Being a Disney buff I have often been asked for my feelings on Once Upon a Time and indeed I probably should have started watching the show much sooner but it was on Sunday nights and my Sunday nights were filled with Amazing Race, The Simpsons and other shows. Now TAR is on Fridays and I find myself having little to nothing to watch on Sundays besides the Simpsons and I’d heard great things about the recent OUAT season featuring characters from Frozen that I decided to give it a watch. Luckily seasons 1-3 are on Netflix stream so that makes catching up very easy!
It’s a pretty simple premise for a show, one that only ABC could stage with it’s Disney pedigree. The story begins with a town in Maine called Storybrooke. It is a town of displaced fairytale creatures who have all forgotten their alter-egos because of a curse put on them all by the Evil Queen/Regina in modern world. Regina is played with a lot of gusto by Lana Parilla.
A seeming commoner named Emma comes into the town by a boy who claims to be her son. She is played with mixed results (the acting is not great in this show…) by Jennifer Morrison who some might recognize from How I Met Your Mother.
Henry played by Jared S Gilmore is Regina’s adopted son but he hates her and knows she is out to destroy everyone in Storybrooke. It’s kind of funny to have a kid completely deplore their mother. Never seen that in a show before.
Emma becomes the Sheriff and as she seeks to uncover her past we meet with a variety of storybook characters. The biggest are Snow White played by Ginnifer Goodwin, who I am not a huge fan of but she is Ok here. Of course she has her Prince Charming who is played by Josh Dallas in a more fleshed out role than the few seconds the animated film gives us (naturally of course). His storylines about being a false prince is one of the most entertaining of the first season.
Then we get episodes with one or more of the following characters.
Geppetto and Pinocchio
Cinderella played by Jessy Schram
Red Riding Hood by Meghan Ory
The Mad Hatter
And our main villain of the franchise aside from Regina is Rumpelstiltsken who is played very creepily by Robert Carlyle. I kind of hope that success of this series might inspire Disney to do a Rumpelstiltsken. I’ve often wondered what their version would look like. It would be different than any of their other animated fairytales because it would have to feature a princess who gets married towards the beginning of the story and has a baby. So far Disney princesses have always been virginal adolescent girls. Also, you’d have to have her marry a King who was going to kill her if she didn’t make straw into gold which isn’t exactly PC but it would be interesting to see what the Disney people could do with it .
So what are my thoughts on the first 22 episodes of the show? Well, overall I’m entertained by it. The acting is sometimes cringe-worthy and the production values are not strong but the story is interesting enough and keeps me flipping between worlds enough to be engaged. It’s not meant to be taken too seriously, just a lot of fun.
Some may wonder why I hated Maleficent, a recent fairytale adaptation and give a passing recommendation to this telling. Here’s the difference- Maleficent fundamentally changes the characters. What was once evil is now good and what was good is evil or inattentive and idol at best. In this show what was bad in the movies are still bad. Sure Regina has a few softer moments but she’s pretty ruthless both as the queen and mayor of town. Anything that is added to it is in addition to the original stories, not a replacement for those stories.
Maleficent pissed me off because it ruined the character of Maleficent. Plus, I am way more likely to be forgiving of terrible production values and bad acting in a TV show than a big budget Disney movie. When they carefully restage pivitol scenes from the original movie and then change everything that happens it makes me angry. They do not do anything like that here in Once Upon a Time. The events are the fairytales. It is the before and after for the characters and the importance of said actions that matter.
For example, the Snow White story is basically the same as the movie down to the poison apple. Where it changes is after they are married and the curse is placed on them and all in attendance. Pinocchio is basically the same down to Monstro and the Blue Fairy (although no Pleasure Island yet) but what happens to Pinocchio when he grows up is different. You see what I mean?
All the lame fairytale retellings of late have attempted to reshape and reform the originals and they’ve all sucked. This does it’s own thing and it works pretty well. It’s campy and silly but I was entertained. I’m curious to keep watching (which I suppose is the real test of a good show).
What do you guys think about Once Upon a Time? I’ve still got 2 seasons to watch before I can catch up to Season 4 but I have been enjoying the podcasts over at Post Show Recaps by my twitter friend Mike Bloom. If you like that kind of thing be sure to check it out.