[In case you’ve Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]
Show: “Once Upon a Time,” ABC
The Pitch:It’s kinda like “Lost” if instead of ordinary people stuck on an Island, there were fairy tale people stuck Real Life and instead of knowing they wanted to get back, they didn’t know… Since it’s created by “Lost” guys Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, it might make sense.
Quick Response: ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” is definitely the better of the fall’s two “What if the stories were TRUE?” expansions on fairy tale elements in the normal modern world. However, just as I suggested that NBC’s “Grimm” probably should be a Syfy series, “Once Upon a Time” feels like it could be a Syfy miniseries in the vein of “Tin Man” or “Alice.” It may just be that I’d feel better about the structure of the storytelling if I knew that it was all arcing to a conclusion in 8 hours or in 13 episodes. Even assuming that each “Once Upon a Time” episode will feature “Lost”-style flashbacks to the fairy tale lives that our character don’t remember living, this feels like a finite story trapped on American TV where all narratives are required to be infinite even if they shouldn’t be. If “Once Upon a Time” were a Syfy miniseries — or even a Robert Halmi joint on NBC or something — I would also find it easier to pass off that the special fairy tale effects are… only so-so and I’m not sure how tolerant I’m going to be of 50 or 60 episodes of these effects. “Cheesy” may not be the right word, but “whimsically inexpensive” may be. And I doubt that’s intentional. [It may also be prettied up substantially by the time the pilot airs.] That’s probably why I liked the sequences in Storybrooke, the strange Maine town in which all of the forgetful fairy tale people now reside, more than the predictably Disney-fied fantasy stuff. More Storybrooke, less StoryBook would have been my preferred focus. Oh well. I don’t get a vote. I’m also going to need a good explanation for the hodgepodge of fairy tale elements working their way in here. Most particularly, I don’t get what Collodi’s Geppetto and Disney’s Jiminy Cricket are doing with these traditional Grimm’s characters. If you’re taking a “Fables”-style “anything goes” approach, why be so limited and random? But anywho… Jennifer Morrison is very good in the lead. After “How I Met Your Mother” and several bad seasons of “House,” I’d forgotten how likable she can be in the right role. And I quite enjoyed how much fun Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla and Raphael Sbarge are having with their characters, though I wonder whether those broader-tapestry supporting performances will become exhausting long-term, making Ginnifer Goodwin’s almost effortless inhabiting of her role seem even more appealing. And for one episode, Jared Gilmore was acceptably precocious, but with wise-beyond-their-years kids, it’s a slippery slope into Obnoxiousville, which may be another tiny Maine burg.
Desire To Watch Again: I’m definitely interested in seeing a second episode, but the amount of wheel-spinning in the second episode could determine whether I invest fully, or whether I decide that *my* Happily Ever After is watching Sunday Night Football instead.
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: NBC’s ‘Awake’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: FOX’s ‘I Hate My Teenage Daughter’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: The CW’s ‘The Secret Circle’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: CBS’ ‘Unforgettable’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: NBC’s ‘The Playboy Club’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: ABC’s ‘Charlie’s Angels’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: NBC’s ‘Grimm’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: FOX’s ‘New Girl’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: The CW’s ‘Hart of Dixie’
Take Me To The Pilots ‘ 11: ABC’s ‘Apartment 23’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: CBS’ ‘A Gifted Man’
All of last year’s Take Me To The Pilots installments.