About a week ago, I reviewed the pilot of Once Upon a Time (here) and made reference to another fairy tale series about to air: Grimm. Well, now I’ve seen the first episode of Grimm and the first two of Once Upon a Time, so it’s time to weigh in on which one I’d put my money on (or which one you should invest time into).
Once Upon a Time
This story focuses on Storybrooke, a city where all the old fairy tale characters live in modern day, stuck in a curse where they do not age and do not remember their past lives as fairy tale characters. The story goes from modern day and back to the fairy tales, similar to how Lost used flashbacks. The second episode featured a “flashback” to the evil queen and how they created the curse in the first place. I’m not sure if they’re going to follow this formula and give flashbacks to all the characters, but I think that would definitely help flesh out this pretty immense ensemble cast. They’ve introduced dozens of characters and it’s already easy to lose track of them.
The Good: Solid acting on all accounts and very family-friendly. It has enough of that fairy-tale flair that kids will love it, but the deeper mythology will have adults wanting to know what happens next as well.
The Bad: Effects are sub-par. A lot of greenscreen work in the flashbacks that doesn’t meet current standards. The props are also pretty ghastly, looking like they were bought in a Halloween mega-store. The modern-day story is much more compelling than the flashbacks, strangely enough.
Grimm is a police procedural show (ala CSI or NCIS) but the crimes committed happen to be supernatural in nature. Turns out that the fairy tales we grew up with weren’t fictional, they were warnings. Our lead actor finds out in the pilot that he is what’s called a “Grimm,” someone that can see their true forms. In the first episode, he faces off against the Big Bad Wolf in a clever spin, as the wolf abducts local girls who happen to be wearing bright red.
The Good: Grimm (our lead) has a believable reaction to his world being exposed for what it truly is. The effects are also much better, though not nearly as plentiful (only a few scenes really played on the supernatural). I feel like more mature audiences will enjoy Grimm’s take on policework and solving the crimes brought on by supernatural means. I also feel like Grimm could be a longer-lasting show, as there is no set “end” in place. To me, it feels like Supernatural meets CSI. The cast is more tight, meaning there are less regular characters but time is spent with all of them (as opposed to Once Upon a Time’s massive lineup).
The Bad: Since there isn’t an end in sight, or any sort of overarching storyline yet, there isn’t anything to really draw the viewer back. Hopefully the show lasts long enough to develop a following. Also there isn’t much of a notable cast, as opposed to Once Upon a Time and its plethora of recognizable faces.
So which do I watch?
They’re both strong shows, so I’m not going to say one is better. I believe that Grimm has the potential to last longer and seems generally better produced. It may not attract the wide audience that Once Upon a Time can tap into though. Once Upon a Time is a family-friendly show and recreates the classic fairytales that we know and love. Watching Snow White be a teacher is a compelling thing. I believe its story though is much smaller in scope, though larger in cast. If Once Upon a Time wants to succeed, it needs to create that larger world and introduce us to other characters affected by their curse, as opposed to relegating them to glorified cameos. Grimm, though with no story arc in its introductory episode, will need to create something that keeps its audiences coming back, some sort of hook. If it can balance its wide-open structure with enough fantastical elements to still keep us intrigued and mystified with the overlap between realism and fairytales, it’ll be a success in no time. It also hasn’t gotten nearly the marketing push that Once Upon a Time has, meaning it’ll have to try a little harder to get new viewers.
I suggest Once Upon a Time if you have a longtime love of fairytales and Disney cliches and want to see them in action. It also has structure similar to Lost and even shares a few of its writers. I suggest Grimm if you want to see new cases of the fairy world overlapping with ours each week, in a new and interesting way. If you’re a fan of CSI-like police dramas or supernatural series such as Supernatural or Buffy, Grimm might be more up your alley.