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

Remember the show The Charmings? You know, that 80s sitcom where Snow White and Prince Charming live out of their element in modern times after Snow’s wicked stepmother puts a curse on them?

Well now, there’s a new show called Once Upon a Time! A show where Snow White and Prince Charming live out of their element in modern times after Snow’s wicked stepmother puts a curse on them!


There’s also a new show called Grimm, in which a whole mess of fairy tale characters live in modern times!

Fairy tales are back, mofos! And they’re back in modern times.

Snark aside, both shows have a lot to offer the genre, and are certainly less hokey than their 1980s predecessor. Starting Monday, I’ll be reviewing the shows side-by-side, giving each a score, and declaring the Television’s Best Fairy Tale Show at the end of the season. (Assuming they both last that long!)


Once Upon a Time

The Story: Snow White’s wicked stepmother isn’t too happy with Snow’s happily ever after, so she puts a curse not only on Snow White and Prince Charming, 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 inhabitants remember who they are. Emma Swan, a bail bondsperson, holds the key to breaking the spell, but she doesn’t know it.

The Pedigree: The show was created by Lost writers, Adam Horowitz & Edward Kitsis . Jane Espenson serves as a co-executive producer, and Damon Lindelof is a consulting producer. The strong, high-profile cast features Ginnifer Goodwin (Big Love, He’s Just Not that Into You), Jennifer Morrison (House M.D, How I Met Your Mother), and Robert Carlyle (SGU, 28 Weeks Later).

What to Expect: It’s from writers on Lost, so what else? Flashbacks! Also, lots of great costumes, spectacle, and a female-dominant environment that balances the magical and romantic with action and storybook violence.



The Story: Portland detective, Nick Burckhardt, has been noticing strange things. When the aunt who raised him 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. He begins to used his newly-discovered ability to solve cases and keep evil at bay.

The Pedigree: The show was created by Angel writers, David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf. The talented cast includes relative newcomers to television David Giuntoli and Bitsie Tulloch as well as more well-known faces from TV like Russell Hornsby (Lincoln Heights) and Sasha Roiz (Caprica).

What to Expect: A police procedural with a twist. Dark and gritty in order to reflect the darkness of the original Brothers Grimm stories, but not without humor. The male-dominant environment the show creates is tense, suspenseful, and sometimes frightening.


Every week, I’ll be grading each episode out of a total of 10 based on the following categories:

Script: How’s the storytelling? The script structure? The dialogue? Does the story/script surprise me?

Performances: Are the actors believeable? Do they show range? Do they keep me engaged?

Production: The costumes, the effects, etc. How does the show look? How effectively does the look of the show mesh with the other aspects of the storytelling?

Representation: How are social and ethnic minorities represented? Are the casts multiracial? Are there lots of female characters? Do they have characters of different sexual orientations? Are differently abled characters represented? Are there varying body types? Are there characters of various ages?

Audience Engagement: The most subjective and broad of my categories. This is where I’ll score everything from how the shows are marketed, whether the shows are using social media effectively, to whether I think the episode would be entertaining to a casual viewer. Is the audience actively engaged?

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.

The winner will receive, um, something. There will be acknowledgement of some kind. I’ll figure it out!

Once Upon a Time has already premiered, and the first episode can be viewed at Grimm premieres this Friday, October 28th on NBC at 9PM ET.

Teresa Jusino would never marry a guy just because he woke her up by kissing her, or found her shoe. 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,, Newsarama, and 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.


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