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. RJ says

    I missed the live premiere yesterday, but I watched it later on imdb. I found some aspects very cliche and unoriginal (even for a show based on fairy tales). Still it was better than I expected. I plan on catching the next couple episodes at least. Hopefully it remains somewhat dark and edgy instead of becoming another soft, cheese fest. Though, with all the family and romance angles, I’m not sure if the writers will be able to pull that off.

  2. Mark says

    Saw the last 10 minutes. Looked great from what I saw. Will they be re-airing the premiere episode again (ie. on Sat.) so those who missed can catch up on the intricate beginnings?…

  3. Brandon Xavier says

    I’m glad I DVR’ed it. As I watched the pilot I admittedly wasn’t giving it my full attention. That probably was a mistake. Seems I got lost rather quickly. Probably after watching it again a time or two it will probably all make sense. But that brings up another point: Exactly how much time and effort do I want to put into enjoying a show? Is it going to be worth the trouble? I’m in the group of viewers who was heavily invested in Lost and thoroughly disappointed with the final season/ending and don’t want to repeat that experience. I guess that makes me a little gunshy about new shows that may require (or are at least well served by) a similiar commitment.

  4. Katie says

    It started off with promise, but I am reserving my full judgement for a few more episodes. If the pilot is the strongest episode they have in the can, then I think that could spell trouble. I found that I felt very little investment in the “human” parts of the story. The fairytale parts were fantastic. It reminded me of Merlin, which I absolutely love. I found myself swooning over Prince Charming and the Sheriff! I will definitely tune in for more; I am reservedly hopeful that ABC will give the show a chance to blossom before sentencing it to the same untimely fate as Flash Forward and Kings.

  5. Kat says

    So we all watched it live and this time it was my dad who was thinking of giving the show a pass and my mom who “loved” it — it’s usually the opposite, which makes me wonder if this is a show that’s mostly for women. I, for one, liked it very much, as it was nice to watch something about fairy tales and magic and happy endings without it being sarcastic or ironic.

  6. Senmei says

    The American audience is far too cynical for a primetime show about fairy tales. Even if the show is the best thing on TV, it’s premise has doomed it to fail. Maybe if it got really dark and bloody over the next few episodes it would survive.

    I’ll enjoy watching it while it last, the pilot was quite good.

  7. Ole Vizer says

    Has nothing to do with Once Upon A Time but REALLY not happy that Grimm will air at the same time as Supernatural. My DVR can only handle so much!!

  8. Anonymous says

    I think this is going to be a twisted little show… Just what we need since ther is nothing else on. So now we have Thur Secert Circle, then Friday new show Grimm, sound interesting also, and Sunday Once apon a time…

  9. Mary Tarpinian says

    I really enjoyed the show. I was eager to tune in as there is very little that catches my attention anymore. Suffice to say, I will be watching each week. I love the intergration of the make believe and the world we know… well done and the cinematography is sufficiently moody, sort of cueing the viewer of impending drama.

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