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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Two Fairy Tales Compete For Your Love This Weekend

Since Once Upon a Time’s pilot is on imdb, we’ve already seen it (thanks for the tip, reader). Grimm aired Friday, so we are able to compare the two and decide which fairy tale we want to stick with. First, we wouldn’t recommend either show to anyone whose first reactions to the concepts are, “Fairy tales are silly/for kids.” You have to suspend your seriousness while you give these a chance. You have to go with it and accept the rules of these worlds, or you are not going to enjoy yourself. This is especially true with Once Upon a Time, because it's more outlandish.

The shows are really different, but everyone is comparing them anyway. There is the fairy tale aspect and people are putting these shows side-by-side in reviews because of it. We think it’s fitting just because most people only have room for one new show on their fall schedules after we’ve all picked up Revenge, right?

If you give one of these shows a chance, we urge you to make it Once Upon a Time. Sure, it’s weird and it might not be able to grab mainstream America, and it also has Jennifer Morrison in it. But we were entertained by the whole pilot and we are interested to see what the LOST writers will do with it. You know they are great with mythology. We think it’s worth letting this show have a free pass for a season just to see where the writers will go with it. Yeah, it could be a disaster that no one gets, but it could also turn out to be really creative and fun. It’s contemporary urban fantasy and we haven’t had that on TV with high production/in a way that is decent in a while.

There were a few things about Once Upon a Time that were cheesy or twee to us, but we really liked it, overall. It’s more unlikely than Grimm, but it’s also smarter, way more original, and more creative. This just has more potential. We also liked seeing both worlds. If you are going to have something as nerdy as fantasy, you have to aim it AT nerds by making it intelligent, twisty, and unpredictable. Nerds are brainy and imaginative. They aren't going to be blown away by a weekly monster ripped from childhood tales. Nerds want epics. The only people who are going to be able to roll with these outlandish premises are people with their faces buried in fantasy novels, and they have high standards for storytelling. A procedural won't do.

So fantasy or LOST lovers should watch the pilot of "Once" tonight, and we will recap/review it tomorrow and every week for as long as it stays. The main downside that we can see, at this point, is that bad guys and good guys are very well established in fairy tales. The characters could turn into simple, unrealistic, uncomplicated archetypes and stay that way. Hopefully the LOST writers have the good sense to give them some grey areas or introduce a Ben-like character who lives in the grey areas. We think they will. They were great at creating characters last time. Once Upon a Time has a stronger cast than Grimm too.

We were pretty bored by Grimm. We didn’t enjoy watching it, and it just felt clunky and uninspired. The leading actor has a nice face but no charisma. A fairy tale/cop procedural doesn’t sound like something we want to watch every week. We already have Bones, Prime Suspect, and Person of Interest. If we want to add some creepiness to crime procedurals, we have Fringe, which is also on Friday nights. Fringe isn’t stupid like Grimm is. One of us may stick with it for a while, because of her sheer love for crime procedurals, but the other blogger is done.

Grimm grade: C
Once Upon a Time grade: B+


  1. I actually liked Grimm. I had low expectations though...and I'm usually easy on pilots. I also liked Once Upon a Time. :)
    I don't mind keeping either show on my schedule. Plus, I love adding shows on Fridays/Sundays.

  2. We're glad you liked "Once". We didn't HATE Grimm. C is an average grade. We like it better than, say, House. If it's on and we have nothing else to watch, we will leave it on. But we probably won't follow it weekly.

  3. Oh..I know C is an average grade but the review made it seem more like a D/Fail. haha I agree with the score, though. :)

  4. I'm very interested to see what the LOST boys do with childhood fairy tales. A part of me gets pleasure in knowing that they are taking Disney-esque themes and turning them on their heads. Cute and cuddly simply will not do; put the kids to bed and give us twisted tales, deep storylines/characters, and, of course, an epic mythology. Liked the Pilot, and the previews look good, too. Time will tell if these characters have staying power.

  5. Yeah, it might need to get deeper and more twisted.

  6. I really enjoyed "Once", and have no problem seeing it moving toward a "deeper and more twisted" world, as you say. There were some clever little touches here and there that kept it visually interesting (the creepy visual effects with Robert Carlyle's character in the dungeon scene; the moving sidewalk that made the witch walk faster in the wedding scene). If we're being asked to imagine a fairy tale world, it should require some imagination. Check.

    The other thing I liked is how the pilot set up a narrative that, like LOST, begs to be read as a metanarrative. You may disagree with me on this, but I think the reason concept-heavy shows fail so often is that many of them don't seem to understand that the through-lines for shows like that need to be grounded in philosophical depth that usually (but not always, of course) relates to humanistic truths. Otherwise, the concept can swallow the story. I think it's the reason more recent shows like LOST, The X-Files, and Fringe had/have such hard-core fans. If special effects and moderately interesting characters were enough, Flash Forward, V, and The Event (to name a few) would have at least been cult hits, but they're not.

    I'm looking forward to seeing where this show goes, but it was certainly a compelling pilot!

  7. We totally agree with you, actually. We might even have said something to that effect before when we were complaining about The Event or some other lame sci-fi show. It's ALL about the universal themes and making it relatable in an intellectual way.