Once Upon a Time: Is the New ABC Series Worth Watching?

Once Upon a Time TV seriesTonight marks the debut of ABC’s Once Upon a Time, the first of two new shows that revolve around fairy-tale stories. While the source material may be similar, that’s where the similarities end. Once Upon a Time is a romantic drama while NBC’s Grimm (coming this Friday) is more like a supernatural cop show.

Once Upon a Time begins in a mythic fairy-tale world where the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) has put a curse on the residents, including Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and her Prince Charming (Josh Dallas). To protect their infant daughter and thwart the spell, the couple sends their baby daughter to the world that we know. After growing up in foster homes, she (Jennifer Morrison) is eventually drawn to Storybrooke, Maine where all of the classic characters are alive but don’t remember their previous identities. The show also stars Robert Carlyle, Jared Gilmore, Raphael Sbarge, Meghan Ory, and Jamie Dornan.

Is the new ABC series worth your time? Here’s what the critics are saying:

LA Times: “Once the action leaves the overly Maxfield Parrish-ized world of magic trees and drooping pregnant princesses, things pick up considerably. There’s a book; there an enlightened boy, Henry (Jared Gilmore); and best of all, there’s Morrison. Her Emma is predictably cynical and prickly — fairy-tale princess, my Aunt Fanny — but she’s sharp and lively enough to keep audiences begging for ‘just a few more pages’ before they go to bed.”

Chicago Tribune: “Yet [creators] Horowitz and Kitsis are clever and playful in how they insert the fairytale characters into the present day, which kept my interest even when, as I said earlier, I was chuckling. But maybe that’s a good sign the show will remain enjoyable. Once Upon a Time is just as charming as a prince.”

TIME: “The tone of the show overall is reminiscent of past light, fanciful ABC dramedies like Cupid; it’s sweet, often funny and maybe most important, conveys the sense that the writers are having fun finding where to fit Snow White, Rumplestiltskin, & company into our world. I ended the first hour smiling, but not feeling deeply invested in the characters, and because it spends so much time simply establishing the premise, I’ll have to wait to see if future installments integrate the worlds better and create a sense of greater stakes.”

NY Daily News: “To draw out the story by looping it through subplots and minidramas runs the risk of turning it into a fairy-tale soap opera — when what we really want to know is whether the tragic Snow White or the lonely Emma can in the end live happily ever after. The fact the characters are well drawn gives Once Upon a Time a shot. But where Snow White’s fate is concerned, TV viewers may not have as much patience as the Seven Dwarfs.

NY Times: “Once Upon a Time seemed to have the richer premise and more interesting characters, and having Ms. Goodwin (Big Love) in the cast automatically made it one of the more promising new shows. She’s excellent, and Ms. Morrison, known for playing uptight snobs on House and How I Met Your Mother, uses her whiskey-and-cigarettes voice (close your eyes, and it sounds like Angie Harmon) to good effect as the reluctant savior. Watching the pilot again, though, it became harder to ignore the soap opera underpinnings and the twee sentimentality.”

What do you think? Will you be watching? If you’ve seen it already, will you tune in again? Should it be given a chance or should Once Upon a Time be quickly cancelled instead?

Canceled and renewed TV show

26 Comments · Read them below or add one

  1. Phillygirl says

    This is one of the BEST new network shows I’ve seen in YEARS. And it’s definitely NOT for small children. I hope these cynics don’t cause something as wonderfully captivating as this show to be cancelled.

  2. Isaura says

    I liked it and will keep watching it, even though I’m afraid that ABC will cancel it. What I’m wondering is how can they keep this as a series? This could be a one season show: beginning, middle and end. But again, I see this going the way of No Ordinary Family, they will (hopefully) finish the season and then cancel the show. Yeah, I’m that pessimistic. I just hope that they give this story an end even if it isn’t a happy ending for me.

  3. IgotBupkis says

    It’s common to blame the nets, but, frankly, I’ve come to the conclusion they’ve been right all along.

    In the past several seasons each of the nets except CBS has kept on shows that it really could justify canceling given the ratings, in response to complaints like Digger’s.

    NBC kept Journeyman on for a full half-season
    Fox kept on Dollhouse for a “full” season
    ABC kept on Flashforward for a full season.

    The audiences did not grow. Each of these shows was a brilliant, off-beat premise that defied conventional storytelling, with good acting and writing, and a nice “what the heck is going to happen next?” element (weak on DH, I grant).

    Audiences stayed away in droves. They didn’t grow, they just kept shrinking, exactly as the nets believed they would.

    I happened to be editor for an IMDB-like TV Show site at the time for both DH and FF, and I asked in the forums, if people weren’t watching, why not?

    The answers pretty much boiled down to “It took me longer than 30 mins to categorize the show and its characters…. I can’t be bothered to wait to see what is going on. I have to see the whole premise in the first hour.”


    I have no idea how Lost captured the audience it did, but that audience has gone on to other things than TV watching, that’s for sure. Because everyone left is a total drooling couch potato wanting nothing but dull, predictable TV.

    The people get the TV shows they deserve.

    • Phillygirl says

      No, we DON’T get the TV shows we DESERVE! We get the shows that the networks think bring in money! What about that show ABC cancelled last year, Happy Town? A slew of my friends and I got hooked on it and they cancelled it, didn’t even care enough about the viewers to run the remaining 3 or 4 episodes to wrap it up for us! What are they feeding us? Chaz and Nancy on DWTS? Crap reality? More cop shows? This show is wonderful! I even got my husband hooked on it AND Grimm! And he only watches sports, AMC and John Wayne! Neither of us has watched more than a handful of network shows in years until now.

  4. says

    Is the new ABC series worth your time? NO, nothing is worth watching anymore everything is cancelled or only showed for 6 to 8 episodes a season. Returns come back anywhere from 9 to 12 months later only for another 6 to 8 episodes. I cancelled all my TV channel opportunities to basic only ($29.99 per month from $200 per month) because of all this. I think everyone should do the same thing. Stop pay $200 a month for TV service & watch how fast our shows return & stay on longer to attract TV sales.

    • Bruce says

      @Digger. Wow you must have Time Warner. But no, I don’t want broadcast only, even though, with them, “digital cable, ” where you get the basic cable channels is like $80 a month, that would mean I would not get USA, TNT, etc, that would mean no BURN NOTICE, THE CLOSER, SOUTHLAND, LEVERAGE, COVERT AFFAIRS, WHITE COLLAR, RIZZOLI AND ISLES, and so on. I would be stuck with ABC CBS and NBC only. NO thanks on that.

  5. Bill C... says

    Show was interesting enough for me to watch a few more episodes and see more of the characters. Like the concept but has to have some good stories to go with it.

Leave a Comment

Your comment may need approval from a moderator before it appears. We review comments to weed out spam, duplicate postings and personal attacks. We welcome constructive discussion.