You know the old Frank Sinatra song “Young at Heart”? “Fairy tales can come true / it can happen to you”…That’s pretty much all you need to know for where I’m going with this!
Last Sunday, ABC debuted Once Upon a Time, a latecomer to the 2011 fall drama season. And a strong entry, at that. The premise is pretty basic – really, you just need the first line of “Young at Heart” – but where they’re going with this idea of happily-ever-after-stories-played-out-for-realz is, surprisingly, more complex.
Jumping between present-day storylines and Ye Very Olden flashbacks of Ye Very Olden Royal Fairy Tale Times (I prefer the present-day scenes – the writing and acting feel, shockingly, more natural), the pilot took us through overlapping parallel worlds (it sounds like a contradiction, but trust me – it works) documenting the origin of the fairy tale characters we know best – Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin, Prince Charming, Pinocchio.
Pilots are a terrible way to pre-judge a series, so I certainly grant some leeway for cheesiness in language and “hardy har har” character names (the present-day Rumpelstilktskin is “Mr. Gold”…the present-day Jiminy Cricket is “Mr. Hopper”). But despite some superficial shortcomings – and the fact that I’m not entirely sure a fairy tale show is one that I want to remain invested in – at the very least, Once Upon a Time had some sparks of <gasp> originality that grant it permission to remain on my DVR queue.
The ensemble is mostly made up of newcomers – or at least newcomers to my oft un-TV-savvy eyes (what, you were in Covert Affairs?). Ginnifer Goodwin as Snow White was the only recognizable face, but the rest of the cast – Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Robert Carylyle – all have extensive Wikipedia pages indicating vast Hollywood experiences that defy my ignorance. And, in both present-day scenes and kingdoms of Far Far Away, they were all very pleasant to watch!
Will Once Upon a Time live happily ever after? (Too soon? Was it?) Of course, only time (and ratings) will tell. I still don’t know if I’m a “fairy tale person” (who does, really?), but I’m definitely game for something new amidst the PanAmPlayboyClub2BrokeGirlsWhitneys of the season.
Once Upon a Time airs Sundays nights at 8/7c on ABC.