October 29, 2011



It might be unfair comparing ABC's Once Upon a Time and NBC's Grimm because the former is more serialized whereas the latter is taking a procedural approach, but I figured they have enough in common since they're both using fairy tale motifs.

Storytelling Structure
It's hard to determine which show's structure has the upper-hand because it all comes down to personal preference. Some viewers want an on-going story the requires them to tune in week in and week out, but some would like to watch a show that has more standalone episodes so they can jump in and out without missing anything. Both styles have their strengths and weaknesses, so I'm going to see which show has the potential to use their approach more effectively.

Since I've only seen the pilots of both shows, I have no idea where they're going from here and cannot comment on whether Once's serial elements are better or worse than Grimm's more episodic ones. What I can say is after one episode, I feel that Grimm's premise could benefit it more than Once's.

The idea of using Grimm's Fairy Tales as the foundation for Grimm's on-going story telling meshes well with a more procedural nature. You can easily see the show taking a Monster-of-the-Week approach that has benefited others like Angel and Supernatural, which are its natural predecessors. Fans of those shows know that they ended up becoming more serialized, but using a procedural spin can make for an easier introduction to the world. If Grimm is given the time to grow, it could be on its way to following in the footsteps of those that came before it.

I'll admit that I'm a fan of procedurals, but I like serialized storytelling too, so I'm glad that Once Upon a Time is giving us the chance to show what it can do. That being said, I can see how this approach can hurt after watching the pilot. Right now, there are too many characters, questions, and plot elements that I can see it becoming a jumbled mess. Yes, following an on-going story can be fun, but it can also be tedious when viewers have to keep tabs too much stuff.

Both shows have a ways to go before we can see what they really have to offer, but I feel more confident in Grimm's procedural/episodic take on fairy tales than Once Upon a Time's serialized one.


Cast of Characters
I'll be honest, both shows are lacking in the character department because neither were able to win me over during their pilots. The main characters, Emma Swan and Nick Brukhardt, lack the charisma to really draw me in, but hopefully that will pass once they're given time to develop.

The difference makers are going to be the supporting characters. Like I mentioned earlier, Once Upon a Time already has too many characters to keep track of which could end up making things confusing. I'm all for having a deep roster, but you could run into problems if it's too deep. Just look at Glee. What's also working against Once is the fact that they were not able to make any of the characters interesting during the pilot. Yes, it was only one episode, but it needed to make us care in that first outing and it didn't for me.

Grimm's cast is not as stuffed, but that could allow it to give enough time to make the characters interesting. Unlike OUaT, Grimm had a standout character right off the bat in Eddie Monroe who is a "big bad wolf" and will be Nick's sidekick. The idea of a reformed wolf-like character is not new, but Eddie brought some much needed humor to the pilot.


The tipping point may come down to the atmosphere and worlds that these two show can create. Once Upon a Time has taken another bold move by creating two settings: a fair tale world and a real one. One the opposite end of the spectrum is Grimm that only takes place in modern day Portland, OR.

While watching Once's pilot, I wasn't wowed by either worlds that it tried to establish. All of the fairy tale land scenes felt overly fake due to really bad green screen work, and the real world wasn't very compelling either. What it came down to, is I didn't want to spend time in either realities.

I'll admit, I might be a little biased since I lived in Portland, but I felt that Grimm used its setting better than Once Upon a Time. PDX is the perfect city to shoot a show like this because its gray dreariness, lush forests, and metropolitan feel can add a lot to the world that it's trying to build.


So there you have it. It was a clean sweep by Grimm, which was a little surprising because I wasn't expecting to like it based on all of the negative reviews. While I still respect what Once is trying to do, it feels like there's too much going on whereas Grimm's stripped down could make it easier to digest.


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