26 October 2011

First Thoughts: ONCE UPON A TIME

Two series based on fairy tales are premiering this week --- Once Upon A Time (OUAT) and Grimm.

I caught up with OUAT last night. The show airs on ABC, a Disney company, which would make sense that their fairy tale is based on Disney's take of my classic childhood favorites.

As a child, I didn't like Snow White all that much. Because her story was tragic. ("Why'd she have to die???" --- I asked this as a child. I loved Cinderella way better. Her shoes? To die for. Hee!)

Anyway, the series dramatizes the tragedy further.

It takes off after Snow White's Prince Charming found and saved her. They marry and she becomes pregnant, and the Evil Queen enters the picture and makes their lives miserable (of course!).

Without giving too much of the plot away, lemme just say that the birth of Snow White's daughter, Emma --- a twist I thought was actually cool --- triggered the change in their fairy tale world. This is what OUAT would like to build on --- giving an old classic its new way of telling the story.

So now, we see this alternate world where Snow White is a school teacher and her prince is on a hospital bed somewhere, in a coma. (Role-reversal! Fantastic!)

And all the rest of the fairy tale characters are either accountants or policemen; basically, common folks like the rest of us. They don't have any memory of who they really are. Snow White, especially, moves and talks as if she's in a trance.

The Evil Queen, however, seems to know. In the alternate world, I'm not sure what she is (Mayor's wife?), but she is the same cold-hearted bitch.

The key to all of these is Henry, a kid of about 9 or 10 years old. He lives in the alternate world, and is, in fact, adopted by the Evil Queen (who now goes by Regina). Henry has gotten hold of an acient book that gave him these ideas about who these people are.

And the other twist is --- Henry is supposedly SnowWhite's grandson, Emma's biological son.

Intrigued yet?

I'm also quite intrigued by how similar these lead characters look physically. Ever since the promo posters for Once Upon A Time came out, I've wondered how all these women's characters are connected.


EMMA, Snow White's daughter

Anyway, the pilot was not impressively written as I would have expected. Although none of that matters now, because the pilot, which actually aired last Sunday, was well-received. The highest-rated debut of a new show for this season, in fact.

My beef though is that the exposition of some of its storylines, to me, felt forced. And I think the problem lies with trying to lend a 'darker tone' to a Disney fairy tale (where it's mostly sugar and spice, right?).  But towards the last few minutes of the episode, the story picked up. If you plan on watching, I suggest you muster a little patience and sit through it because it DOES get better.

I've watched Jennifer Morrison, the central character (Emma), on House all those years and I was never sympathetic to her character there. It's not the same case for me for OUAT. I thought she did great and I thought there was chemistry between her and that child who plays Henry.

Henry, however, is lacking in charisma.

This is the kind of show viewers would love to pick apart, especially since we all know our fairy tale characters well. (Coz we read books of it during our time. There were no Angry Birds to play with!)

And once Grimm does air by the end of the week, it would interesting to see how these shows stack against each other. Grimm, being Grimm, is expectedly morose.

Which fairy tale based program would live happily ever after in TV world, where viewership matters?