark and stormy night to discuss turning one of mystery novels into a Broadway show, but arrives to find everyone in the house dressed up like characters attending the Mad Hatter’s tea party. Lockridge is murdered while still dressed up as the Mad Hatter and Ellery must determine whether it was Alice, the Dormouse, the March Hare or one of the other attendees at the tea party.
What happens when you mix “Alice in Wonderland” with vampires? Hard to say, but “Forever Knight” does give at least once possibility. The episode is titled “Curiouser and Curiouser” and if that title doesn’t prick your interest, then you probably are not that much of an Alice in Wonderland fan. Part of the fun of enjoying this TV reference to Alice and her adventures in Wonderland and through the looking glass lies in catching the allusions that are not quite as direct and explicit as other appearances by Alice on TV. In addition to the episode’s title, there is a rare blonde vampire who bears a strong resemblance to Alice, a plastic caterpillar crushed beneath our hero’s shoe, a cop name Carol Lewis, a walrus fridge magnet, women dressed in Playboy bunny suits and an awful lot of mirrors for a show about vampires.