pilot vs. pilot!

So, if you're in the US, or follow US television obsessively, you may have noticed a sudden burst in the popularity of reinventing the wheel fairy tale. As pretty much nobody knows, I am something of a connoisseur of fairy tale spinoffs (books like Ella Enchanted and Goose Chase are seriously over-represented in my bookshelf), and as pretty much everyone who knows me knows, I am obsessed with TV. Thus, a perfect storm of my tastes!

The shows in question are Grimm and Once Upon a Time (OUT, haha). I watched the pilots back-to-back, to have the most objective viewing experience (i.e., I did not watch one while feeling sick, and the other immediately after finding a basket of kittens, which would seriously sway my opinions).

Straight away, I have to put this out there: these are not the same. Yes, I realize they're both fairy tale-based, sort of. The protagonists didn't know they were actually fairy tale people, sort of. But that is where their commonalities end.

Grimm is a sort of buddy-cop type thing. You've got your young up-and-coming white detective, the more experienced black detective, and the random werewolf clockmaker. Pretty standard stuff, here.

OUT is kind of a mess. There's this whole parallel reality thing that is 1. confusing and 2. probably not going to last past the first episode, really, because there's this whole thing about the parallel reality thing turning into regular reality and ... whatever, guys, it's sort of really haphazard.

Let's take a look at the central characters, because this is where the main similarity exists. In Grimm, it's Nick Burkhardt (I had to look that up, I don't recall the last name ever getting used), who starts seeing "weird things" (i.e., people's faces turning into monster faces, which, some of them sort of look like burn victims, which makes me feel bad about them being used as "scary" images, but that is neither here nor there) when his darling aunt comes to town to tell him she has barely any time left to live (I think we're supposed to assume she has some form of cancer, because she is bald, but then she gets attacked by a Grim Reaper (no puns happened, which was sorta disappointing in a way) so then she goes into a mysterious coma after having a perfectly lucid conversation with Nick? ...? ???) so he has to take over the family business, which, in this case, is being a fairy-tale-creature-hunter. Only, "they're not fairy tales," blah blah blah, we get it, it's real life. The point is, he's new to this game! He makes ridiculous mistakes that get mocked openly by the werewolf! Yay noob jokes!

The main character in OUT is Emma Swan, a bail bondsperson slash orphan, and it turns out that her parents are Snow White and Prince Charming, because of course they are. She doesn't know this, and learned nothing from her abandoned-by-the-highway babyhood, because at 18 she gets pregnant and gives the kid up for adoption. We know this because he shows up at age 10, on her 28th birthday, to be like, come save my town! You're my mom! I'm crazy! And ten! But he is apparently the only one that knows the truth about the town, except for maybe his adoptive mother, the mayor and non-coincidentally the Evil Queen (a la Snow White).

So, basically, both main characters didn't know they're actually from fairy tales or whatever you want to call it! What! How did that happen?

Now, let's talk Major Fails, because this is important to me.

The main issue I had with Grimm was that it was too earnest. Bear with me a second. I like a show that can go from comedy to drama to scares to whatever else more or less seamlessly - it adds realism, because everybody, even crime scene investigators, needs to laugh sometimes. The problem I had with it here is that every single plot point was SO SERIOUS about what it was doing, with the possible theoretical exception of the werewolf clockmaker, who as of yet is just sort of a regular dude, but the extent to which they are making him a regular dude is sort of weird in and of itself.

But really, there's the CRIME bit, where it's SERIOUS FACES and GRIM DISAPPOINTMENT (again, not a pun) and GRIM WINNING OUT OVER BAD GUYS. Then there's the ILLNESS AND DEATH thing with the aunt, where it's SINISTER and then it's VIOLENT CLASH WITH A LITERAL GRIM REAPER SO DO YOU GET IT, SHE'S BATTLING DEATH, DO YOU GET IT, and then there's the completely soap-operatic twist of MYSTERIOUS COMA. I could see this being a good thing, as nervous TV-ers will sometimes jam-pack the pilot to have the best chance of getting picked up and then CALM THE FRIG DOWN after the first episode; but if Grimm tries to keep it at this pace, I will be exhausted by episode 4.

OUT has about twelve sentences of expository text at the beginning. I mean, literally. It's just white text on a black background, for a good 15-20 seconds. This, on its own, was enough to make me hate the series. I'm sorry, guys, I am, but I just can't deal with a show that automatically assumes it has to spell things out for me, nor with a pilot that seems like it's the original pitch.

In addition to that, which, why does it bother me so much, I really don't know, there was some super non-convincing CGI, which is another of my top 3 pet peeves in TV/movies (1. over-explanatory title cards (sorry, Star Wars); 2. bad CGI; 3. talking animals).

Then, final nail in the coffin - I love Ginnifer Goodwin. I don't know why, but I do. I've watched any number of really, really terrible movies because of her. However, even my love for her cannot abide the character she's playing in this. Seriously? An elementary school teacher who has a technicolor bird friend and takes around flowers at the hospital, all while wearing a sweater set and being just generally so freaking inoffensive it makes you want to punch her? This is like her normal character to the nth degree, bitten by a radioactive spider, hulked out if hulking out involved blushing at cursewords and admonishing parents for not being good enough parents to the poor sensitive kid who's just crazy because he wants LOVE. Honestly, her best moments were when she was actually Snow White, instead of being Snow White Trapped In a Meek Schoolteacher's Body in Maine, and she yells at the Evil Queen and Rumpelstiltskin and screams like a banshee when giving birth but still tries to get up *while in labor* to get her soon-to-be-baby-but-currently-fetus to safety. It's pretty cool.

If I had to pick only one of these shows to watch, I'd probably go with Grimm, because I have a thing for crime procedurals and also because I like a werewolf who says he does pilates. None of the characters are very fleshed out yet, so I can't really say whether I like them or not (with the obvious exception of the werewolf), but I feel like there's potential.

At the same time, though, I feel like I know the characters of OUT better, and am sort of interested to see how they play out, especially the Evil Queen slash Mayor of Storybrooke (I am not kidding) - except that I think I know how she's going to play out, and it makes me not want to watch it. She's a single mother politician, which is AWESOME, except they're pulling something of a "she doesn't love her adopted son!" thing, which is MESSED UP. I get it, she's evil, and who's more evil than someone who doesn't love an orphan, but seriously guys? Do we really need more demonizing of adoptive parents happening on TV right now? (Let's not talk about Glee. Let's just not.) ESPECIALLY a single mother. Come on, guys. That's just. That's just awful. Why are you doing this? It's like OUT is saying LOOK AT THIS, WOMEN CAN'T BE SUCCESSFUL SINGLE MOTHERS, BECAUSE THEY DO NOT LOVE THEIR CHILDREN. Wait, no, it's not LIKE OUT is saying it, it IS what it's saying.


Oh well. At least Playboy Club got cancelled. I'll have to let that slake my feminist angst for the moment.