I got my hands on some of the pilots for fall’s new shows. I’ll try to review as many of them as possible — keeping in mind that a pilot isn’t necessarily a sure indicator of a show’s future quality or success. Today: “Once Upon a Time,” debuting Sunday on ABC.
Premise: People living in the town of Storybrooke, Maine are also living parallel lives as characters in fairy tales.
Pros: Jennifer Morrison (“House”) is a blonde now, and she wears a clingy red dress. Ginnifer Goodwin (“Big Love”) is a generally inoffensive presence. As with most pilots this season, it features a Black Keys song.
Cons: Everything else, but nothing as much as the tone-deaf writing. The dialogue is painfully stilted: when someone says, “It’s my birthday,” the response isn’t “Happy birthday,” because that doesn’t fit into the writers’ need for exposition. Other strikes against it: the exhausted trope of the wise-beyond-his-years child (played by a kid who can’t act); lousy special effects; and comically bad costumes and fake beards.
Worth watching? Good God no. I managed to watch the first 12 minutes and 20 seconds before giving up, and I only made it that far because — in the words of a friend I watched it with — “I’m legitimately curious what the f**k they’re doing.”
Second opinion: The Washington Post’s Hank Stuever called “Once Upon a Time” the “fall TV season’s most charming and elegant surprise.” But WaPo also employs Tom Shales as its lead TV critic, and that guy couldn’t find his ass with two hands and a map. If you think I’m wrong, you’re welcome to watch the pilot online yourself. Good luck beating 12:20.