October 24th, 2011

Me

Once Upon a Time

ABC's Once Upon a Time debuted last night, and imagine my surprise when what could easily have been this season's High Concept Flop turned out to be a sweet, charming, and enjoyable adventure. (The dubious honor of being this season's High Concept Flop most likely belongs to Terra Nova, though, to be fair, the cop-hunting-fairy-tale-monsters show Grimm hasn't premiered yet.)

The plot of Once Upon a Time involves a town full of fairy tale characters who have forgotten who they are, and a woman, Emma Swan (House's Jennifer Morrison), who is lured there to set things right by a ten-year-old boy (Mad Men's Jared Gilmore) who turns out to be the son she gave up for adoption, but who is now the son of that town's mayor. (It sounds convoluted, but it's really not.) It seems the Evil Queen (Lost's Lana Parilla) got so ticked off when Snow White (Big Love's Ginnifer Goodwin) survived the poison apple and married Prince Charming (Thor's Josh Dallas) that she created a curse that made all the fairy tale characters of their world forget who they are and transported them to a terrible place where there are no happy endings.

That terrible place, of course, is our world--or Storybrooke, Maine in particular, a quaint suburb where these storybook (oh, now I get it!) characters don't remember who they are and they all have to get jobs instead of being wealthy and entitled royalty. (Okay, that last part is a bit of an embellishment, but I would watch that version of the show too.) Snow White is now a school teacher (is there an unwritten Hollywood rule that says all young, pretty women have to be school teachers to a class of small, adorable tykes?) and the Evil Queen is the mayor (and the boy's adoptive mom), and Emma is tied in to it all through a prophecy made by Rumpelstiltskin (Trainspotting's Robert Carlyle). Again, it sounds convoluted, but it's really not. In fact, it's a lot of fun.

Instead of letting its concept box it in, the writers were wise to allow plenty of places for this story to go. And of course, half the fun of watching is trying to piece together which denizen of Storybrooke is which famous fairy tale character (was that Grumpy the dwarf in the town's holding cell? Why yes, it was!). The pilot was a bit sappy and rough around the edges at times, but barring the program taking a wild right turn, Once Upon a Time makes for a welcome addition to your faithful TV Nerd's DVR schedule.