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….”