…happily ever after, part 1
Last week we got not one, but two fairytale and folklore themed shows. Makes sense, doesn’t it? I mean it was Halloween. But, to have two go head to head on different networks seemed to me to aggressively try to corner the market on whimsy, or something. I was kind of ambivalent because if it was Whimsy we wanted, we never EVER should have cancelled Pushing Daisies (you hear me, ABC? The facts were those!). But, I Tivo’d both shows mostly to see why, or if, we needed two. What was the difference? Was this like Coke vs. Pepsi and would wind up as a matter of personal preference? (For the record, don’t even think about putting Pepsi anywhere near me.) And will that preference “split the vote” in a way and make the ratings-scared networks pull the plug on both, prematurely?
All fairytales begin “Once Upon A Time” so we will too. Right off the bat, the best thing this show has going for it is that it is on ABC and has carte blanche with all its animated characters and stories. For a country who cannot have escaped Snow White, the Dwarves and (best of all) the Evil Queen, this actually makes the storytelling a lot easier for show. In the first scene when we see a chick in a glass coffin brought back to life with a kiss, we are already all on the same page. When the Queen’s counterpart in Storybrooke, Mayor Regina, walks around with a basket of the most beautiful, shiny red apples you have ever seen, we all know that our heroine Emma should just say, “No thanks.”
They also get to call the characters Grumpy and Bashful, which were Walt Disney inventions, since they are nameless in the original version (according to a Trivial Pursuit question I got wrong once). The Evil Queen’s BFFrenemey (also acceptable: pretenemy and palhole) is Maleficent, of Sleeping Beauty fame. They bond over the fact that the Evil Queen has it out for Snow White and Maleficent got screwed over by Aurora, known to all of us as Sleeping Beauty.
The premise is also intriguing. The Evil Queen in Fairytale Land (or Fairytale Dimension) wants to exact her revenge on Snow White and by extension everyone who sided with her and wanted her to be happy. She puts a curse on the whole land, transporting them Storybrooke, Maine where not only does time stand still, but all the creatures, save the evil ones, natch, have no idea who they are or what’s happening. But, of course there is one who can break the curse: Snow and Charming’s daughter, Emma.
The best parts are Robert Carlyle as Rumpelstiltskin. The Fairyland parts of the show are very overdone, with clunky melodramatic language and sometimes less than stellar effects. But, he is the best part of that world and one of the few who isn’t easily placed on one or the other side of the impending conflict. I also really liked Ginnifer Goodwin and (surprisingly) Jennifer Morrison as Snow White / Mary Blanchard and Emma Swan, respectively.
The bad parts are the clunky dialogue, especially in the Fairyland scenes and the slow pace that runs the risk of relying too heavily on the audience to fill in the story because of what they already know. Also, my big concern is the fact that this is brought to us by the creators of ‘Lost.’ I worry that they will not be able to sustain the premise and that the pace of the action will invariably slow down to stretch the show for ratings, bringing it to a point where it is beyond ridiculous and totally unwatchable. Then they will announce a final season that will become a pop culture punchline, like that last season of ‘Lost.’ Satisfying for the network? Sure! Profitable for all involved? Check! Kind of a letdown for loyal viewers? Well, yeah, but so what? I, personally, hate that attitude of making TV and wish beyond wish that shows would go out on top before all the creativity has been sucked out of it and it’s a shell of its former self. Even as I was watching, I was thinking to myself, “If they knew, right now, when the finale of this thing would be, I would sign on to watch this every week, because I would be sure of a satisfying resolution.”
Click here for part 2 of “…happily ever after” and my review of ‘Grimm.’