12 January 2004 on CBC
this is wonderland centres on Alice De Raey, a young inexperienced securities lawyer who is thrown unprepared into a justice system bursting at the seams. Alice struggles to find her way through a world that creates modern echoes of Dickens and Dante, as she encounters an endless procession of characters ranging from the truly desperate to the wonderfully bizarre. Alice, with a good-natured openness that cloaks a tenacious committed spirit, finds herself on a journey in which her patience and compassion are constantly being put to the test. this is wonderland is set in Toronto's Old City Hall, a Gothic landmark in the heart of downtown, which houses many of the city's criminal courts. Old City Hall is a throbbing workplace and along with Alice we are thrown together with many of its lawyers, judges, social workers, translators, cops and crooks. In this chaotic, overflowing, multi-cultural human stew, nothing is predictable sometimes the futility of the system leaves us in despair, and other times we witness acts of humanity that confound expectation.
Cara Pifko (Our Hero, I Me Wed) stars as Alice De Raey, along with Michael Riley (Being Erica, Power Play) as Elliot Sacks, Siu Ta (Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, The Best Years) as Nancy Dao, Michael Healey (The Drawer Boy [playwright], The Innocent Eye Test) as James Ryder, Tom Rooney (As You Like It, The Day After Tomorrow ) as Crown Attorney David Kaye, Kathryn Winslow (What About Brian, Living in Your Car) as Crown Attorney Pamela Menon, Eric Peterson (Corner Gas, Sleeping Dogs Lie) as Judge Malone, Michael Murphy (Batman Returns, The Bridge ) as Judge Fraser, Jayne Eastwood (Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning, King of Kensington) as Elliot's mother Ronnie Sacks, and joining the cast in the third season is Ron Lea (Saw IV, Street Legal ) as Eliot's cousin Jack Angel.
Principal photography began on September 15, 2003 in Toronto, Canada. The first season received 15 Gemini nominations and was sold in over 100 countries.
The second season was nominated for 12 Gemini Awards including Best Dramatic Series.
The third season finds the law firm of Alice, Elliot, and Nancy undergoing some changes. James is trying to stave off complete mental collapse by leaving the firm to pursue a less stressful career path. Ronnie unearths her roguish nephew Jack Angel to pitch in while James is gone. Moving into the office down the hall are defense lawyers and unlikely office-mates Zona Robinson (Yanna McIntosh) and Anil Sharma (Vik Sahay).
Back at Old City Hall, familiar faces remain: tough Crown Attorneys David Kaye and Pamela Menon, the fumbling Crown Marcus Weekes (Sergio Di Zio), the slightly unhinged Judge Fraser, and the fair, big hearted Judge Malone.
Beyond these familiar faces – the defence lawyers, their Crown adversaries and judicial supervisors, we continue to meet all kinds of people, blue collar people and white collar people, standing face-to-face with life – groping it, throttling it, pulling it closer and fending it off and in the process coming to some greater self-awareness that usually scalds as much as it enlightens.
this is wonderland was created by one of Canada's most prolific playwrights, George F Walker (Suburban Motel, HEAVEN, Zastrozzi, The Master of Discipline, And So It Goes..., Escape from Happiness) and Dani Romain (Living in Your Car, Niagara Motel) and comes from Indian Grove Productions and Muse Entertainment. George F Walker and Dani Romain wrote the majority of the show.
The Story of how this is wonderland was born
When George F. Walker and Dani Romain stumbled into the lower criminal courts located in a Gothic landmark in downtown Toronto, they knew that they had found the setting for a compelling, original television series. “When you are confronted with the reality that unfolds in the lower courts, it is impossible not to be taken in by the sheer humanity of these people and the complex, messy set of circumstances that led them here,” say Walker and Romain. “These are stories about average, everyday people who suddenly find themselves thrust into an overcrowded, struggling judicial system.” They created This is Wonderland to bring these desperate characters, who are usually represented marginally, if at all, to prime time television.
It was not difficult to convince Bernard Zuckerman and Michael Prupas to come on board. “Their scripts are about people trying to wrench order out of chaos; about people who exist along that fine line between the serious and the comedic,” Zuckerman says.
Walker and Romain spent 18 months in criminal courts, watching and learning. As a result, they created a show that presents the lower courts with honesty and integrity, guided by the underlying premise that this is a world which cannot be seen simply in terms of good and evil: “This is a show about desperate crimes not perpetrated by evil people but by human beings who for whatever reason have lost control of their lives,” they maintain.
They struggled with different approaches to the material before settling on the central character of Alice De Raey – the compassionate and non-judgmental criminal defence lawyer who is the audiences’ window to this chaotic world.