'Bye, Wonderland

Evaluates the television program 'Wonderland' of the American Broadcasting Co., which set in a fictional psychiatric hospital in New York City. Comments from Bob Carolla of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill; Criticisms on the program by mental health professionals.

By Rebecca Segall, published on July 1, 2000 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

PORTRAYAL

After only two episodes, Wonderland, ABC's hour-long drama set in a
fictional psychiatric hospital in New York City, was cancelled,
undoubtedly easing the minds of many mental health practitioners.

The story of a psychiatrist treating mentally ill criminals,
Wonderland was filled with graphic violence: The Series premiere showed a
patient wildly shooting six people in New York's Times Square and later
attempting suicide. Critics say the show reinforced extreme and
inaccurate stereotypes, glamorizing self-destructive behavior.

"This series exploits the most narrow view of mental illness and
perpetuates relentless images of despair," said Bob Carolla of the
National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). NAMI leads "The Mental
Health Coalition Against Stigma in Hollywood," a coalition of 15 mental
health organizations, which convinced at least one pharmaceutical company
to pull their ad off the air to protest Wonderland's content.

In spite of criticism from mental health professionals, most
television critics praised the show, and Robert Berger, Ph.D., director
of forensic psychiatry at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City and
the show's professional consultant, called NAMI's charges "silly."
"Vulnerable people might find solace in watching others who are in worse
mental crises than they are," he said. Berger, who also consulted on
Martin Scorsese's 1991 remake of Cape Fear, believes that entertainment
is just that. "People aren't interested in watching someone with a minor
illness go to a self-help group. Just look at ER--they only show the most
extreme cases as well."

Was it the criticism of mental health professionals that prompted
ABC to yank Wonderland?. Probably not. Most likely, the network was
responding to the steep decline in viewers--from 13.2 million for the
first episode to 7.5 million for the second.