On Sunday night, ABC premiered their new TV series, Once Upon a Time. Revolving around Snow White, Prince Charming, the Evil Queen, and other fairy tale characters, the first episode got off to a solid start in the ratings. However, this isn’t the first time that ABC has tried transplanting storybook folks into the present day.
Nearly 25 years ago, in March of 1987, the network unveiled a sitcom called The Charmings. The premise was explained during the opening credits of each show…
Once upon a time there was a vain queen who was so jealous of her beautiful stepdaughter, Snow White, that she poisoned her with an apple. But, a handsome prince came along and broke the spell. Snow White and Prince Charming threw the wicked stepmother down a bottomless pit and lived happily ever after. But, it turns out the pit wasn’t bottomless — just very deep. And now, the queen was very mad. With a spell so powerful even she couldn’t control it, she put the Charmings to sleep for a thousand years. She also got herself, and one dwarf. Eventually they woke up.
So, Snow White (Caitlin O’Heaney), Prince Charming (a pre-Reba Christopher Rich), their young sons Thomas (Brandon Call, pre-Step by Step) and Cory (Garette Ratliff Henson), Evil Queen Lillian (Judy Parfitt), Luther the dwarf (Cork Hubbert), and the Magic Mirror (Paul Winfield) awaken in the present, end up living in a suburb of Los Angeles, and try to make sense of their new surroundings. Their new friends are Don (Paul Eiding) and Sally Miller (Dori Brenner), two typical sitcom next door neighbors.
The Charmings initially ran for six episodes on Friday nights as part of the TGIF line-up, from March until April 1987. The show was popular enough to be renewed for a second season and to be given a place on the Fall 1987 schedule. Carol Huston took over the role of Snow White and ABC moved the show to Thursday nights, opposite The Cosby Show spin-off A Different World.
You don’t need a magic mirror to know that it was going to get clobbered in that timeslot. That season, Different World was the second most-watched show on television, right behind Cosby. The Charmings was 78th, out of 82 primetime shows. Only 15 episodes were produced for season two and ABC never got around to airing the last one, “Lilian’s Protege.”
The show however was nominated for four Emmy Awards and won for Outstanding Lighting for a Comedy Series. As so often happens in television, by the time that award was given, the TV show was a distant memory.
Once Upon a Time is obviously a very different kind of show and has had a very positive launch. It’s important to remember though that things initially looked very rosy for The Charmings too. Let’s hope that ABC’s latest fairytale series has a happier ending.
If you haven’t seen the show, here’s the pilot:
What do you think? Do you remember The Charmings? Do you think that Once Upon a Time will last longer than 21 episodes?