By Valerie Dunn
Elm Staff Writer
Amidst a television lineup run amuck with crime-dramas, talent-shows, and poorly-written-sitcoms, ABC has developed a show that contains neither crime scene investigations nor a panel of judges. Instead, their new show has castles, swordfights, and just about every Fairytale character imaginable. From the writers of “Lost” comes “Once Upon a Time,” a show filled with interesting visuals and semi-intriguing storylines.
The pilot episode opens with a valiant prince galloping on horseback across a mountainous landscape and through a forest to give a kiss of life to the dead Snow White. A grand wedding subsequently occurs, and it looks like happy endings glisten around every corner until an Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) crashes the party. The Evil Queen promises to rid the kingdom of any happy endings, and a reign of terror begins. As the Evil Queen’s power grows, Snow White becomes pregnant with the child destined to save the kingdom.
Complications occur, however, when Snow White must send her newborn child, Emma, to a different land. The real world.
Thus, when an endearing, yet somehow still odd, little boy knocks on the Boston apartment door of Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) and announces that he is her birth son, Emma’s life takes an unexpected turn for the adventurous. This turn leads Emma into Storybrooke, an eerily quiet little town that, according to the boy, has been frozen in time. The residents of Storybrooke bear resemblances to those Fairytale characters ruled by the Evil Queen, perhaps because the Evil Queen has transported her entire kingdom to “somewhere horrible,” to the real world.
Though ABC marketed their new show with stunning trailers and promotional ads, the actual pilot episode is not quite dazzling. True, the concept is entertaining; who doesn’t dream of real-life fairytales? True, the storyline should provide for a succession of interesting episodes; can the reluctant hero in her high-heels and red leather jacket save a town trapped in time? True, the show has promise. We want it to succeed, we do, we do!
But somewhere, somehow, “Once Upon a Time” falls short of giving the viewers a memorable thrill of fantasy. In just the pilot episode, “Once Upon a Time” contains more famous fairytale creatures than Disney World. The blatant presentation of well-known fairytale characters fails to charm but merely leaves the viewer worried for the creativity of the writers. And speaking of the writers, the show’s dialogue is less than brilliant. But perhaps that the scenarios of “Once Upon a Time” seem at times cheesy is not solely the fault of the writers, but of the actors, too.
Morrison gives a passable performance as Emma Swan, and Jared Gilmore is certainly cute enough as a child doomed to have an evil adopted mother. Less forgivable, however, is the chemistry (or lack thereof) between Snow White and Prince Charming. Parrilla gives nothing more than the expected stereotype of an evil queen seeking to control Fairyland, but we’ll hope for the best that she improves upon a not horrible start.
The new show, of course, is not entirely unwatchable. In fact, without sky-high expectations, it’s quite enjoyable. “Once Upon a Time” gives viewers opportunity to experience Fairytales structures through both a classic and modern lens. Though the Evil Queen promises she’s taken the Fairytale world to a place of “no happy endings,” the episode’s conclusion is not so dreadful as all that (as far as pilot episodes go). Fairytales, no matter modern or classic or both, hold a soft spot in the hearts of dreamers not often waiting to pass criticism after every commercial break. No doubt many viewers will return to Storybrooke to follow the adventures of “Once Upon a Time.”
“Once Upon a Time” airs Sunday nights at 8 p.m. on ABC.