Saturday, November 19, 2011

Network Fairy Tales

Unless their call letters are CBS, networks seem to be having a harder and harder time producing hit television shows.  As the networks continue to decide just how many singing shows and dancing programs audiences will watch, they also have to try to develop scripted programs people will actually care about.  ABC and NBC, the third and fourth ranked networks, have gone down a road both familiar and yet original in their attempt to gather viewers.  Both are bringing us programs based on childhood fairy tales, with completely different takes.

Once Upon A Time (Sundays, 7pm, ABC)

Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Logan Morrison, Lana Parilla, Robert Carlyle

ABC is bringing us this little gem about a modern New England town basically locked in time although its residents are unaware.  With familiar characters such as Snow White, Prince Charming, Jiminy Cricket, and or course, the Wicked Queen, Once Upon A Time, flashes between these favorites’ lives now and their past.  The kicker is that no one (but the Queen) remembers their shared past.  The program bounces back and forth, giving us the back story of some of our favorite characters and what is unfolding in their lives now.  We get to see what really happened after happily ever after. 

Of course, there is a chosen one – a person who is the key to unlocking the secrets and memories of times long pass and how everyone got to the modern world.  The Wicked Queen (the town mayor in the present) has no interest in her townspeople learning about their past.  It is her curse that set the whole thing in motion in the first place.

Well acted and well written, this show is entertainment at its best.  I actually enjoy the back story more than the present setting.  It looks to me as if the actors also enjoy the fairy tales times. Information is slowly doled out about the past folk lore so we get to know our beloved characters at a far better depth than any of the written stories.  The present day story is unfolding to set up the memories when they return to Snow White and Company. 

Once Upon A Time is definitely worth a look.  It has a comfortable feel that is fun and interesting.  I find myself more entranced that I care to admit.

Grimm (Fridays, 8pm, NBC)

Starring David Giuntoli, Russell Hornsby, Silas Weir Mitchell

Grimm has a darker overall tome than its ABC counterpart.  It is a cross between a normal police procedural and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  It integrates normal crimes and beloved stories like Red Riding Hood and The Three Bears.  The lead character is a detective and a grimm, someone who hunts and kills creatures like wolves, bears, and bees, much like Buffy hunted the undead.

The tone was especially dark and stiff in the pilot but has lightened up slightly in subsequent episodes with a nice dab of levity here and there.  It was a good change.  The cops are likeable and are growing into their roles with each episode.  This show could have been much campier than it is and I guess it could slip to that level if the writers aren’t careful.  For now though, think of it as a cop show with a cool twist.

As long as NBC keeps the camp factor at a minimum and the show keeps improving, NBC could have a keeper.  The main story line needs to be constantly developed and moved forward.  The program could easily be messed up and NBC needs to be constantly vigilant but it is mysterious enough to keep me entertained for an hour.  If you like cop shows, give Grimm a chance to show you that investigations can be more than what you are used to.

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