Monday, October 24, 2011

TV: Once Upon a Time (episode 1)

So, all summer long while watching shows on my ABC iPad app, I kept seeing these commercials for Once Upon a Time, a new show that mixes fairy tales and modern times. I have to say, I was at the very least intrigued to see what it was all about. Kudos to the ABC marketing folks.

Last night was the debut episode of the show. Let’s take a look (warning…plot spoilers are needed to set the show up…proceed with caution).


The show opens with us in the time of fairy tales, where Prince Charming (Joshua Dallas) awakens the sleeping Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin). They soon wed with the entire kingdom and the seven dwarfs around them. It is a happy day until the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) shows up to give her own vow - which she’ll destroy all of their happiness. I love how she glides across the church floor.

Snow is soon expecting but is worried about the future. They go to visit the imprisoned and crazed Rumplestiltskin (played wonderfully, wickedly by Robert Carlyle) to learn what the future might hold. He tells them of the Queen’s curse and how only the unborn child will be able to save them - but only after 28 years have passed.

The Blue Fairy suggests that they use some magic wood to save one person from the curse. Geppetto (Tony Amendola) and Pinocchio begin to work the wood, but the child comes early just as the curse is about to strike. Charming saves his daughter at the last moment, insuring he will escape even though he himself might not

Jump to our world and bail bonds collector Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) shows why she is a kick butt woman, but a sad one too. It is her 28th birthday and she’s spending it alone. She has not family. Or, does she? A ten year old boy Henry (Jared Gilmore) shows up at her doorstep and insists she can help him and her family. But she has to take him home - to Storybrooke, Maine.

On the trip, he tells Emma that his book tells the true tales of the characters trapped in the town with no memory of their former lives. He believes that only Emma can break the curse, because the book told him so. Henry’s adopted mother happens to be the mayor Regina Mills who is also the Evil Queen. His therapist is in reality Jiminy Cricket, and his teacher Mary Margaret Blanchard is Snow White. Henry runs away again, but Emma finds him and agrees to stay awhile. She gets a room at Granny’s Inn to stay for a week and encounters Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin who owns the town.

The story is told with jumps back and forth from the tales of the past to modern times. Ironically, the past seems more vibrant and colorful than the present. It is if the present time of Storybrooke was filmed with a washed-filter - at least up to the point where Emma agrees to stay for a week.

I found the opening episode an interesting one. It appeals to my childhood love of fairy-tales as well as my older enjoyment of soap opera dramas. This could be a good mix.

My only concern is whether or not it can make for a good TV series. Is there enough story to tell a full season of twenty-two episodes and, if it proves popular, more than that? It seems like an idea better suited for a mini series. In fact, it does remind me of the Tenth Kingdom, a seven part mini series that ran on NBC back in 2000. I have this on DVD. That one was the story of a young woman and her father who were transported to Manhattan through a magic mirror from a world of fairy tales.

We shall see how things unfold in the coming weeks and whether or not it draws a large enough audience consistently for us to see a “happily ever after” occur for Emma, Henry, and the inhabitants of Storybrooke.

4 comments:

crfricke said...

Martin! great review--you're more forgiving of the show than I am, and much more clear about the plot than I could manage to be! Even ABC couldn't quite summarize the story in their promos--I still wasn't sure what the major plot was going to be when I started watching. Check out my review, and feel free to comment!
http://somethingtoreadforthetrain.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/where-are-we-going-somewhere-horrible-indeed-abcs-once-upon-a-time/

Martin Maenza said...

Thank you so much for your comments. Yes, I was a bit forgiving, so far. But I question too if the concept can sustain a season much less multiple seasons - without jumping through some serious hoops. I loved your review a lot!

Derrick said...

I need to check this one out. You mention that you're not sure the premise could sustain extended storytelling. But 150+ issues of FABLES and spinoffs (with no end in sight) suggests that the idea of fairy tale characters in the real world can have traction.

Of course, the characters and stories have to be clever and vivid. But that's always the case with TV, eh?

Martin Maenza said...

Derrick, I am aware of Fables (never read it though). My concern is the main issue set up is that Emma is expected to engage in a big "war" with Regina/Evil-Queen in order to restore the fairy tale characters back to their world. That's the set up premise, so far, from the premiere. So, if this is to run for multiple seasons, it is going to be one long drawn out "war" with many smaller battles/victories along the way. I hope they can make it interesting.

The other key is the curse does not allow any of the characters to leave Storybrooke so all things have to take place there (in present day) or back in fairy tale land (via flashbacks). That will severely hamper storytelling potential.

I just hope the writers have not written themselves into too tight of a sandbox.