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TV Review: Once Upon a Time

ABC's new fairy tale drama series is flawed but fun.


Every new television season brings with a new crop of dramas that are eerily familiar, whether it's latest cop drama or an only slightly fresh take on the medical procedural. And so, regardless of it's flaws, it's refreshing to see Once Upon a Time bring some new life to the drama series, even if spinning several seasons of television out of this concept seems like it will be quite a challenge.

The creators of Once Upon a Time previously wrote for Lost and like former gig, this show takes place in two separate worlds: in flashbacks to the storybook world, as well as the here and now. In the present timeline we're introduced to Emma (Jennifer Morrison), a tough bail agent who was abandoned as a baby and also gave up her own child for adoption ten years ago. It's when this child, Henry (Jared Gilmore), shows up at her door that things get complicated. Henry hails from a sleepy Maine town called Storybrooke and insists that everyone living there is a fairy tale character that has trapped there by the spell of an evil witch (not unlike the plot of Enchanted, just on a grander scale). Henry has come to take Emma back there, believing that she is the key to breaking the curse and getting everything back to the way it was. Of course Emma and everyone else in Storybrooke thinks Henry the victim of an over-active imagination, but the flashbacks tell us a different story of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and her Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) preparing to protect their kingdom from a threat promised by the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla).

Not an easy sell, the first hour of Once Upon a Time is packed to the brim with exposition and the introduction of a host of characters, most of which we meet twice, once in fairy tale land and again in Storybrooke. It's a tough show to get your arms around, but Morrison makes for an attractive protagonist and welcome proxy into this strange world. A peek at a future episode seems to indicate that show will continue to pair the events in Storybrooke with flashback tales from fairy land, which has its ups and downs. While the episode three tale of how Snow White first met Prince Charming is a little more engaging than the mythology-heavy flashbacks in the pilot, it takes the audience away from Emma and Henry who are really the main characters of the piece. While there are some kinks to be worked out, there's a lot of fun to be had with Once Upon a Time and with an impressive an impressive writing staff onboard, hopefully the show will be able to make the most of the complex world that's been created.

Once Upon a Time premieres Sunday 7pm on ABC.

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