Thursday, December 29, 2011

Catch Up With a "Once Upon a Time" Marathon New Year's Day

From left, the Hunstman, the Evil Queen, Snow White, Prince Charming,
Rumpelstilskin, young Henry and Emma Swan appear in "Once Upon a Time."

One of the few new TV shows I've liked this year is ABC's "Once Upon a Time," a kind of fizzy-pop/fairy tale/soap opera mix, with stories that show us bona fide fairy tale characters living in a very magical fairy tale realm as well as crossing over to a "real" town called Storybrooke, Maine, with other, more 20th century identities. So we see the Evil Queen acting all evil in the Fairytale world and then being a meanie (and the mayor) under the name Regina Mills. (Regina means queen, get it? I've never heard of Mills having any connection to evil, but there are all sorts of theories floating out there that her last name indicates the Evil Queen's dad was a lowly miller.) And Snow White turns up as a sweet teacher named Mary Margaret Blanchard. (Yes, her name is Blanchard, like blanche, the feminine form of the French word for white.)

As the story unfolds, it seems that almost everybody in Storybrooke has amnesia about their previous lives as Snow White, Prince Charming, Cinderella, Jiminy Cricket (yes, he's in there, too, this being an ABC/Disney show), Gepetto, etc. Our heroine, Emma Swan, is the one person who straddles both worlds, since she was never a fairytale character (the curse that kicked them all out of the magical world happened when she was a tiny baby) and didn't grow up in Storybrooke.

Jennifer Morrison, best known as one of the first-season junior docs on "House," plays Emma, wearing a series of leather jackets and a kick-ass attitude. She isn't buying the "these people are all fairytale characters" story being peddled by a boy named Henry, the biological son she gave up when he was a newborn, who drags her into Storybrooke in the first place. Henry is the one with a big, fat storybook and a steadfast belief in Fairy Tale Land, even if he is the adopted son of big, bad Regina.

Yes, it sounds complicated. It's really not. Once you get past the premise (two worlds/same set of people/different identities) and start rooting for Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) and trying to figure out how Rumpelstiltskin (Scottish actor Robert Carlyle) fits into the picture, you'll be hooked.

I'm hooked. I admit it.

To catch the few stragglers who did not try "Once Upon a Time" when it started, and to make sure they all know a hawk from a handsaw, or maybe a Magic Mirror from a Poison Apple, ABC is re-airing six of the seven episodes they've broadcast so far, starting with the pilot episode on Sunday, January 1, at 4 pm here in B-N, on WHOI. That will be followed by "The Thing You Love Most," an excellent episode, "Snow Falls," an even better one, "The Price of Gold," "The Shepherd," and "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter," where we learned a lot about the Evil Queen and her true villainy and lost a character I liked a lot. Which... Is really too bad. I'm hoping he'll get better treatment in flashbacks to the Fairy Tale World.

That means you can watch the "'Once Upon a Time" marathon from 4 to 10 pm here in Bloomington-Normal, and then tune in for the first new episode of the new year on Sunday, January 8, at 7 pm Central, when the show returns to its normal slot. Coming up in 2012: Hansel and Gretel, Beauty and the Beast, and Rumpelstiltskin's back story. Woo hoo!


  1. You do love your fizzy pop, don't you. (As do I.) :)

    Thanks for the notice. I've missed this so far, and intend to give the marathon a go.

  2. I had "high pop," but that didn't sound like anything, so I retreated to my "fizzy pop" comfort zone.

    When asked for my brand (a marketing thing that was quite big in the romance writer world maybe five or six years ago), I realized "fizzy-pop highbrow" is as close to a brand as I have. And I don't even know who wrote that all those years ago.

  3. It's from that book-length "New Yorker" parody (from 1986) titled "Snooze." The movie parody "Citizen Kale" is by "Pauline Zeal" (i.e., Pauline Kael reviewing a movie made by herself, about herself). The "real" author as given in the back of the book is Caitlin Pye-Strauss, which always looked fake to me and who has no other credits that I can find online. (It looks like an anagram in fact, but the best the online anagrammers can do is "Inarticulate Spy.")

    Anyway. The quote comes toward the end: "She has four disciples, called Kalites, and they stand in for sons or maybe lovers. Each one tries to be her clone, aping her opinions and her fizzy-pop-highbrow style. Each one uses the second person singular and lots of contractions and tries to write columns that are even longer than their mentor's."

  4. My suspicion is that Caitlin Pye-Strauss was Veronica Geng, whose brief Kael parody in "The New York Review of Books" got her a job at "The New Yorker" (nice bit of irony) as editor and occasional writer. She certainly commanded the verbal dexterity and the ability to skewer the styles of others to have written the above quote.

  5. I'm watching the marathon, thanks to your alert.

    I gotta say though, that's one complicated backstory that they propose, and I keep trying to think if it could have been managed more simply. I mean, not only one baby unknown to the stories, but HER child as well, now grown to awareness. Oh well, I'm hooked anyway.

    It sure is a Disney production though. Not just "Jiminy" Cricket, but Maleficent.

  6. Plus it ends up being kind of silly that Emma and her mother, Snow White, are the same age. And don't be shippin' on Emma and Prince Charming, since he's her dad. Eeeuw. There are some very strange lines they're drawing here.

    The Jiminy Cricket episode is the one they didn't include in the marathon. I think it's worth your time for Harry Groener as Jiminy's eeeeevil father. Although the way in which that evil is demonstrated is quite nasty, so you are forewarned if you go looking for the episode at They're all there, I'm pretty sure.

  7. I'll keep that in mind.

    I wouldn't mind something nasty happening to little Henry; has there ever been a fictional kid who so absolutely did the opposite of what he was told, all the time?

    The series structure is rather Lost-esque; each week we get one person's (or one pair's) backstory. Not complaining, just making an observation (that no doubt thousands made before me).

    Jennifer Morrison is somehow a lot more interesting here than she was on House (it goes without saying that it's worlds better than her awful arc on How I Met Your Mother). There a lot of actors I like on this whom I'm not aware of having seen before (I recognized only Robert Carlyle, Raphael Sbarge for the little he's been on, and Giancarlo Esposito in his one appearance so far). Maybe it's just my weakness for fairy tales.

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  9. [completing my last sentence:] ... that makes me like the actors so much. But I do.