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Get With the Program: ABC’s Once Upon a Time 

Photo Credit: ABC

The deck was stacked fairly high in favor of me liking this show–Vancouver locale, Jane Espenson/Liz Tigelaar pedigree, fairy tales–if and when I could make the time to sit my butt down and watch it. Well, today we had a lovely Texas winter cold front rain day, just perfect for a fairy tale marathon, and what do you know? The bet paid off HUGE. There is such a fine line in being able to pull a show like this off–where they sell the hell out of it and wrap you up in it, even though it’s told all sorts of out of order and some of the endings are predestined–and Once Upon a Time hits every note, so kudos all around.

If you haven’t gotten with the program yet, or are waiting for a rain day–now’s a great time to watch the first four episodes before tomorrow night’s new episode at 8 pm ET and then you can enjoy the ride along with everybody else. To catch you up, the premise is both simple and complex, and I’ll lay it out much easier than the ABC logline folks did back in May, because my first reaction to this show was a “who and the what, now?”

The very basic gist is that all your favorite fairy tale characters–Snow White, Prince Charming, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rumplestiltskin, Gepetto, Jiminy Cricket, etc.–have been wiped of their memories and stripped of their happily ever afters courtesy of the Evil Queen, who cast a curse and abandoned them in present day Storybrooke, Maine, where they never age and never realize who they are. Alongside this sad story, Emma Swan, a very modern but very alone young woman is beset upon by her 10-year old son, who she put up for adoption. Young Henry summons her to Storybrooke believing her to be the child of Snow White and Prince Charming, who escaped the curse, and is therefore the key to undoing it.

Got that?

Photo Credit: ABC

The show juxtaposes the fairy tales against the present, so we get to experience their happiness and then grieve at what they’re left with now. The Evil Queen is now the town’s mayor, Regina, who is also Henry’s adoptive mother. Snow White is Mary Margaret, Henry’s teacher. (Little Red Riding Hood is diner waitress Ruby and Jiminy Cricket is Henry’s therapist, Archie Hopper). Emma sets foot in Storybrooke and starts to see that what Henry is telling her is true. One thing after another happens to keep her in town and then she stops fighting that because she realizes Henry needs her. In the magical closing seconds of the pilot, the town square’s long silent clock starts ticking again when she decides to stay and Henry smiles the most perfect smile as he realizes he’s not alone anymore.

Fairly soon, Mary Margaret is also buying in, especially after she awakens Prince Charming, a long-comatose John Doe, with a story and then a kiss. My only BS call is that neither Henry nor Emma have figured out that Rumplestiltskin is Mr. Gold, the de facto owner of Storybrooke, when the dialogue around him being a deal maker is fairly blatant. I’m sure that will be a very big reveal and I’m just impatient.

The show is exquisitely filmed and cast–I love everybody. I didn’t watch House so my only frame of reference for Jennifer Morrison is HIMYM, but here she is give so much to do–she runs from aggressive with a would-be felon (Warren Christie in the pilot) to scared when confronted with this long-lost son, to vulnerable when she reaches out to Mary Margaret looking to make and be a friend, to bad ass and ballsy again when she has to wrestle both Regina and Mr. Gold. I love Ginnifer Goodwin in this, and kudos to the way she’s lit and dressed and made up when she plays Snow and when she plays Mary Margaret. She’s vibrant and witty and wicked as Snow and when she’s Mary Margaret, it’s like somebody has turned a light off inside her.

Lana Parrilla is having a ball–I’d bet she loves the Evil Queen stuff more than the button-down Regina shenanigans. Robert Carlyle is genius as ever–gleeful as Rumplestiltskin and crafty as Mr Gold, who may or may not remember as much as Regina. Jared Gilmore as Henry is so very good. I’m astounded that he’s really just ten. And why is this Josh Dallas’s first big show? He and Goodwin are awesome together as Prince Charming and Snow. Ditto for Jamie Dornan and his swagger as Sheriff Graham.

Photo Credit: ABC

I like that it has a family hour sensibility. There is much violence implied but not shown, which I appreciate, and we found out in the last episode that Regina is paying Sheriff Graham off the books, if you get my meaning, but we only saw each of them separately dressing to leave afterward.

So glad I had a rainy day to catch up. You can catch the first four episodes online at And bonus good news–the show’s already been greenlit for a full 22-episode order! Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.

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