Fall TV First Impression: ABC's Wonderland

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland PreviewThe broadcast networks have almost 30 shows debuting this fall, including new sitcoms from Michael J. Fox and Sean Hayes, a futuristic tale from the Fringe team and Marvel-ous adventures for the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. To help you prep for it all, TVLine is offering First Impressions of the not-for-review pilots.

Next up on our list….

THE SHOW | ABC’s Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (Thursdays at 8/7c; premieres Oct. 10)

THE COMPETITION | CBS’ The Big Bang Theory/The Millers (new), Fox’s X Factor results show, The CW’s The Vampire Diaries and NBC’s Parks and Recreation/Welcome to the Family (new)

THE CAST | Sophie Lowe (Beautiful Kate), Peter Gadiot (The Forbidden Girl), Michael Socha (the UK’s Being Human), Naveen Andrews (Lost), Emma Rigby (Hollyoaks) and the voice of John Lithgow (Third Rock from the Sun); Naveen Andrews (Lost) joins the cast in Episode 2.

RELATED | Fall Preview: TVLine’s Grid Showing What’s On When and Versus What!

THE SET-UP | At least as framed by the 20-minute “presentation” that sold ABC on this spin-off, Victorian era British lass Alice (Lowe) has been institutionalized after relating a story about her trip to “Wonderland,” where she met a hookah-smoking caterpillar and invisible cat and ate/drank things that made her smaller/bigger. Just as Alice retracts her tale, she gets a visit from the Knave of Hearts (Socha), a Wonderland pal who has portal-jumped from Storybrooke to report that Cyrus (Gadiot) — a genie with whom she fell in love — possibly did not perish at the hand of the Red Queen (Rigby). Cue: “We have to go baaaaack!” MICHAEL SOCHA

RELATED | TVLine’s Guide to All the New Fall Shows

THE FIRST IMPRESSION | While it’s hard to say what the first episode will look like at a full 42 minutes, I can see — as skeptical/disappointed as I was when ABC aborted the plan to air this as a wintertime hiatus-filler — how the network suits were dazzled. The arc here is pretty linear and pretty romantic: Venturing back to Wonderland (thanks to Lithgow’s portal-happy White Rabbit), Alice will labor to locate her true love, with a begrudging assist from the Knave (who in the semi-clunky cold open snarks to Storybrooke’s Leroy, “I don’t help anyone“).

Lowe and Gadiot have good chemistry, so hopefully their flashback moments are among those beefed up in the full pilot, while Socha in fleeting scenes sells us on his alter ego’s sass. Rigby’s Red Queen is fun (and barely dressed) in a saucy, CW sort of way, but it may take some getting used to having a decently rendered CGI rabbit on your TV screen every week.

One reservation, aside from how the Knave was “inserted” into old Once scenes set during the wraith’s rampage: Already, non-Wonderland characters such as Andrews’ newly added Jafar, here fashioned as an evil genie, are being plugged into the narrative. At what point does this simply become Once 2 (Once Twice?) and you’re robbing Peter (Peter Pumpkin Eater) to pay Paul (Bunyan)?

RELATED | More Fall TV First Impressions: NBC’s The Blacklist, The CW’s Reign, ABC’s Trophy Wife, Fox’s Sleepy Hollow, CBS’ HostagesNBC’s IronsideABC’s Super Fun NightThe CW’s The Tomorrow PeopleFox’s Almost HumanCBS’ The Crazy Ones

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | It will take some magic for ABC to have any success in the Thursdays-at-8 time slot, where the likes of Charlie’s Angels, Missing, Last Resort and Zero Hour in recent years have quickly died. The Once brand surely will lure some lookie-loos, and ABC obviously is so hot for this offshoot that they’ll give it a lot of rope. With Big Bang as big as ever, the opportunity here lies in a vulnerable X Factor, which seems to have minimal buzz heading into Season 3.

Watch a video preview for Once: Wonderland, then vote in our poll below.

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!

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39 Comments
  1. amj says:

    To me, this looks even better than once!

  2. merp says:

    I’m kinda excited for it..It’s the only reason I’m getting back on to once upon a time.

    Tho what worries me is that timeslot

  3. Elyse says:

    I wish they had stuck with making it a winter hiatus show but I’m still excited about it!

    • wordsmith says:

      That’s pretty much how I feel as well. I’ll definitely be watching, but I have creeping suspicions that they may have taken a great little idea and set it up for a disappointing run.

  4. Brandy says:

    Im excited about it.its one of the very few(3_4) new shows ill watch next year.

  5. Amanda says:

    I am not sure how Jafar fits into Alice in Wonderland but since its Naveen Andrews I will give it a whirl. Now I guess Once Ipon a Time will be my next Netflix order since I propably should watch the original before I see the spin-off.

  6. Regal says:

    I really want to like this. But I’m terrified that it’s going to be crap.

  7. AL says:

    I’m really excited, ONCE is my favourite show and I love it, I can only imagine that creators will hook me again with this new spin..’ no pun intended there..I swear ;0)

  8. nick1372 says:

    Out of everything new next season, I’m looking forward to this the most! I actually think that the thursday timeslot is better than a winter hiatus show, as winter hiatus is awards season, the surest way to kill a show. At least a show has a little chance on Thursday (as shown by Last Resort and FlashForward in recent years).

    In your First Impression for The Blacklist, you said that the only two dramas you though you might like more than it were this and SHEILD. Which did you end up liking better?

  9. Kara says:

    If nothing else, I like the idea of a finite end to a romance arc/story (hopefully they stick to their guns on this). I’m hoping that knowing where they’re going and how long they have to tell that story will help with some of original Once’s pacing problems. The white rabbit is iffy though….it was the worst thing in the preview.

  10. This could probably break the Thursdays-at-8 p.m. curse for ABC. TBBT should have the advantage but the third season of X Factor doesn’t, TVD could gain the upper hand and P&R could go either way.

  11. Poppy says:

    I’m really excited and looking forward to this new show. When I first heard about it, I was a little nervous that it was too soon for a spinoff show. However, once I saw the trailer I got really excited and can’t wait. The 8pm Thursday time slot does worry me a little bit.

  12. Ben says:

    I expect it is simply Once 2 – a way to tell more of the mythology without the ‘but you are introducing new characters and not giving us time with our older characters’ complaint. And I’m ok with that.

    For me, best case scenario is that there is a bit of crossover going on from one to the other from time to time.

  13. Midori says:

    I kind of wish they stuck with the 13 episodes and done idea. Thursdays at 8pm is the perfect time slot for miniseries.

  14. i’m exciting to watch but i prefer the original ouat

  15. Sandra says:

    Vampire Diaries > Wonderland

    • guest says:

      Wonderland > Vampire Diaries.

    • Tai says:

      Thanks to the wonders of DVR, I’m watching both. Me and the roommate have already agreed to switch it up every week. Live watch VD and DVR Once 2 and then the reverse the following week. Best of both worlds.

  16. liz says:

    Really looking forward to it! And Naveen Andrews as Jafar!!!! I expect they’ll bring his character over to OUAT at some point, which will be awesome. Fantastic actor, can’t wait to see what he does with the role.

  17. Red says:

    Definitely going to give it a go but so disappointed that Barbara Hershey won’t be a main character in this. I was hoping the flashbacks to the pre-curse Wonderland would feature the Queen of Hearts a lot.

  18. Jared says:

    I plan on letting this series play out for a little bit before I start to check it out. The trailer does nothing for me so for me there’s no rush.

  19. greysfan says:

    I kind of wished they had plugged this show on a different night or maybe with S.H.I.E.L.D. on Tuesdays because lets face it 8pm Thursdays on ABC has been the death slot. I know ABC will be hoping it doesn’t fail because i do love Once and i am really looking forward to this spinoff. Definitely one of the shows i know i will love because its the sort of show i go for. Fingers crossed it works.

  20. Cory says:

    The trailer for this blew me away, it looks beautiful and the CGI appears better than in OUAT. Love the girl playing Alice as well. And the boys are cute. :)

  21. Cass says:

    I’ve been pretty skeptical but they sold me on this by casting Naveen.

  22. Magically Suspicious says:

    I’m excited, but I’m also concerned this will be the proverbial nail in the coffin of Parks and Rec.

  23. JCK says:

    I have quite a few reservations about this one. The first is quite shallow: I don’t like Sophie Lowe. I find her unattractive and think the youngsters who love princess figures won’t like her either. The second is the scheduling. The third is a hunch that it will fall apart in the same manner as OUAT is doing. OUAT started out as a wonderful boutique of a show and exploded into Wal-Mart. Quantity vs quality.

  24. Juan says:

    I have to catch up on a few episodes of original once but this looks increadible from the trailer, I think it looks even better than the original so I hope it’s as good as it looks.

  25. onlyakb says:

    I can’t wait for it! But quite honestly, I don’t get it why they changed their initial plan, I like it better when it was supposed to be a filler for Once, a bit confused now! They are gonna use characters form tales in two shows on the same broadcaster, it kinda limits your sources, even if tales are a gigantic source, I’m just saying… well I’m wondering, let’s see how it does on Thursdays!!

  26. maggie says:

    I love Michael Socha in Being Human. (Saturday 10 pm on BBC America)
    I’ll give Wonderlans a try just for him. But, after a great first season, OUAT became awful in the second season. So I”m not expecting much for Wonderlans.

    I do wish Wonderland was a mini-series, with a definite end.

  27. QueenB says:

    OUAT burned through stories and kept characters people didn’t care for and killed off some the viewers did…The Huntsman

  28. tardis repairman says:

    Newsflash: If you depended on the audience to decide who gets killed off and who gets saved you’ve taken the script out of the writers room and into the least common denominator. (Conversely, since many of the most interesting characters are painted in shades of grey, we would run the risk of killing off a character the audience doesn’t like without giving the character a chance of redemption.)