Fall TV Preview

Real Truths Behind ABC's Once Upon a Time (Including That Pesky Fables Comparison)

Few of this fall’s new shows are as anticipated as ABC’s Once Upon a Time, in which a curse cast by the Evil Queen sends Snow White and other amnesiac fairy tales characters into the real (if quietly charming) world of Storybrook, Maine, where they await the arrival of a possible savior (played by House‘s Jennifer Morrison). But with good buzz can also come scrutinizing questions, as the show’s cast and producers fielded at the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Sunday.

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

FABLES ON THE TABLE | At the top of Once‘s TCA session, the ongoing question about similarities to Bill Willingham’s Fables comic-book series, which has twice before tried to make the leap to TV — most recently at ABC — came up. Executive producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, who on a previous occasion claimed unfamiliarity with Fables, acknowledged that they have since “read a couple issues,” but maintain that while the two projects play “in the same playground, we feel we’re telling a different story,” said Kitsis. The first difference, Katsis humbly said, is Willingham “is probably more talented than we are…. If we get a 10th of the people who liked that, we’d be very happy.”

EXTRA-SPECIAL EFFECTS | Kitsis said that because “ABC has given us a lot of support,” they have no concerns about keeping up the fantastical feel of the flashbacks scenes set on Storybook Lane. “We can’t show this pilot and then have a cheap show after it, so it’s our goal to maintain this level of production values throughout.”

Once Upon a Time‘s Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin & Co. on Their Literal “Dream” Project

YOU DON’T KNOW SNOW | Once presents familiar takes on its fairy tale denizens, while at the same time serving up the slightest tweaks — and thus far without any tsk-tsking from the suits at Disney-ABC brand management. “I think this is the first time anyone’s ever shown Snow White (Big Love‘s Ginnifer Goodwin) swinging a sword — and she’s pregnant! — and ABC was cool with that,” Kitsis reports. Adds Horowitz, “It’s about taking what we know about the character and using that as a jumping off point to show the things you don’t know.”

LOST EASTER EGGS FOUND | The town clock is stuck at 8:15. There’s a Geronimo Jackson bumper sticker. And those are but two Lost references in the pilot, purposely planted by Kitsis and Horowotz, who both wrote for Lost and have had Damon Lindelof’s ear as they bring Once Upon a Time to life. “Damon has been a godfather to us,” says Kitsis. “His name is not on the show, but he is in the DNA of it.”

First Look: 5 Cool Posters from Once Upon a Time

BLASTS FROM THE PAST | The pilot toggles liberally between the world of Storybook Lane and Storybrook, Maine — a narrative device that will remain in play even after Snow, her prince et al are banished to our world. “Every week [there will be flashbacks],” says Katsis. “We love the idea of going back and forth and informing what the character is missing in their life.”

QUEEN OF MEAN | Whether Swingtown alum Lana Parilla’s Evil Queen — known here as Regina, the well-off mayor of Storybrook — lost her own memory as the result of her powerful curse she cast will be revealed in Episode 2. But as Horowitz hints, “She does seem to have the best life in Storybrook….”

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Damianvargas says:

    I really wanna like this but it has “Pushing Daisies” written all over it. Sorry ABC

    • Mike says:

      So you mean it has “great show” written all over it? Great, I’m in!

      • Damianvargas says:

        Yes, I mean great show that I’ll love that the networks screw up and cancel far too soon.

        • quangtran says:

          Better to have loved and lost, yadda yadda..

          Besides, ABC didn’t screw with Pushing Daisies. This viewers just didn’t come back in the second season.

        • Mike says:

          Agreed with quangtrank, always gotta give these high concept shows a shot. Not all of them will connect with an audience, but you never know when the right pieces will fall into place. And with the writers of LOST involved, they may cut them some slack to find their audience. (wishful thinking I know)

      • Jared says:

        I agree! There hasn’t been a show on TV like Pushing Daisies. It was pure genius…

    • Arlanos says:

      ‘Pushing up daisies! True, but it doesn’t need be that way. This is a typical ‘novella’ i.e a series with a set ending. Unfortunately, ABC’s approach is disastrous: they tease and tease, way too much, and take us nowhere, and sooner or later, if progress continues to be too slow people will simply become sick and tired and just switch off.
      Typical example; hat-trick episode(18). There was the chance to finally jolt Emmma into seriously considering that something is wrong, not maybe or a little bit and then she leaves off. When the hatter fell through the window we knew he fell into the hat;, they could have allowed his scissors or shoe or whatever to be left laying on the ground; Emma and Snow looks through the window and sees his hand come out of the hat to retrieve the scissors..something dramatic. But no, another flatline.

      I’m a writer, and I see the potential here. The writers are trying to stretch the story beyond its natural limits, beyond one season into two. This can only occur if the aim is end season one by allowing an escape back to the fairytale world, where the real battle for power and revenge then begins because no-one is interested in another season of teases with no climax.
      It’s sad watching these writers struggle to find something to hold onto: they are trying too hard and producing way too little!
      Sometimes, as a writer and a network you simply have to allow the story to unfold, quickly and with more flesh on the bones instead of holding it back. For what? Romanticism?
      People are becoming bored. And I don’t blame them.

  2. AJ says:

    ive seen every single pilot from all the networks and this one was by far my fav (and no i dont work o n the show or for abc)

  3. Kyle Garret says:

    “If we get a 10th of the people who liked that, we’d be very happy.”
    I truly doubt that, as the show would be canceled; comics don’t sell.

    • Michael Sacal says:

      Hahahah! Good point.

      Well, you know, it’s true that they don’t sell good enough numbers to mass audiences, but as properties they have been sold fairly well to studios that develop them into movies, cartoons, and TV shows, that, sometimes, end up attracting vast audiences.

    • That was my first thought. Actually I always feel the opposite way–shows that have a million hardcore fans but can’t seem to make it on network TV could turn to comics–where a fraction of that million would make it a bestseller and production costs are much lower–to finish their stories after cancellation.

      • Michael Sacal says:

        People who watch TV seldom read comics. There have been many attempts at making comic book adaptations of TV shows or movies that don’t last long at all.

        Marvel tried it with Blade and Mutant X, while DC tried it with Smallville and neither of their attempts lasted very long.

        Buffy and Angel might be the exception to the rule as the comic book versions have lasted a fair share of time and attracted their fair share of an audience.

        • murley says:

          i don’t know that i agree with this generalization. the buffy title is one of dark horses’ best selling titles and they are launching an ‘angel &faith’ title this month. the IDW angel series was very successful. IDW also has done 2 true blood miniseries that have done very well. the terminator comics franchise and the star wars comic franchise have sold well and continued for years. dr. who, torchwood, fringe, the list goes on. there is a pretty big crossover between comic book readers and fans of scifi/genre television and therefore a number of really successful licensed comics based on genre tv shows.

        • Blade is a Marvel property with a lot of history that has never really sold; the show was likely a non-factor there. The Mutant X comics you refer to were one-shots, not intended as an ongoing. The only ongoing Marvel Comics “Mutant X” title actually revolved around Havok and ended prior to the start of that TV show. The Smallville title didn’t last long, you’re right–what did they expect in half-assing a comic when there were already a few monthly Superman titles out there? Still, your point is well-taken when miniseries like “Chuck” for WildStorm underperform. Doesn’t change my feeling that if the comics were as good as the shows in question (see the Whedon stuff) the audience would find it.

          • sadtroll says:

            I don’t know about that. Comic books still to many who never got into them hold the taint of thirteen year old geeks.
            And speaking of geeks, the comic shop I used to go to get my stuff I stopped because everytime I went there the geeks running the place would get all annoyed that you were taking them away from some weird Transformers-model game they were playing. Business lost.
            Now I just wait for omnibus editions to come out and order online. And it’s a little limiting.

        • Sara says:

          Pretty sure Smallville has been going almost ten years? Didn’t it just end recently?

        • LUCY says:

          Yeah I know, Smallville didn’t last very long at all, just ten years. Don’t hate what others appreciate!

  4. Ben says:

    If Willingham is more talented than they are (which wouldn’t surprise me, I’ve assumed ever since I heard this was going to pilot how much I’d prefer a Fables show), I really wish Fables was picked up over this. Though with comparable casting…I love Ginnifer Goodwin.

    • Evan Meadow says:

      Talent would need to get paid accordingly. ABC would rather come up with a bastardized version of the story with characters already in the public domain then have to pay (and acknowledge) Willingham’s work on its won merit.

      Of course there’s also the ABC/Disney owns Marvel connection. Sworn enemies not allowed on their property.

  5. Samantha says:

    I am really intrigued by this show but am nervous because of all of its comparisons to Lost. I was NOT a Lost fan and if this show keeps that confusing and too-complex thread, I’m not sure I’ll be able to stick with it.

    • Kristina says:

      I was at the “Once Upon a Time” panel at comic-con. During the Q&A, one of the questions asked was if this series was going to be difficult to follow. The writers answered that the viewer will be able to watch each episode either with fluffy slippers on or with a magnifying glass. They will add LOST “easter eggs” but it will no way interfere with the actual episode. Each episode will stand alone. :)

  6. Carrie says:

    Their Snow actually has a lot if similarities to the kids book series The Sisters Grimm. In which Snow is also an elementary school teacher, who knows how to kick ass. Not that I mind, love the books and am excited for the show.

  7. DougMac says:

    … and Fables had Snow White with a sword too

  8. Cross says:

    Bad copy of Fables with a lame leading lady. Do the showrunners forget that the actress totally ruined another great show this season (HIMYM)?

    • Ugh says:

      Totally ruined HIMYM?! With the 5 minutes of screentime she had?! Doubt it. BTW an actress is only as good as the material the writers provide. It’s not her fault that some people didn’t like the character. I liked her, she was funny and a nice addition to the group.

  9. Sally says:

    This sounds amazing, I can’t wait for the show. Jennifer Morrison is going to be a great lead, I loved each and every of her apperances so far. And the rest of the cast is just as amazing.

  10. Saracen Riggins says:

    I’m really excited for this show. And I for one am A-OK if it is “hard to follow” (i.e. interesting) like Lost. I loved the flashback reveal of things on Lost. That would be a fantastic element.

  11. navistart says:

    I’m Jennifer Morrison fan and I love fables so I’m so exited! Thank you Matt :)

  12. Kendra says:

    When does the show come out? I’m really looking forward to seeing it.

  13. Anwyn says:

    They REALLY are NOT helping themselves with comparisons to fables, are they?
    “I think this is the first time anyone’s ever shown Snow White swinging a sword — and she’s pregnant! ”

    Sorry guys, but both of these were already done in Fables: Volume 3’s trade ‘Storybook Love’ has one of these covered, and the collection ‘1001 Nights’ showed Snow learning the sword as part of a quest for revenge.

    While I’ve sworn off Fables these days and I never was a fan of the first two trades, I think its really too bad the network didn’t end up actually picking up Fables when they optioned it and made a pilot in 2009. The murder mystery in the first book really would have well suited the style of storytelling that TV audiences enjoy. I just don’t see a narrative hook in ‘Once upon a time’ to make audiences be at all intrigued. I might check it out, but they haven’t sold me (And I’m someone who loved the 10th kingdom when it was showing on TV and would tune in all the time – if they can’t sell me on this after selling me on the 10th kingdom, I don’t think this bodes well).

  14. Curtis says:

    On the topic of the CW’s Smallville, the show lasted 10 years. Period. It ended its official series run on May 13th, 2011. In this age of television, viewership is more fickle than it’s ever been in the last twenty years. We as television viewers have more choices in programs, but are being fed some uninspiring dreck shows. It’s a hard press notion to swallow in these times to keep dedicated to watching a television show(s)that runs a 22 episode order per season, in a consistent weekly fashion. And not by way of using TiVo, PvR and downloading torrents.

    The order of choice now to keeping a show(s) fresh and engaging so viewers can come back each week to television, apparently are 10-13 episode orders, taking from examples shows like eg: Mad Men, Broadwalk Empire, Nurse Jackie, Breaking Bad, The Killing to name a few. And yes, these are smaller cable network shows, working with substantially lower production budgets than their much richer and prestigious Big Six companies.

    But let us all cut the brass taxes here. Let us all take an un-biased stand to give – Once Upon a Time – a shot to prove itself through out it’s nine-episode season.

    There are four elements that could cripple the show, if it happened. God for bid, none should take place.

    1.) The quality of writing in the story-lines wavers in staying
    fresh and inventive.

    2.) Acting performances in the cast start getting weak based on the
    quality of the scripts.

    3.) The show gets moved to a different time slot. Moved later than
    it’s earlier time slot.

    4.) An increase in order of episodes to the current total, could
    hamper and escalate the production value costs for the show.
    It has happen to other past shows, that barely had a chance to
    at least survive their brief or first full season.
    (Remember this is the ABC Network were talking about here)
    No price is too high for this company to keep a show on the

    Since none of these 4 elements have not taken yet affect to – Once Upon a Time, after two episodes. And yes, it is still very early in its freshman season. It’s excellent sign that this show is the salmon swimming beautifully against the current. Not an easy feat,
    in anyway shape or form.

    Yet frankly, this show is a serious keeper. And it is a great injection of life on the airwaves, next to CBS’ Person of Interest.

    Give – Once Upon a Time – a chance. Either accept it or not for what it clearly presents itself to being.

  15. Ron Weasley says:

    ABC liked the idea of doing a series of this nature, and these days, with fantasy and science fiction more popular (and acceptable) on television than it has been since the sixties, who can blame them?

    I am glad TV is venturing away from things like Starsky and Hutch, the A Team, Blossom, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and the Kardashians. It is great to see that tv shows that utilize a little imagination and aren’t just formulaic drivel.

    Unfortunately, it is painfully obvious that ABC, after putting a halt to production on DC’s Fables, simply lifted the idea from the residue of this failed production. It is so unmistakably stolen (or as they might say, inspired by) Willingham’s series that not even the three blind mice could miss it. They took the concept and characters, changed a few little things (no doubt for the worse) and then said that it “is in the same playground”. Who do they think they are fooling? DC should seek legal action. What a shameful thing for ABC to do.

  16. Nolasunshine says:

    Oh, how I love this show … I love it most of all of them this season. Each week my husband and I anxiously await Sunday night … these characters are as delicious as the Queen’s red apples!

  17. daryl says:

    Has anyone noticed that the name of the town is Storybrooke?…..storybRookE

    the battle between the two and what letters are left?

    storybook………the characters are from a STORYBOOK that henry happens to have thats called once upon a time which is, what i believe ALL the original stories for these caracters started off with.