Fall TV First Impression: ABC's Once Upon a Time Is Fairy Ambitious

The broadcast networks have more than 30 shows debuting this fall, including Steven Spielberg’s dino-mite Terra Nova, J.J. Abrams’ Person of Interest, and a U.S. adaptation of the UK’s Prime Suspect. To help you prep for fall, TVLine is offering First Impressions based on the not-for-review pilots. Next on our list is…

THE SHOW | ABC’s Once Upon a Time (Sundays at 8/7c, premiering October 23)

THE COMPETITION | NBC Sunday Night Football, CBS’ The Amazing Race, and Fox’s The Simpsons/Allen Gregory (new)

THE CAST | Jennifer Morrison (House) as Emma Swan, Ginnifer Goodwin (Big Love) as Snow White/Mary Margaret Blanchard, Lana Parrilla (Swingtown) as Evil Queen/Regina, Jared Gilmore as Henry, Robert Carlyle (Trainspotting) as Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold, and others

Fall 2011 TV Grid: Where Did Your Favorite Shows Land?

THE SET-UP | It’s tricky, so let’s see if I can boil it down (and not spoil the many cool twists). Once upon a time, in the Enchanted Forest… the Evil Queen crashed Snow White’s wedding to Prince Charming with the news that she had cast a powerful curse that would rob everyone of “everything they loved” and thus deprive them of their happy endings. Translated: The memorable fairy tale figures are transported to Storybrooke, Maine, a town frozen in time, and with none of their past memories intact. Flash forward (this is from two writers of Lost, after all) to now, where a 10-year-old lad named Henry tracks down his birth mom, bad-ass bail bondswoman Emma Swan, to bring her home with him to Storybrooke with the hope that she can make things right. Thing is, the woman who raised Henry is a real w-i-t-c-h — the Evil Queen’s alter ego, Regina, aka the town mayor. (Then again, Henry’s schoolteacher is a real princess.)

Pilot Preview: Jennifer Morrison Says Lost Fans Will Love Once Upon a Time

THE GOOD | Once Upon a Time is shaping up to be the most polarizing pilot among those of us who cover TV. Basically, you either found it to be magically delicious, or you failed to fall under its spell. I fall into the first camp — a gut feeling that was confirmed upon my second viewing. The set-up of the enchanted backstory is thrilling at times, with Goodwin and Parilla seemingly born to bite into the apple roles of Snow White and Evil Queen. (Plus, it’s just plain fun to catch glimpses of Grumpy, Jiminy Cricket and Tinkerbell.) Morrison does a nice job of mirroring the viewer’s disbelief of this fantastical dilemma — and Emma looks like she could become a worthy adversary for Regina — while Carlyle is slithery-good in both of his roles. Plus, did I mention all the Lost references sprinkled throughout? (Look at the clock tower in the clip below.) Now, with all of that said….

THE… COULD-BE-BETTER | I need to see Episode 2, because — as I have contended to peers — I don’t believe the pilot showed us what the series will really look like, given its requirement to deliver so much backstory from once upon a time. Visually, Storybrooke appears a bit bland; maybe they filmed on an overcast day, or is it to suggest the residents’ sad destiny? Lastly, the premiere isn’t until late October? Boo.

Read TVLine’s First Impressions of Ringer, 2 Broke Girls and The Playboy Club

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | This is a show worth checking out, if only because it’s trying to pull off something special, and given its “out there” nature, it’ll need to open big and hold tight to its genre-TV audience.

Matt’s Inside Line: Once Upon a Time and Other Top 10 Pilot Rankings

Watch a video preview for Once Upon a Time, then vote in our poll below.


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125 Comments
  1. Tims says:

    I’m not at all sure about Jennifer Morrison being able to carry this role. She’s pretty limited in her ability. I notice there are several comments about how her characters are written but a really good actress should be able to at least compensate a little for bad writing and I don’t think Jennifer has been able to do this. I think she might do just OK in this role but only if all conditions are perfect. I hope some of the other actors are given much screen time so she won’t be left to carry this show on her own.

    • Serk says:

      Yes, i think i agree. She was kinda bland in House and totally unwatchable in HIMYM. Those characters weren´t badly written at all. She just didn´t deliver. Maybe this show will be her big oportunity but who knows.

    • TP says:

      Uh! Huddy trolls are so pathetic! get a life! Jennifer Morrison have big roles because she is a great actress

  2. Lostfan says:

    the writers are not stupid .They chose Jennifer Morrison because she was the right actress for the lead role
    I trust Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz! they have never disappointed me :)

  3. carlotta from italy says:

    Jennifer Morrison is ”a terrible actress”!? Are you kidding? she is great, so talent, so intense..look ”House md”,”Teamwork” 6.08 Season6: House/Cameron last scene is THE best and more emotional ”House md” moment ever in the history of the show!

  4. Jennifer Morrison fan says:

    don’t worry, nobody hates jennifer, there is a disturbing group of Lisa Edelstein fans (small but vocalist) envious and bitter because jennifer have a big career than her favorist actress so isult jennifer everywhere, don’t worry, ignore them, house fandom is horrible, the worst of the planet and all this ”Jennifer!HOUSE-MD-Cameron!HYMY-Zoey!She-is-a-terrible- actress!” are the usual LE bitter-fans without a real life with a new form of insults; they insult jennifer even in her twitter account! so childish and stupid, bad girls! so, again, ignore them, please

    • Serk says:

      Well, i´m not a part of what you call disturbing group of Lisa Edelstein fans and i still find Jennifer Morrison pretty limited. It doesn´t mean she can´t surprise us and give a good performance but it doesn´t change reality either. At least for me.

  5. Mom of a teen says:

    Gosh, judging from the link posted above, Jennifer Morrison’s fans are a bunch of 15-yo girls. Oh well, good luck trying to explain your point of view to teenagers. On the other hand, they are the targeted demo of this new show, so if they like it, it may survive.

    • Martha says:

      Haha, that was my first thought too. That explains lots of things. Mystery is solved. :)

    • Selena says:

      You may be right about the age and that certainly explains the attraction (and the taste level), but these kids are not US-based (duh!) and their opinion has no bearing on the Nielsen ratings, so the question is still up in the air.

  6. Brandy says:

    I’m watching this cause i like fairytales.

  7. tahina says:

    I’ll give it a break. I liked her on House and is well deserving to get her own show. Good luck to Jennifer. :)

  8. yuck says:

    Jennifer Morrison? God no. Way too soon, I am still having nightmares over Zoe. I would have probably given it a try if not for her. She just rubs me the wrong way, sorry her fans. I never watched House or her other shows and am not planning to. I’ve seen all I needed to make an informed decision. So no, thanks. Ugh.

    • TP says:

      LOL Do you think people are stupid? You are a bitter Lisa Edelstein fan like all trolls!haters, real!HYMYM fandom is nice and sweet and no bashing actors

  9. auraeulogia says:

    It’s a shame some netwoks restrict the access to some video based only on geographic location .The truth is if I want it i would probably found it on the net;besides that doesn’t free me from suffer it even if the show fails ,with a 5 month delay in my country. IT’S ABSURD AND NAIVE MARKET MANAGEMENT

  10. Pledge says:

    Why everything has to boil down to Jennifer Morrison? OK, I agree, she might be the weakest link, but look how many wonderful and really talented people are attached to this project! Come on, Americans with Nielsen boxes, please please please give it a try! Our kids need a good show!

  11. IamPolish says:

    I read lots of reviews for this show (I love fairytales) and they all loved Jennifer Morrison’s performance
    I don’t know the actress very well (never watch House or HIMYM) but I’m sure they chose her because she was the best actress to play Emma.
    you should watch the pilot before criticizing :)

    • TV fan says:

      Czesc! :) I agree with you. She should be given a second chance, even if those folks who watched her didn’t like her past performances. People grow, her skills could have improved. Give it a try, you can always criticize later, or maybe you won’t have to.

      • TP says:

        folks like her past performances, all comment!critics are false; two or three LE fans!troll with multiple!nickname hate and insults her because she is a successful actress

  12. Rob J. says:

    First, to all of you HIMYM fans who were annoyed or worse by Zoey — IMNSHO, the fault belongs to the writers, not to Morrison, who I think was doing the role as written. Go back to her work on House before Katie Jacobs got bored with Cameron — Morrison is IMO a crackshot actress. Heck, she even makes “Urban Legends: The Final Cut” more than watchable.
    .
    Second, Morrison’s character is blonde, kicks ass and has a 10-year old kid. Obvioulsy, she’s Cinderella.

  13. laura says:

    muy agradable

  14. simonredgreen says:

    The broadcast networks have more than 30 shows debuting this fall
    – Best shows – Drama
    1) Terra Nova
    2) Alcatraz
    3) Once upon the time

  15. JULIA says:

    interesting

  16. barbara says:

    Do you plan to check out ABC’s Once Upon a Time?
    Definitely, I’ve been looking forward to this show!

  17. jessica says:

    I LOVE IT!

  18. Becca says:

    With Jennifer Morrison? No thanks. She played two hated characters that i couldn´t stand. I´m not about to watch the third.

  19. What? says:

    So, if your comment about looking forward to OUAT is negative or you aren’t looking forward to watching Jennifer Morrison in another role, you are dismissed as Huddy or a Lisa Edelstein fan? Really? A person can’t not like like Jennifer Morrison for any other reason? This isn’t Jr High is it because I could swear that’s what this sounds like. I don’t really have much of an opinion either way about her because she just doesn’t “call out to me” but just WOW at her fans! Let the woman stand on her own. You don’t need to make excuses for her. All the blaming makes her look bad.

    • kelly says:

      I want see lisa edelstein now!!! she is the best
      Comment by Emily – July 12, 2011 12:55 AM PDT Reply To This Post

      ^^ and here is to prove you wrong..

  20. Karadise says:

    Trina from Swingtown is back on TV, YEA!!!!

  21. alana says:

    I don’t like JMO…u.u

  22. Emily says:

    I want see lisa edelstein now!!! she is the best

  23. TinLV says:

    Shows that are ‘different’ as this one seems to be usually need time to build an audience.. and networks are not known for their patience. I have been burned too often and rarely watch new shows because they always seem to get canned, especially the really good ones. If its a hit, I’ll catch up watching the repeats.

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