Wildfire: Is the ABC Show Inspired by Reality?

Premiered in 2005 on ABC, the teen drama series ‘Wildfire’ revolves around the journey of Kris Furillo, a troubled teenager who, after getting out of a teen detention center, struggles to find solace and purpose in her life. While working with horses at the Raintree Ranch owned by the Ritter family, she befriends the eponymous horse. As she assists saving the farm from a potential financial ruin, Kris realizes that life outside detention is not as easy as she may have expected. Created by Michael Piller and Christopher Teague, ‘Wildfire’ stars ‘Supernatural’ actress Genevieve Cortese, stepping into the saddle of Kris, in what became the first major role of her career. Set on the backdrop of horseracing, the series’ portrayal of the realities of this industry with such accuracy and keen attention to detail, often makes viewers wonder whether the show is based on true events.

Wildfire is Set in a Real-Life City Where Horse Racing is Huge

The setting of ‘Wildfire,’ a small town called Fremont, is based on an actual city of the same name, situated in Alameda County, California. Both places, real and fictional, are home to horse racing and wine festivals and are named after the historical figure, John C. Fremont. However, the show, filmed in New Mexico, differs in its depiction of Fremont from the city. While it depicts the rural town as an active hub for the activities of privileged youth, it is known to be a rather peaceful suburban landscape. Though ‘Wildfire’ is not based on a true story, the show’s slow pacing and plot development did create such perception, adding a layer of realism to its appearance.

Genevieve Cortese in Wildfire

As compared with the juicy and addictive contemporary teen dramas, the show wasn’t favorably received leading it to conclude after four seasons in 2008. Though its shortcomings may have prevented ‘Wildfire’ from reaching new heights, they were also the reasons it stood out from other dramas of the 2000s. Driven by a promising narrative, the show does not shy away from exploring Kris’ love triangle with Matt and Junior and her fan-favorite “will they/won’t they” romance with the latter. However, these occupy the backseat in the series, making way for more mature themes to occupy the surface. Junior’s own character arc stems from his numerous efforts to break away from the “rich kid” stereotype.

Hailing from a poor background with familial issues, Kris battles social issues such as class disparity and refrains from forming trust and commitment. Rather than sacrificing it all for her heart, Kris constantly makes decisions for the well-being of her family and Wildfire. Her pride masks the weaker and gullible side of her, making her act cold and rational, someone who can not be manipulated or taken advantage of. The character thoroughly differs from the teen protagonist archetype of the previous era. Owning to the way she was disciplined, Kris also does not come across as a nice person.

Additionally, the characters in ‘Wildfire’ are all shown as multifaceted individuals with flaws and vulnerabilities. In the pilot episode, Kris once again gets arrested for fleeing from another car theft, a crime that put her at the Camp LaGrange correctional facility in the first place. She is occasionally shown to trust an ex-convict, Pablo Betart, and even has an affair with her sports agent, Kerry Connelly.

Another prominent theme in ‘Wildfire’ is the pursuit of dreams. All the while overcoming obstacles in her way that do not appear to cease, Kris’ story highlights the resilience of the human spirit. Viewers are drawn to her struggles and triumphs as she struggles to balance her passion for horse racing with the challenges of growing up, almost breaking down on occasions. As the show progresses, it’s not Kris’ wardrobe, style, or coolness, that draws viewers to root for her; it’s her bravery. From the moment Kris saves the Wildfire from being butchered and begins to train him, she also begins to change herself.

‘Wildfire,’ along with other contemporary teen-dramas such as ‘Gossip Girl,’ ‘The O.C.,’ ‘One Tree Hill,’ and ‘Friday Night Lights,’ among others, embraced a realistic appeal that drew viewers. Despite the fictitious nature of the story, fans—especially young adults—couldn’t help relate to the characters and their experiences.

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