Snow White, Prince Charming, the Evil Queen, blah blah blah. It all sounds like your typical Disney story, and a wholly unoriginal concept, but surprise! ABC’s new fairy-tales-with-a-twist series Once Upon a Time is hands down the most mind-blowingly unique new show coming out this fall, perhaps because it’s penned by two of the dudes responsible for Lost. (Unless you were one of the people who hated Lost‘s ending. Then forget we ever said it.)
But is Once Upon a Time really worth your precious time?
Find out as our 2011 Fall TV Preview launches today with the new drama we’re (spoiler alert!) most excited about…
Premieres: Sunday, Oct. 23, 8 p.m.
Time-Slot Competition: The Amazing Race (CBS), The Simpsons (Fox), Sunday Night Football (NBC)
Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla, Jamie Dornan, Jared Gilmore, Josh Dallas, Raphael Sbarge
Status: We’ve seen the pilot episode.
While many of ABC’s new comedies are are, um, lackluster at best (stand by for the cringe-worthy deets on that when we release all our 2011 Fall TV reviews), the Alphabet net has certainly taken a chance with Once Upon a Time. With cross dimensions that could only be pulled off by former Lost writers, this enchanting show shifts between Fairy Tale Land and the dreary (plus magically cursed) town of Storybrooke and tackles what happens beyond the “happily ever after” of the stories we love. Viewers will discover what happens when the happy ending goes to hell in a hand basket.
The gist of the story: On orphan Emma Swan’s (Jennifer Morrison) 28th birthday she is visited by a charming boy, Henry (Jared Gilmore), who tells her she is actually the daughter of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas). No, the child is not an escapee from a nearby loony bin but he’s in fact the son she gave up for adoption 10 years before. Also revealed in this fun meet cute: Emma, a jaded bail bondsperson, is the only hope of saving the whole town of amnesiac fairy-tale characters.
That’s where the fun begins. Emma was not actually abandoned as a child but sent away to be protected from the Evil Queen’s curse and ultimate unhappily ever after: Maine. Dun. Dun. Dun. Basically the fate of all happy endings rests on her shoulders. Her backstory is unbelievable, but any birth mother with a soul can’t help but be moved by Henry’s passion, and Emma is.
The characters are intriguing in both worlds. Ginnifer Goodwin enchants as Snow White and her Storybrooke counterpart, Mary Margaret. The Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) aka Regina, the mayor of Storybrooke, is not a one-dimensional villainess. She is mean, conniving, slightly heartbreaking and clearly the hero in her own story. While Emma Swan is the cool girl that you’d want to be your BFF, but she has no friends because badass orphans can’t have friends.
Goodwin tells us she was on board to play the iconic princess as soon as she heard that creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz “had written something sort of Lost slash Pushing Daisies in tone” and we can echo that it’s an apt description and a perfect marriage of mythology and whimsy. We are in love, but if we had to state our one major qualm with the pilot, it’s that the ridiculously hot Sherriff Graham (Jamie Dornan) was not in it nearly enough. Seriously. That’s our biggest problem.
In some ways you might wonder how they will carry the story through the season or even through multiple seasons, but Morrison tells us: “It’s not the story of Snow White, it’s: ‘Why is she Snow White? Why did she fall in love with the prince? Why did the Queen hate her?’…It’s filling in the blanks of all the parts of the fairy tale that we’ve never considered and we’ve never known about.” With the familiar fairy tales to start the ride and two worlds to explore, we are excited to see what happens next.
Verdict: Watch. And tell your friends. Because if the series holds up to the promise of the pilot, we need 50 seasons of this magic.