Forgotten TV: Rabbit Fall

When in the past I’ve written one of these Forgotten TV pieces, it has always concerned a hidden relic from the 20th Century. I think the most recent show is from the early 1990s. Rabbit Fall breaks that tradition. For a show that aired in 2007, it is unexpectedly mysterious. Not a lot of people talk about it. Did anyone watch it?

There’s proof that it existed as a real project in the form of a long forgotten website that features some non-functioning games and wallpaper for characters that no one knows — anymore, if ever. There’s the prerequisite entry on IMDB and something in Wikipedia. But not much else.

That’s too bad because along with just being a curiosity, it’s a pretty intriguing curiosity. The show follows Toronto cop Tara Wheaton (Andrea Menard) who is transferred to the tiny village of Rabbit Fall in remote northern Saskatchewan. What she quickly finds out is that for such a small place, there sure are a lot of disappearances and murders and drug crimes. She slowly finds out there’s a supernatural element her new home and she has a particular connection to it that results in some strange visions.

Kind of like Twin Peaks.

What little opinion I have found on the show has noticed that connection too. It’s valid — and less so to the comparisons, I see with The X-Files — but while we’re bandying around similar shows, Lost seems like it should be on the list, and maybe even Northern Exposure. And Dark and Hotel Beau Sejour and maybe even Stranger Things. Oh, wait, those didn’t exist at the time.

Rabbit Fall features one very marked difference from all those shows — its backdrop and its center are with Canadian aboriginal tribes. Not only is the setting largely populated by members of the First Nations, but the mythology that slowly unfolds is entirely concerned with that history, and the viewpoint it takes is one of acknowledgment of tragedy, mistreatment, and prejudice.

In Rabbit Fall, the aboriginal experience is the norm by which all else is measured, and the audience is expected to accept those traditions as primary and to acknowledge the troubled history inherent in that experience.

The series itself is episodic, cut up into 14 half hour parts that seem just about the right length. A murder might happen, or a drug deal and the show ties it in with the mythology in some way. At first, this is a meandering activity, almost to the point where you wonder if the supernatural elements are for real, but as it progresses, these aspects become more clear, at least in their interaction with “real” life.

At the center of this show is Menard’s no-nonsense Native cop. Part of the subtext here is that she has been absorbed into the white Canadian world and lost touch with her culture. Her assignment to Rabbit Fall becomes an opportunity to not only reconnect, but to also find herself.

Menard is a solid lead, and she was previously in a show called Moccasin Flats, which was apparently the first television show entirely created and produced by Canadian aboriginals. That show was also set in Saskatchewan. Both shows were broadcast on Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.

Rabbit Fall was a production of the Saskatchewan Communications Network and was created and mostly written by a Nova Scotian woman named Joadie Jurgova, who, unfortunately, I haven’t found any evidence of further creations. There’s a mention in a Halifax paper in 2015 mentioning two screenplay projects — Trespassers Will Be Executed and Bice Dobre — but I don’t see that either of them was ever developed.

That’s too bad because Rabbit Fall had a feeling of freshness about it. At least from my experience, it brought together ideas that I haven’t seen on television before, and it did so in an engaging way that makes you want to know what’s coming next.

And if it ends somewhat abruptly — I have a feeling they were teasing for a third season that never materialized — it’s also appropriate to the rhythm of the show. In the end, few answers are handed out, but the mysteries it offers do linger and do feel unique — and that’s the way it has the most in common with Twin Peaks.

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