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Once Upon a Time

I just finished watching the first season of Once Upon a Time, the fantasy series co-starring Big Love's Ginnifer Goodwin, The Full Monty's Robert Carlyle, and our very own Jennifer Morrison. For anyone who's not familiar with it, the show is about Emma Swan, a woman who has never known her real parents, and her reconnection to her biological son, Henry, whom she gave up for adoption. Henry believes that his small Maine town, Storybrooke, is populated by fairytale characters who can't remember their past lives, and that Emma is destined to save them from the machinations of his adoptive mother, the Mayor - a.k.a. Snow White's evil stepmother.

I see Once Upon a Time as part Buffy the Vampire Slayer, part Gilmore Girls, minus the witty dialogue (and, as it happens, Jane Espenson has written for all three of these shows). That doesn't mean that it isn't enjoyable; I really like the way that the individual episodes are constructed, with the character's motivations and relationships playing out in flashbacks to their past lives as well as events in the nonmagical present. (It must be an interesting challenge for the actors: their modern selves are played very naturally, like any quirky characters you might meet in a small town, while their fairytale selves take on a certain self-importantly epic quality that often makes them seem a little stiff and cartoonish, in my opinion.) I also appreciated how there were no superfluous characters or details: the  entire season had clearly been planned out from the beginning, with everything interwoven, building up to the climax of the final episode. It's virtually seamless and tremendously consistent, despite having a large ensemble cast and a stable of writers.

I probably won't see the second season until it comes out on DVD, but is anyone else following this show? (You may remember from House that I'm not especially spoilerphobic.)


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 9th, 2013 04:29 am (UTC)
You asked. ;)
Gosh, I'm probably in the minority. This is a third tier show for me. To start, I'm not a fan of high concept arcs that drive a series (and thankfully, the original story did kinda, sorta wrap up in the finale). Last year I vowed to stop watching, and could swear I knocked the season pass off my DVR, but in the fall when I checked my second DVR they were accummulating as if by magic.

What I didn't care for, and it's a quirk of mine, were how characters acted independently of each other. Few buddied up for any length of time. The reason I continued watching were for the pretty costumes and Mr. Gold (Son of a bum! When you mentioned Carlyle was in The Full Monty, I could place his erm, face immediately). Toward the end of S1, I was skipping over episodes where Mr. Gold wasn't featured.

So, this fall when there was a quiet week with nothing new on tv, I caught up on season 2. To my surprise I liked it better than the first, but still have reservations. Along with the old recurring characters there is a plethora of new: Regina's mother, Captain Hook (yummy), the Giant from Jack and Beanstalk, Dr. Frankenstein, Sleeping Beauty, her Prince, and Mulan. And that wouldn't be so bad, except they're juggling at least 3 stories (maybe 4) in each episode.
Mar. 9th, 2013 04:57 am (UTC)
Re: You asked. ;)
Mr. Gold is my absolute favorite character! (On the other hand, Rumplestiltskin chews up the scenery so much that it's very hard to take him seriously.) Mmm, I think I'm going to have to rewatch The Full Monty.

I personally love long arcs and shows that reward consistent watching and re-watching. Buffy, Battlestar Galactica, The West Wing. Of course, when it's done badly, without enough attention to established canon, it gets very frustrating (as when The X-Files and House went downhill).

The dialogue really does bum me out sometimes, I have to say. I hate it when I know exactly what cheesy line the characters are going to deliver before they do it.

I don't have DVR, or tv at all, actually, so I'll be waiting for a while. But I don't mind. I'm currently catching up on last season's Game of Thrones and have three entire seasons of Torchwood to watch after that.
Mar. 9th, 2013 05:25 am (UTC)
Re: You asked. ;)
Yeah, I space out on the dialogue. It's a tribute to Robert Carlyle that he can say "Dearie," endlessly without me cringing. lol.

And I do love arcs. Usually it's a sign of good continuity. Joss Whedon, who could string an arc out for a year, spoiled me for other shows. It's those underlying arcs that drive the premise of the series that I have no patience with, like The Mentalist's Red John, Last Resort, or Lost. It would be okay if it were a mini series, but otherwise I feel manipulated.
Mar. 9th, 2013 04:42 am (UTC)
I have been watching it (I am currently only two shows behind). I like it, with Emma and Mr. Gold (and Henry) by far my favorite characters. Some of the others I like, some not so much, but almost all interesting. My daughter and I have had fun guessing who was whom in fairytales.
Mar. 9th, 2013 04:57 am (UTC)
I really enjoy the unexpected twists on old fairy tales - like Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, and Hansel and Gretel (Buffy had a fun version of that one, too). I like Emma and Mr. Gold the best, too. I also really like Mary Margaret (not Snow White so much).
Mar. 9th, 2013 05:24 am (UTC)
Yay - someone besides me who likes Henry :)
Mar. 9th, 2013 05:29 am (UTC)
Once Upon a Time and Elementary are the only US shows I'm keeping up with at the moment. I find it fun if not taken too seriously, or thought about too hard :) I think maybe they shouldn't have brought the magic back at the end of the first season though, think it would have been better to keep the original set up going longer.

The only problem I have with it is remembering all the back stories, especially the longish ones like Charming and Snow where they go back and forwards in the timeline a lot.
Mar. 9th, 2013 12:22 pm (UTC)
Keeping up with the ongoing Snow/Charming story has been a challenge for me, definitely.

So I haven't yet seen what happens after Rumplestiltskin brings the magic back to Storybrooke, but I was a little surprised that they decided to change the conceit of the show so dramatically from the first season to the second; I don't think I've seen that done before. One season and Emma believes, the magic returns, the evil queen is unveiled... where do we go from here???

Out of curiosity, what non-US shows are you keeping up with?
Mar. 9th, 2013 12:40 pm (UTC)
'Where do we go from here' is indeed the struggle in the second season I think, some of it I like, some of it I don't think is sucessful.

There are 3 Australian 'reality' (Masterchef, My Kitchen Rules and The Block) shows all airing in the same timeslot at the moment which are fulfilling my quota of trashy TV - and that's about it really.
Mar. 9th, 2013 12:09 pm (UTC)
I tried to get into the show, but I just couldn't. The initial story was interesting, these fairytale characters who think they are people, but there wasn't enough focus on that to keep my attention. There were too many characters and too many plots. I dislike large ensemble casts.
Mar. 9th, 2013 12:17 pm (UTC)
It took at least five episodes for me to get into it, maybe in part because of the challenge of keeping up with so many characters. But when I realized how everything was fitting together and that seemingly random characters were always introduced for a purpose, I liked it a lot more. YMMV.
Mar. 9th, 2013 04:52 pm (UTC)
There were too many characters and too many plots.

My daughter had already watched half of the first season when she convinced me to give it a try, so I had help from her to muddle through the early episodes when everyone was an unknown. That is something that is tough for a show like this I would think, to keep initial viewers through the initial confusion. But as the characters get unveiled the concept becomes easier to follow and indeed a tiny bit predictable even. I agree though that there are too many plots, and plots can sit on the sideline a fairly long time until they are gotten back too. But it does seem like they at least have a long term plan.
Mar. 9th, 2013 10:12 pm (UTC)
I don't even know why I own a TV...I hardly watch anything. Does this win the most reduntant comment of the post??
Mar. 9th, 2013 11:44 pm (UTC)
I only watch online or DVDs...
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )



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