ABC - Sunday 7 pm
A show with more potential than any other network offering, Once Upon a Time suffers from the pilot blues, with poor acting, poor dialogue, and at times missed opportunities.
1. Does it entertain me?
At times, yes it did. I have watched the first 3 episodes, and I am slowly getting into the story as a whole. The pilot is such a mess and features one of the worst acting performances in television history by Josh Dallas' Prince Charming. The dialogue tries to sound grand and epic, but they fail miserably. I actually don't know why, but I'm guessing it's because the actors don't have the acting chops to deliver that and still be taken seriously.
However, after the pilot things do pick up at least. Lost writers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis borrow heavily from Lost's way of doing things and work flashbacks into the main story, flipping between the real world and the fairy tale world.
See, this is the way the universe of Once Upon a Time works: There was a fairy tale world, where all our favorite characters live and breathe and interact. Then the Evil Queen puts a spell on the world, and they are all transferred to Storybrooke, Maine, where each character lives as a regular person with a regular job. They don't know they were once great fairy tale characters, though. They just think they are regular people. Jimminy Cricket is a therapist. Snow White a teacher. The Evil Queen the mayor. And so on and so forth.
The daughter of Snow White is now destined to break the spell, so she has been brought here to get the job done.
It's exciting to find out who each real world character is, and what fairy tale they were once a part of. The show toys with many variations of this one theme, and this does at least make the show watchable.
The big problem is that this is the best part of the show. Seeing the fairytale world is fun, but the real world gets boring. The characters aren't strong enough and the writing isn't good enough to last as anything more than escapist fun, which is fine. But the potential is there to rise above a simple fantasy show.
2. Is it realistic?
Sure, who doesn't want to believe that Gepetto works at Home Depot? I see guys who look like him all the time.
The rules all make sense, characters behave like stupid people most of the time, but that's easy to chalk up to the fact that they were once one of the 7 dwarves.
The bottom line is that I haven't wanted to kill off any of the characters yet, but Prince Charming needs to watch himself.
3. Are immoral actions defended?
The Evil Queen killed her father to take his heart in order to enact the Curse of 1,000 Horrible Deaths or something like that, but you know what? She's the Evil Queen! That's what evil queens do. So I'm going to allow that to happen.
This is a fairytale world, and like comic books, fairy tales are usually pretty good about showing things that are black and white good and bad.
This is also a family show, marketed as a family show, and there are very few reasons to think of it otherwise.
4. How does the show deal with the family and traditional family values?
Family values appear to be upheld as well. Emma, Snow White's daughter, did have a child and is not married, and we don't meet the father (yet), that she gave up for adoption (the child, not the father. That one would be weird). The mayor (once the Evil Queen) adopted said child, which makes for sparks flying and "You haven't been around for 10 years in this boy's life, I don't care if you gave birth to him, I raised him so I am his father" kinda things. But that's all fine and dandy.
No one else in the town seems to have children, although there are lots of children running around the school, so at some point, various fairy tale characters must have procreated (come on, we were all hoping Robin Hood and Maid Marian would have kiddos).
Overall, the question with Once Upon a Time that remains is is this show going to get better? Is it going to get past "what fairy tale character is that?" as the most important and most intriguing aspect of the show? If it can do that, then it could rise above a lot of the mediocre dregs on television (and even farther above the crappy dregs (cough Whitney cough)) on television.
At least Horowitz and Kitsis get credit for using 108 as house number.