Mon
Oct 31 2011 11:00am

Once Upon a Time vs. Grimm: Battle of the Pilots

Once Upon a Time vs. Grimm: Battle of the Fairy Tale ShowsThe shows in the Battle of the Network Fairy Tale Shows have a lot in common. Both make cute, modern-day references to the fairy tales that inspired them; both have talented casts; and both seem to like putting their orphaned protagonists in red leather jackets. They also seem to be each other’s exact opposite. Whereas Once Upon a Time is a female-led show, Grimm has a predominantly male energy. Once is light and romantic, Grimm is gritty and grounded. And while the protagonist of Once is a loner who doesn’t easily trust or let people in, the protagonist of Grimm is a romantic with family ties, friends, and a girlfriend.

How did these shows stack up after both pilots aired and the smoke cleared? Find out below!

A reminder: Each episode will be graded in each category from 0-2, and then each category will be added up for the show’s grand total for the week. Weekly totals will be added throughout the season, and the show with the highest score at the end of the season will be declared Television’s Best Fairy Tale Show.

 

Once Upon a Time vs. Grimm: Battle of the Fairy Tale Shows

Once Upon a Time, Ep 1: “Pilot”

Snow White’s (Ginnifer Goodwin) wicked stepmother (Lana Parrilla) can’t bear Snow’s happily ever after, so she puts a curse not only on Snow White and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas), but on all of the fairy tale characters as punishment. They’re banished to the modern-day town of Storybrooke, Maine; a place where time never passes, and none of its fairy tale inhabitants remember who they are. Emma Swan, a bail bonds agent (person?), holds the key to breaking the spell, but she doesn’t know it until Henry, the son she gave up for adoption years ago (Jared Gilmore), comes back into her life with a book of fairy tales and insists she come with him to Storybrooke. Skeptical at first, Emma agrees to stay in Storybrooke for a week when she notices certain things that lead her to believe that what the boy told her might not be just the product of an overactive imagination.

Script (1): This is what gave me the most trouble. While both the premise of the show and the story of this episode are enjoyable, the execution of Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis’ script could’ve been better. Whereas the flashback device worked well on Lost to illuminate character, here it only serves to let the air out of any suspense that could be generated. The episode starts out with title cards that explain exactly what we’re going to be watching, and proceeds to give us back story before getting to the main character, whom we then have to watch discover it all over again. Other than the revelation of Henry’s relationship to Emma, there’s little to keep us guessing.

There’s also the issue of dialogue. If the choice is to have a “fairy tale half” and a “modern world half,” then the two have to be distinct. You can feel the writers trying to do that by having the fairy tale characters sound more proper and “Old World” in their speech than the modern characters, but they struggle to maintain it, and the fairy tale characters slip into lines like “take the queen out” and “there is, indeed, a catch,” which pull the viewer out of the world. It would be one thing if the entire show were set in this fairy tale world and the modern speech patterns were a choice, but in this pilot, the speech just feels sloppy.

Lastly, if time never passes in Storybrooke, how is there day and night? And why do they know what Emma means when she says she’s going to rent a room for “a week?” (Perhaps I’ve been watching too much Doctor Who.)

Once Upon a Time vs. Grimm: Battle of the Fairy Tale Shows

Performances (2): The cast is solid all around, but special kudos need to go to Jennifer Morrison, whose Emma Swan is a perfect blend of hard and vulnerable, and Robert Carlyle as an appropriately smarmy and deranged Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold.

Production (2): The show is certainly beautiful. From the elaborate costumes and sets of the fairy tale world, to the Stepford-esque design of Storybrooke, to the spare, yet colorful look of Emma’s real-world life, the look of the show is appropriate for each of the worlds that make it up. The visual effects are mostly reserved for the fairy tale world, and even things like Prince Charming’s injury look a bit “fake,” as if being depicted in a children’s book.

Representation (1.5): One of the most wonderful things about the show is the fact that the female characters are so prominent, powerful, and nuanced. Snow White takes the lead in her relationship with Prince Charming, but not in a harsh, “man-hating” way. She makes most of the major decisions, and he trusts her. His desire to protect her are depicted as no different than her desire to protect him and their child. Emma Swan starts out as a bit of an action hero — slamming a guy’s head into a steering wheel! — but has a complex history even before we get to the fairy tale stuff. She’s a birth mother to an adopted child, something that is rarely explored on television. Of the five lead characters, three are women!

Where the show could do better, at least as of this first episode, is with racial minorities. The main cast is entirely white (though Lana Parrilla is half Puerto Rican-half Italian). The only speaking roles for black actors were the bishop performing Snow White’s wedding and Rumplestiltskin’s jailer. There were some scattered multiracial faces in crowd scenes (and one of the Seven Dwarves was Asian), but otherwise this was a lily-white production.

Once Upon a Time vs. Grimm: Battle of the Fairy Tale Shows

Audience Engagement (1.5): This show will definitely appeal to viewers who love fairy tales and magic, and it’s a show that families can watch together, which earns it some mainstream cred. However, it might be a little too cute for some people. On the social media front, there’s not much activity on the Once Upon a Time Twitter or Facebook page, and what activity there is isn’t particularly interesting. ABC doesn’t seem to be actively courting an audience, merely expecting them to tune in and watch.

TOTAL SCORE FOR ONCE UPON A TIME: 8 (out of 10)

 

Once Upon a Time vs. Grimm: Battle of the Fairy Tale Shows

Grimm, Ep. 1: “Pilot”

Detective Nick Burckhardt (David Giuntoli), has been noticing strange things. When the aunt who raised him (Kate Burton) falls ill, she comes to him to explain them, telling him that fairy tales aren’t stories, they’re warnings, and that he is descended from a long line of grimms, people with the unique ability to see the true natures of the fairy tale beings that live among us in the real world. As he and his partner, Hank Griffin (Russell Hornsby) solve the case of a missing little girl, Nick begins to used his newly-discovered ability in his work. Meanwhile, danger seems to be closing in on him and his girlfriend, Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch), from all directions — including that of his boss, Captain Renard (Sasha Roiz).

Script (1.5): David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf’s pilot had a tight, well-paced, suspenseful script that managed to frighten even as it maintained a sense of humor and warmth. While it was clear that the episode was using the story of Little Red Riding Hood as a template, it wasn’t an exact retelling of the story. It successfully used that story as a metaphor for a crime being committed in the real world, which is what the original Grimm stories were in the first place — metaphors for real dangers. The script also does a great job of fleshing out the main character with minimal exposition.

But it, like most pilot scripts, wasn’t perfect. Having the entire resolution of the case hinge on a song heard on an iPod was farfetched (and I’m saying this regarding a show that deals in fairy tales!). From the iPod still playing The Eurhythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” hours after the person listening to it has been torn to shreds, to the attacker humming the song when the police stop by to investigate (did he listen to his victim’s iPod, or notice the song that was playing as he was attacking her?), to Hank remembering the song and using that as his Probable Cause to go back into a suspect’s home all stretches credibility.

Performances (2): Again, we have a very solid cast. Giuntoli seems like an actual person in this role, rather than a Television Hero, and he and Hornsby have wonderful on-screen chemistry. I was intrigued by Reggie Lee as Sgt. Wu, who managed to inject the few lines he had in the episode with so much personality that it made me curious about his character. And Silas Weir Mitchell is a standout, providing wonderful comedy relief as Eddie Monroe, reformed blutbad.

Once Upon a Time vs. Grimm: Battle of the Fairy Tale Shows

Production (1.5): Portland provides a lush, green backdrop for Grimm, and cinematographer, Clark Mathis, highlights this to its fullest effect. That, coupled with the soft design of the homes and many of the costumes allow the show to echo fairy tales while remaining firmly rooted in the real world. Likewise the visual effects when Nick sees a fairy tale creature’s true nature. The transformations between beast and human always look plausible.

Representation (1.5): Grimm scores points in that, of its six lead actors, two are played by minority actors — Russell Hornsby and Reggie Lee. However, they, as well as the doctor treating Nick’s aunt, are the only minority faces we see the entire episode. The pilot doesn’t do terribly well by its female characters, either. So far, Juliette’s main purpose seems to be to look pretty, comfort Nick when he’s troubled, and to provide a focal point for his angst over his new ability. She exists only as a device in relation to his character. I hope that changes. Likewise, the hexenbeist (played by Claire Coffee) seems to exist simply to serve Captain Renard, though her connection to him is merely touched upon at the end of the episode, and we don’t see them interact much.

What saves the show on that front, for me, is Nick’s Aunt Marie. Not only do we have an older woman who is clearly willing to fight dangerous creatures with elaborate weaponry, but she’s also a nice change from the standard Older White Man Leading Young Female to Empowerment. It’s nice that finally, after student-teacher relationships like Buffy/Giles (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), The Bride/Bill (Kill Bill), and Sweet Pea/Wise Man (Sucker Punch), we have an older woman leading a young man to empowerment. Because, you know, sometimes men can learn things from women. I know, right?

Once Upon a Time vs. Grimm: Battle of the Fairy Tale Shows

Audience Engagement (2): Everyone is into procedurals in one way or another. The fact that Grimm is a police procedural that looks at fairy tales sideways means that it will not only entertain fantasy/fairy tale fans, but also people looking for a procedural other than CSI or SVU to watch. It also allows for more standalone stories, which means that viewers can easily jump on anywhere. As for more direct audience interaction, NBC is on it. The cast of Grimm, as well as NBC, are all extremely active on Twitter and Facebook, and actually talk to fans rather than simply send them links related to the show. They also allowed Twitter followers the chance to see the pilot early, as well as had a contest for a Grimm “Little Red Riding Hoodie” during the premiere.

TOTAL SCORE FOR GRIMM: 8.5 (out of 10)

 

WEEK 1 WINNER: Grimm

Whew! That was a close race! What do you think? Let me know below!

Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8/7 Central on ABC. Grimm airs Fridays at 9/8 Central on NBC.


Teresa Jusino thinks Juliette Silverton deserves better. She can be heard on the popular Doctor Who podcast, 2 Minute Time Lord, participating in a roundtable on Series 6.1. Her “feminist brown person” take on pop culture has been featured on websites like ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, and PopMatters.com. Her fiction has appeared in the sci-fi literary magazine, Crossed Genres; she is the editor of Beginning of Line, the Caprica fan fiction site; and her essay “Why Joss is More Important Than His ‘Verse” is included in Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon By the Women Who Love Them, which is on sale now wherever books are sold! 2012 will see Teresa’s work in an upcoming non-fiction sci-fi anthology. Get Twitterpated with Teresa,“like” her on Facebook, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.

35 comments
Becky Hantsbarger
1. BeckyIA
Interesting breakdown. And I would have to agree. I can't help but think that "Once" is rather self-limiting. What happens when the storybook characters realize who they are? Is that the end of the show? Whereas with "Grimm" the stand alone stories could be endless.
Jessica @ Book Sake
2. Jessica @ Book Sake
I'm in for Grimm over Once as well. And BeckIA hit it on the nose - the clock is already moving...so where can it go after the realization happens. And it's so hard to believe Jennifer Morrison as 28...I'm suprised she's only 32. (Although if Kristin Bauer van Straten shows up for more episodes - I'm there!!)
Jessica @ Book Sake
3. Tara Dublin
GRIMM will rule for years, ONCE UPON A TIME is a 1-season wonder.
Jessica @ Book Sake
4. Beth Cato
I much preferred Grimm. Once Upon a Time struck me as forced and corny, and I say that as someone who loves fairy tales. Grimm had that perfect urban fantasy vibe. Yes, there were a few weird plot points like the iPod (I still wonder how he'll justify the house search and shooting a guy in the back) but the vibe of the show felt right. Even my husband liked it, and he was surpised by that.
Jessica @ Book Sake
5. Riley of the Dragons
I'm also of the opinion that Grimm was significantly better.

My issue with Once Upon a Time rests on the problematic parental relations. You mention that it's great that the show is exploring adoption as a theme, but I disagree. They're pulling the standard (and rather incorrect) view that nature is far superior to nurture. Why must Henry and Emma have an immediate bond? Why must Henry's adopted mother be the evil witch? I feel that these relationships are completely unnuanced and (as such) are rather problematic.

There was a tiny bit of complexity about this issue in the second episode (to jump ahead), but still not enough for me. I hope this issue doesn't stay balck-and-white throughout the season.
Jessica @ Book Sake
6. Critical Myth
I'm going to take the opposing opinion: I found "Grimm" to be the better pilot, but I see "Once Upon a Time" having a more sustainable future. The problem is that "Grimm" feels like the love child of a tired old procedural and "Supernatural", with a male version of "Buffy" tossed in. So it will always be competing in my mind with shows I already love. Whereas, in contrast, "Once Upon a Time", while admittedly clunky with the initial exposition, feels more fresh.

Of course, when all is said and done, both shows are on my "keeper" list, so I guess it doesn't really matter...LOL...
Jessica @ Book Sake
7. RebeccaS
I enjoyed Grimm more (even as I griped about women and children always being the victims in cop shows). I liked Emma a bit better than Nick, but most of the supporting characters in OUaT felt more two-dimensional than those in Grimm, even taking into account police procedural cliches. I'll keep watching both, though! Maybe OUaT will flesh out the characters a bit and hook me.
David Thomson
8. ZetaStriker
I actually don't see having an established story as a downside - I'd love to watch something with a tighter narrative that bows out when the tale is told. Procedurals almost always fail to deliver as strong a story as something focused around a continuing plotline. The problem is . . . Once Upon a Time doesn't feel like the tighter story. The format doesn't automatically equal greatness, and if they don't turn it around and surprise us than everyone is right - it wont last, either on television or its appeal in the minds of its viewers.
Jeremy Goff
9. JeremyM
I have to throw in another vote for Grimm as my favorite of the two. I have to say though that I was surprised by how much I liked Once Upon a Time. I thought I'd give it a shot but didn't expect much from it. I am not a fan of the flashbacks though, at least not how they were done in the pilot. Not only did they seem corny but it completely took me out of the story that I was just getting into.

The ipod thing bugged me in Grimm, but not so much that it ruined anything for me. I have to agree with Critical Myth, Supernatural was one of the first things I thought of while watching it. Overall though I was impressed with both and plan on watching them throughout the season.
Matt Wright
10. matty42
Totally agree about the language in Once Upon a Time...the prince calling out "Hey!" right before he throws the sword at the queen...oy vey.
Teresa Jusino
11. TeresaJusino
Riley of the Dragons @5 - Well, what I liked about the portrayal of the adoption in OUaT is that it was portrayed honestly, if not fairly. I know a couple of people who've given up children, as well as adopted children, and while it's true that adoptive parents aren't "evil," it does seem that the system is designed to protect adoptive parents almost at the expense of birth mothers and adopted children. This just seemed like a stylized, heightened version of the real-world view of birth mothers to me. I felt for Emma, because she didn't even want a relationship with Henry. She had no plans of ever taking him back, and yet she couldn't even acknowledge her feelings for a moment without getting quashed immediately. That happens. It's really surprising to me how little sympathy there is in the adoption community for birth parents. As if, by giving up their children, they've forfeited their rights to have feelings about it. This happens even in open adoptions, let alone closed ones like the one portrayed on the show. Adopted children also have surprisingly few rights to their own histories later in life, and I've seen many websites online for organizations fighting for adoptive children's rights to know their own stories when they're older. I don't think they're saying that nature is superior to nurture. Emma knows she gave Henry up for a reason. It's not that SHE could provide a better life for him. I think OUaT is saying that it's unfair that she's not even allowed to express any regret about her choice, and it's unfair that Henry gets no say over his life.

I definitely think that, just based on one episode, both shows are still worth watching. Can't wait for next week! :)
tatiana deCarillion
12. decarillion
I have both of these queued up in Hulu, but won't get to watch the pilots til the weekend, likely. I'm glad to know that both of them appear to be worth watching, thus far!
Jessica @ Book Sake
13. Dr. Thanatos
I am going to take a minority position; I liked Once better than Grimm based on the first episodes.

Grimm is a bit too much of a "into each generation is born someone who sees dead people" grafted onto CSI:Wonderland. Don't get me wrong, I loves my Buffy and Angel; but I don't want to see "Buffy but with fairy tale characters"

OUAT at least seems to be presenting a more original concept, although I agree that it's starting a bit slow and throwing too much information too fast---but that's what happens when the people from Lost break out of the asylum. I see this one as having more long-term potential; when the current story resolves there's lots of more stories they can latch onto.

Grimm, on the other hand, looks to be a Monster of the Week program with a Nefarious Bad Guy lurking in the background trying to provide overarching story continuity.

Obviously many above don't agree; but I have to call it as I see it...
john mullen
14. johntheirishmongol
I enjoyed both but I have to give the better idea award to Once. I think its a bit stronger production too.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
15. tnh
Grimm should be okay if it continues to get good writing, but Once Upon a Time has structural problems. It's hard to build a strong seasonal story arc in a place where it's always Now. If the ongoing narrative accumulates consequences from earlier episodes, the premise will erode and eventually break; but if the storyline doesn't accumulate consequences, the whole thing will start to feel arbitrary, which will rob it of interest.

I doubt the writers can finesse rather than address this problem. Given the show's setup, it's inevitable that a lot of the most interesting stories will happen along the border between the worlds, and involve people and things crossing over. I don't see how the amnesiac timelessness of the fairytale side can survive it. I dunno. Maybe the writers' real plan for the first season is to have fun busting out of the initial premise.
Jessica @ Book Sake
16. abqmichelle
Thank you, thank you, fellow Whovian! All of the Time stuff was just not properly wibbly-wobbly for me. (And/or I didn't realize quite how far into my brain Moffat has gotten.) ;) I think what it boils down to, or maybe will, is that the "always Now" is just a throwaway? It's not as integral to the story as we're making it? Otherwise, as @tnh says, everything falls apart. Which is rather lame, but if you ignore the overall Time implications altogether, the story works.

The dialouge also very much bothered me. Too much modern talk in the fairy tale world. Other than that, though, I enjoyed Once... very much! I actually liked how straightforward the flashbacks were. (Contrary to my previous statement, yes. I guess I enjoyed the break? Not everything has to be super-suspenseful cliffhanging questions. It was refreshing.)

I'm not sure about Grimm yet. So far, I love the twist in a if-we-have-to-have-another-procedural-at-least-it's-a-fun-fairytale-one way, but it still feels like yet another cop story to me. I'll keep watching, though.

Is anyone else constantly picturing a giant black dog when they say "*gasp* a Grimm!"??
Karen Simley
17. Simka
I have always loved fairy tales in any form. For me, Once is more compelling than Grimm. Grimm is too gritty and graphic for me, and the fairy tale connection too twisted and/or obscure. I am not a huge fan of procedurals, so the resemblance there is off-putting to me. Blue Bloods and Person of Interest satisfy me in that area. After watching the premiere, I have deleted the programming from my VCR.
Teresa Jusino
18. TeresaJusino
I'm loving the comments, y'all! Keep it up! Discussion is the goal. I think both shows have a shot - as is evidenced by the really narrow margin of Grimm's "victory." :) But I think all television shows should be able to withstand this kind of scruitiny. Am I right?

Dr. Thanatos @13 - I don't think either one has a particularly original concept. My focus is more on the execution of those concepts. It's also a personal taste thing. I tend to gravitate more toward "urban fantasy" rather than straight-up fantasy, because I like it when stories are made relevant to Now. But when I'm reviewing these, I'm trying to look at both objectively and see how OUaT can deliver for people who are more into straight-up fantasy. I have friends who already love OUaT more than Grimm just for that reason. It's totally to be expected, which is why I wanted to look at them side by side. To show how one provides what the other can't and show the need for both if they are both executed well.

tnh @15 - I don't think that the structure of the story will keep consequences from building. Emma's timeline continues forward despite Storybrooke's perpetual now. As I said in my review, my problem is more with the use of the flashbacks. I just think they're put in the wrong places, and don't leave anywhere for the story to go. But again, that's just in the first episode, where they're trying to convey an entire series in one hour. I always give pilots the benefit of the doubt.

Simka @17 - yup. Again, a lot of this is going to come down to a personal taste thing. They are two very different ways of going about dealing with fairy tales, and it's clear that Grimm is not up your alley. I hope you'll stick around, though, and join in the discussion re: OUaT! :)
Risha Jorgensen
19. RishaBree
I preferred Once as well, though I'm not going to be dumping Grimm yet or anything. I also adore American Horror Story, so apparently I'm out of step with everyone else this season.

Grimm felt like a retread of tired cliches, and only the hope it gave me was the decent special effects and a like of the general concept. The aunt was cool, but Juliette was so thin a character as to be nearly transparent. Still, the "dumping her for her own good" plotline they tried to start up made me wince. Nick, quite frankly, seemed a little dim, though that might have been pilot-itis. My biggest problem, however, was the insanely casual approach to policework. I don't demand realism from my police procedurals, especially a fantasy police procedural. But they didn't even give lip service to, say, having any reason whatsoever for deciding that this was the guy, and they were perfectly ok with bursting in and ending up shooting him - before they found the girl or any other proof. Nick at least had a source, of sort, and even that seemed a little thin. (What if he had been the actual bad guy trying to steer him wrong?) His partner has no excuse whatsoever.

Once, on the other hand, worked for me on a lot of levels. I usually dislike prequels and such, but the flashbacks are both interesting and vital to how the story is built. Emma and Snow are both amazing - strong and capable but not superhuman - and most of the other characters work for me too. (The exception, unfortunately, is Henry.) I never felt like Prince Charming was being dumbed down to make Snow look better, for instance, and what little we saw of their relationship felt like an actual relationship between people.
Sustainability is a reasonable worry, but I've seen worse. 24, for instance.

I've been a little surprised by all the people having trouble with the "time is stopped" thing. This isn't Doctor Who, after all - this is magic. Time is obviously not literally frozen. Technology and society appear to be in step with the rest of the world, days and nights pass, and people remember what happened that day and week. They refer to the past in conversation. Instead, they appear to be prevented from making any sort of progression in their lives - presumably, the adults simply don't notice that they aren't aging and are unable to leave town. (The children worry me, I admit, but they do seem to be being born and aging. Henry came to town as an infant and is now 10, and would probably have mentioned it if his yearmates had stayed back in kindergarten for the last five years. And Little Red Riding Hood has obviously grown up.)
Michael Burke
20. Ludon
What if the Always Now preception in Once Upon A Time is suppose to break down? The stress/confusion/fear of this breakdown affecting the motivations of the characters and driving the story arc? I'm thinking sonething like the stress from the change from the Nifty-Fifties Black & White world to the In-Your-Face Color world in Pleasantville.

Just a thought.
Jessica @ Book Sake
21. Elizabeth E.
Your "Once" review has a lot of merit. The modern-language in the flashbacks bugs me, as does the "no time passing". The pacing appeals to my 7-year-old, the 11 year-old, my husband, and myself. Love it when the kids are yelling "Look out, that's Rumplestiltskin". Grimm is a little too far over the edge for my kids. I wish the networks would adopt a multiple-showings-in-a-week like cable. This would help a show gain and maintain an audience and also allow a little preview time for parents. I'd hate to miss a week and get lost. We don't all have recording capability.
Eva Malc
22. EvaM
I liked Once Upon a Time much better then Grimm.

The hero of Grimm is bland and his story uses up every cliche of fantasy chose one to the point of him lacking any personality at all. It's even more true with his girlfriend. For the most of the pilot I felt like I was psychic just because I've seen/read this story way too many times. The story resolution was also ridiculous - I had the same exact problem with the song thing If it wasn't for Munroe and other cops I would've quit halfway through.

I loved the fairytale part of OUaT. For the most part it was as if visualisation of what Henry read or retold from the book. I loved the characters from the evil queen to Emma. I like that Emma doesn't believe but stays ecause she just cannot abandon Henry again. Especially since she feels he was right about being unloved. I like how the story seems to be about love and lacking it and wanting it and how it's mostly the non-romantic one. How it is about caring and doing what they ask you for even when you don't believe because it matters to them - both with Emma and Henry and Prince Charming going with Snow White to Rumpelstilskin.

As for time not passing - I though it's not the time doesn't pass in Storybrooke. After all they have modern, clothes, crs etc - not the ones from 28 years ago. It's just that nothing changes exept the background. The time just passes the fairytale characters by. Their lives stay forever the same. Not aging, not moving to Boston, not having families or falling in love. Not even knowing or remembering everyday for past 28 years was the same. It may not seem bad for you but for me it is a pretty gruesome fate.
Rowan Shepard
23. Rowanmdm3
I preferred Once Upon a Time to Grimm. By the end of the first episode of Grimm I was thinking about skipping ahead and almost opened Freecell to play while I waited for the story to resolve, but I never had that impulse while watching OUaT.

However, I think Grimm has more potential and more places to go than OUaT does, so we shall see. For now I will keep watching both.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
24. tnh
Ludon @20, to my mind that would be the most fun a screenwriter could have with the premise.
Bob Blough
25. Bob
I haven't seen Grimm, but your explication of Once Upon a Time was spot on. Because of the script I gave it a 7 but then, I think the script is the defining factor of a show. No matter how good the acting and production is - the script is my guide. Kudos for the women's roles, however.
Sheila Ruth
26. SheilaRuth
I'm surprised at how many people preferred Grimm. I definitely liked Once Upon a Time better. I thought Emma was a great character, and the integration of the fairy tale characters into the real world was well-done. Both the backstory and the modern story were interesting. I did find the characters in the backstory to be a bit too flat (c'mon, can Prince Charming really be that good?), but you expect flat characters from a fairy tale, and it did serve to set them off from their "real world" selves in an interesting way. In particular, I liked that the evil queen/mayor seemed to be a more complex character in the real world. And while the fairy tale backstory seemed a bit too fairy-talish in the pilot, the previews for the season makes me think that there's going to be more to the story that we'll gradually see unfold as the season progresses.

Grimm just didn't hold my interest. I agree with @EvaM that the protagonist was bland, and that much of the plot was a mishmash of tired tropes. I generally like dark fiction, but the little girl tied up in the trapdoor by the creepy serial killer/wolf was just too much for me. I'm not a big fan of seeing kids abused on television shows.
Jessica @ Book Sake
27. JSF1000
Interesting analysis. Quite agree across the board, but I'd add that OUaT "reads" like a novel...i.e. in the best of all possible worlds, it would arc to an actual conclusion (PLEASE), whereas Grimm "reads" like a TV series, whose longevity depends on the creativity of each week's script. This is not a good or bad thing for either, simply a difference in structure, and I think, with the casts they both have and good solid scripting, they can both be nice additions to the weekly couch potato viewing.

I agree that getting the flashback dialogue less anachronistic w/b really nice, but then anachronistic dialogue (not to mention downright bad grammar in supposedly educated people) is rampant in TV, so I guess I just tend to tune it out anymore, with the occasional curse at the gross misuse of me/I.

As for plot holes and devices, that's another common problem thanks to the need to stuff information into little 10 minute packages between commercials and adhere to some esoteric equation of "cliff-hanging excitement to avoid people turning off the TV." There's not a (complex) show on TV that doesn't suffer from the problem, esp in the early episodes. If it's not cotton candy fare, set-up's a b#t*h.

The clock standing still was a plot/visual device to show that Emma's arrival has fundamentally changed the equation of causality in the town. It was a nice little gimmic for the final seconds of the show to give the ep a solid conclusion. For me the whole "time standing still" was more indicative of a psychological shift for the characters, rather than a change in the local laws of physics. (Obviously, the people didn't age, but how do we know they'd have aged in fairytale land? :D)

Henry was outside the realm, so not affected by the curse. Possibly he learned not to mention the fact that none of his fellow children were aging, possibly that's why he was in therapy in the first place. OTOH, at this point, it's all speculation. It w/b nice if the writers would investigate some of these causalities in future eps. We've jumped into the middle of his story and his difficulties of being the outsider in the town are only beginning to surface. One hopes the writers realize the potential in both the character and the fine little actor they've got to play him.

I find Rump to be one of the more fascinating characters in the history of TV. They've kept his marvelously enigmatic smarminess intact and turned him into the ultimate Loki character. I'd watch the show just to see what they do with him. Interesting that he hasn't aged...tho I guess it's fair to ask how would we tell?...but we all know he hasn't forgotten exactly who and what he is. Soooo...just how much did the curse affect him?

Just caught Grimm on the SyFy rerun and enjoyed it, tho I tend to prefer the TV Novel style of story-telling. Our Hero is definitely scenic (always a plus) and his aunt has huge potential (so glad they didn't just kill her off.) However, I found the police procedural aspect 2/b downright painful and completely unnecessary. It's a Serious Problem that will undermine the entire premise if they don't do something about it...fast. But there's definitely enough to give future eps the looksee.
Jessica @ Book Sake
28. Novashannon
I liked both shows. I do not think they are comparable, because all they have in common is the fairy-tale link. I disagree with criticizing the lack of racial diversity in OuaT. OuaT is based on Germanic fairy tales, so of course the characters are white. In a show based on African tribal tales, I would expect black characters, and Asian characters in a show taken from Japanese mythos.
What fascinates me about both shows is the attention to detail. I loved that Grimm had lots of fairy tale looking cottages. I loved the ambiance of Storybrooke in OuaT.
Alana Abbott
29. alanajoli
I just did my review over at Myth, the Universe, and Everything comparing the two shows (before reading anything here -- though I did point people this way!). I agree with a lot of the elements people are talking about, and I see Grimm as Urban Fantasy, but Once upon a Time as a modern fairy tale. OuaT's problem with me is that I'm more invested in the type of story it's telling, and I'm comparing it to other media (comics, musicals, novels) that I think have done such a great job with the fairy tale twist. Grimm feels like a good Urban Fantasy novel series that I'd sit down to read; I certainly hope it will build bigger arcs than the monster of the week, but that's a formula that's really effective -- and unlimited on television. OuaT had better have a bigger better quest lined up for Season 2, or it won't have staying power (because if the curse doesn't start falling apart in Season 1, I'll have to question why I'm watching it!).
Teresa Jusino
30. TeresaJusino
Novashannon @28 - I disagree. The show is set, in part, in the modern world, and is written for a modern, American, multicultural audience. You might have a case if this were a straight-up retelling of the story of Snow White, and the point of the retelling was to stay as true to the original source material as possible, but fairy tales are as ubiquitous as The Bible or Hamlet. When you have stories that are so widespread that their influence touches all parts of our culture, you can be held to the same standards as other, more modern stories, in my opinion. I'm not saying Snow White (whose race is right in her name!) should be a different ethnicity. But there's no reason why, for example, Rumplestiltskin has to be white. Just because he started as a Germanic character doesn't mean that his race/ethnicity is important to the stories. Especially if the stories aren't taking place in Germany. Does that make sense? All these characters started out as symbols, not actual people, and symbols are supposed to be universal.

And please don't get me wrong - I'm LOVING Robert Carlyle in that part. That character's an example.
Teresa Jusino
31. TeresaJusino
Also, as to the point of not being able to compare the shows because they're so different....yes, they are different, and cater to different audiences, and have different structures.

But they're both TV shows, and as such are both trying to be successful at certain things. A police procedural, a soap opera, a variety show, and a sitcom are all trying to be effective at the same basic things, and while we have to acknowledge the ways in which they're doing those things differently, we can still compare how effective each is in its own way.

For example, I'm sure if I asked any of you "Which is your favorite show of the two: Saturday Night Live or Mad Men?" you'd probably be able to come up with an answer. Even if you like both shows, you probably think one is better at what it's setting out to do.

And I chose to pair these two shows because they have one, pretty major thing in common. It's not exactly something that can go unnoticed!
Jessica @ Book Sake
32. AlBrown
I liked them both, but at this point prefer Grimm. There is a good balance of suspense and humor, and the pilates-addicted werewolf is a great comic relief. Good script and good acting, straightforward story, with a complete story in each episode in addition to a slowly unfolding multi-episode story arc.
But there are a lot more moving parts to Once Upon a Time, and because of that complexity, I expect that the show will take more time to find its legs. And I very much enjoy Robert Carlyle's acting, so that will keep me tuning in.
Joe Vondracek
33. joev
I liked them both and see no reason not to watch both, although having seen two episodes of both shows, I like OUaT just a smidge more. Main reason? I don't know if it's David Giuntoli or his character, Nick, but I find him to be the least interesting character in the show. And that's not good, considering that he's the lead. He's just kind of... meh.

On the plus side, I do love me some Silas Weir Mitchell, and I have to agree with the comments about Reggie Lee. For a background character, he sure does standout. (Casting directors take note!) I also wish that the aunt had a larger part, but it looks like she's not going to be around, having passed the torch to Nick.

In OUaT, my rationalization of the modern language used during the fairy tale scenes is: at this point, we're really not sure if this isn't all just Henry's imagination or not. A kid would have his fantasy characters speaking with modern language rather than Ye Olde English, with which he would most likely be unfamiliar. So they're keeping it deliberately vague, which is good because it gives them more wiggle room as to how the story plays out.
Jessica @ Book Sake
34. cdthomas
Well, even though it's like male Buffy with less Supernatural tough-b0y posturing, Grimm's more solid to me, episode by episode, than OUAT.

Mostly, I can't stand the Queen, or her motives. If I was going to destroy my land, with the doomsday device of magic, in order to create a world where I always win and my enemies always lose... would it look like America, today?

Would I be a frustrated middle-manager of a static town, where nothing interesting happens because I forbade it?

Would I get so bored that I'd adopt a son, who somehow at an early age saw right through my mask, to the point of presenting as schizoid and, if he were anywhere else, would already be under psychoactive medication?

(And did OUAT really want to invoke Return to Oz? Really?)

And the biggest flaw -- the children. If the townspeople never grow or change, then neither would their children -- and, if the children do change, what culture shock do they face once they leave Storybrooke? It's hinted at that no one, once there, can leave, but that's impossible to sustain logically, as trade with the outside world demands comings and goings. For a writer's room that at least tried to make Lost coherent narratively, the holes they've allowed to exist, this far into the season, are frustrating, precisely because addressing them would open up tasty narrative directions. (What would it be like, to be Henry's first friend, who now thinks he's crazy, all due to that book? What would that kid's parents say, about keeping silent, lest the Mayor take offense?)

This world is so claustrophobic and stale that it's barely worth the wait to see what will change -- and the flashbacks only show that every archetype we've ever loved was either swindled out of something dear by Mr. Gold (and I'm shocked, *shocked*, that the anti-defamation league hasn't jumped down ABC's throat for his name and actions verging on the Shylock stereotype....), or twisted into something small, even before the Queen delivered her transdimensional coup de grace.

At least Grimm has a consistent sense of humor and hope, as befits its Whedonverse pedigree -- despite its stylishness and Disney IP (Jiminy Cricket, a poisoning parricide? *shudder*), OUAT makes me feel like I'm watching the wet dream of Dick Cheney in drag.
Jessica @ Book Sake
35. beccc
I LOVE Once Upon a Time! Ten times better then Grimm

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