After sampling many of the new TV shows in the fall, I didn’t come away with any new “must see” shows. The one that comes closest is Up All Night but even that isn’t taking full advantage of its cast. I like Ringer for its soapiness and Pan Am has tided me over until Mad Men resumes.
For me, the show that most hasn’t delivered on its promise is Once Upon a Time. I really liked the first episode but it just hasn’t done much interesting since then. I blame the Lost influence. Every episode cuts between two story lines, one in the present and one in fairy tale land. None of the fairy tale stories have done much with their original sources aside from weave them all together into one continuity, which just isn’t enough for me. I already know these stories. The show needs to put a new spin on them. Maybe it thinks it is, but it’s not cutting it. Meanwhile in the present, very little has happened aside from providing new, unsurprising connections between the fairy tale characters and their modern day lives. Worse, the premise is that the “real” world is a terrible, cursed place, but all we’ve seen so far is moderate unhappiness. I guess the writers of the show don’t want to go very dark, but they haven’t sold me on the idea that the cursed world is this joyless land that all the story characters have been banished to. For it to work there needs to be a stark contrast between the wonder and delight of the story book world and the awfulness of the real world. We need to see Henry and Emma’s actions start to have an impact as the illusion breaks down, and in the flashbacks we need to see the building machinations of the evil queen beyond her generic treachery.
I confess I’ve only read a little bit of Bill Willingham’s Fables, with whose premise Once Upon a Time shares more than a little. I guess I’ll add that to my list of things to read and see if it’s more of what I’m looking for.