“Once Upon A Time”…When TV Was Good

I have a three date rule with new Television shows. Sometimes I might even stretch that to 6, if I am really pulling for the actors, writers, producers, or creators. Or the premise. Basically, I’m a sucker for being strung-along by a show that I really want to win. And by “win,” I mean, be renewed for another season.

No, I’m not talking about Community. I know there are tons of great 30 minute comedies out there right now. But I’m just not buying them. Sorry ya’ll. I hope many blessings fall upon you and that all your favorite television shows are renewed.


Once Upon A Time Poster

Once Upon A Time Poster

I’m talking about Once Upon a Time. I’m talking about how many quality shows are on the air right now that I could be devoting my attention to and yet I feel so compelled and moved to share my feelings about this particular gem.

If you want to call it that.

I have feelings about this show. The pilot and first two episodes were BAD. Not good/bad but bad/bad. And yet, I kept watching. The writing is ham-fisted. The acting is dubious. The dialogue is ill-suited for the fairy tale world. There is little humor or charm. It either takes itself too seriously or not seriously enough. And the CGI. Yipe.

There are also weird race issues happening all over the place. The Evil Queen and her equally evil mirror are the only characters of color I can determine, and anyone with a slightly European accent is a bad guy or pawn of a bad guy.

Dudes – what is happening on this show? They just killed off my favorite sexy mysterious character in the last episode ala Boon on Lost, which is par for the course because THIS is the creative team behind THAT series.

Sheriff Graham as depicted by the imminently shaggable Jamie Dornan was one of the few intriguing characters, not just because of his tasty Irish accent and scruffy neck-bearded hipster loveliness, but because he was one of a limited variety who wasn’t purely good or evil. His amorality was a decided plus in a fairy tale world where Good is GOOD and Evil is EVIL. I mean, that is boring ya’ll. The best TV shows come down squarely in the middle.

Which is another part of the reason Once Upon a Time is failing on so many levels. One of them being it’s  comparisons to (what I’ve heard is) the far superior comic book series Fables from which the premise is purported to have been cannibalized.

After the emotional massacre that was this last episode, I’m still willing to give it another chance. Why? Because I’m a masochist. I dunno. Are any of you watching it? Why are you watching it? I feel like I’m devoting way too much time to a series that isn’t giving me a lot to work with. There has to be something better out there perhaps?

In general – I’ve been feeling slightly myopic towards TV. The Walking Dead has been moving at a zombie-like pace (hah) this season after a rough and bewildering Season 1 finale, which departed quite heavily from the source content. I stopped watching Boardwalk Empire around episode 6 or 7 last year and can’t pick up the zest or energy to start it up again.

Fringe continues its subtle brand of awesome, but I think this may be its last season (damn the man). In general, I seem to be sliding away from nerd fare to shows that are a little grittier like Sons of Anarchy and Justified. But they’re also heavily dude oriented. Which is maybe why, despite all evidence to back slowly away, I’m pulling for Once Upon A Time. It’s female centric. The three main leads are female. It easily passes that aspect of the Bechdel Test. In fact, it barely passes the male Bechdel Test every episode.

This SHOULD make my feminist heart soar. But women in fairy tales are always gonna be somewhat oogy. If I have to explain why, you clearly haven’t been paying attention. 😉

Maybe it’s just me, in this weird phase in my life where entertainment fails to inspire. It’s probably just the lazy lull in the year where most shows have gone on winter hibernation.

Possibly – I just don’t like seeing handsome young Irish men killed for no reason. Take note creative team behind Once Upon A Time – you probably have me for the rest of this season if there are hints that Graham will be returning. But I sense some monumentally stupid Heroes/True Blood/Lost type crap happening here. I’ve got epic series to watch on Netflix. You have decades old competition. Remember that and sort out your priorities. That is all.

Bechdel Test”Once Upon A Time” features more than two female characters with names who converse about something other than men and therefore DOES PASS the women test, DOES PASS the men test and features more than two minority characters who have names, but who only speak to one another about white people so it DOES NOT PASS the race test.


Examining White Womanhood in Once Upon A Time and Grimm.

Fables Creator Comments on Similarities Between Comics and Show.

Bitch magazine thinks Once Upon A Time might be feminist. 

Jezebel wonders why fairy tale remakes have to be SO WHITE. 


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About tinyheroes

Mindy Crouchley is a 33 year old woman with a degree in English and Technical Writing from Portland State University. She has accumulated three+ years experience in the Marketing and Communications field - with an emphasis on creating digital media content. She has been reading comic books since she was 10 years old. She currently lives in outer southeast Portland with her spouse Dan Robertson, her baby girl, and their dog - Jabba the pug. She spends her free time devouring books, crafting cosplay, video gaming, attending comic cons, writing stories/screenplays, attending book to film adaptation club meetings, volunteering, and watching copious amounts of TV and movies.

8 responses to ““Once Upon A Time”…When TV Was Good”

  1. Jen says :

    “Possibly – I just don’t like seeing handsome young Irish men killed for no reason”

    EXACTLY. He was my favorite character, too. I mean, not least of all because he was Irish and amazingly hot, but for all the reasons you listed as well. I could see it coming from the beginning of the episode and it made me no less angry by the end. I really hope they are able to bring him back later.

    • tinyheroes says :

      Am holding out hope for his return. And hoping that the creators/writers take note that his type of moral ambiguity is what makes a show interesting.

      I must have been the only one who didn’t see his death coming initially (I only learned about it through Tumblr). It certainly has united all the Graham fans and made the entire fandom weep. Maybe that’s the point – to keep the fanbase tuning in now the rest of the season for even one glimpse of him.

      If so – well played creative team. Well played.

      ALSO: I was a bit distressed by the “sex slave” angle to this development. This wouldn’t fly if it was a woman in a similar position, and this is the second series THIS YEAR that I’ve witnessed what is essentially male rape with no one calling it what it is or having the man deal with his emotions around it. Not cool.

  2. Gemma Lewis says :

    Excellent post on nearly all accounts – especially the reasons why it started off as “bad/bad”.

    I do want to point out that Bill Willingham – the creator/writer of Fables – has gone on record to say that the show does not infringe on the world of he created, but as they have the same source material – fairy tales – the similarities are inevitable.

    But really, I’m with you. Unless they figure out a way to give Graham a happy ending, I’m out.

    • tinyheroes says :

      Thank you for pointing that out – I hope folks read the link I put at the end of the article! Actually, now that I’m watching this series and seeing this pretty awesome premise done poorly, I’m kinda intrigued to see how Fables treats the subject. Hhmm…

      And yeah, I might stick it out until the end of the season just to see if Graham re-emerges (IMDB indicates he’s booked for 22 episodes), but it’s also a bit sad that my entire decision to watch the series is based on one character. :\

  3. Fairy Tales Online says :

    Very insightful article. I like your writing style. Keep it up!

  4. Ray says :

    I was sad to see him killed off but appreciated the dark twist finally.

  5. Addie says :

    I, too, have similar sentiments. I watch it because I like having something going on the other television while playing Skyrim, and because given the two fairy tale options, it’s still far superior to Grimm.

    It’s clearly borrowing from the LOST narrative style, telling two similar stories within two different worlds / periods of time, and that worked reasonably well for LOST, but I agree that it doesn’t work quite as well for Once Upon a Time, at least yet. The characters just aren’t as strong – there’s no John Locke or Hurley equivalent so far (nor any sign of comic relief or lightness otherwise), and there isn’t the same mystery / compelling side story (it exists in small amounts, but you can only spice up traditional fairy tales so much).

    I think I’m still watching because 1) it’s pretty low stakes for me so far to keep tuning in, especially because it’s unsophisticated enough to be perfect for video gaming to, 2) because I am interested in seeing what they continue to do with the premise, and 3) because I’m a Ginnifer Goodwin fan after seeing her in Big Love (before that show also got crappy).

    You’re missing out by opting out of the 22-minute (half hour with advertising) comedies, though – they’ve provided some GREAT television this season, both on the networks (Community, Parks and Rec, New Girl, and to a lesser extent Up All Night) as well as cable (The League and a couple episodes from this season’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). Definitely a different style of entertainment and subject matter than the hour-long dramas can do, but I too have been coming up dry in that department. The closest I’ve watched recently is Dexter, which was the worst season I’ve seen yet – although it was fun to pick apart plot holes with my dad.

    • tinyheroes says :

      Nice – it’s good to know that I’m not the only closet “Once Upon A Time” watcher who thinks the show is crappy at the moment, with potential to get better.

      Low stakes is the perfect way to describe this series. It’s fun to watch because you don’t feel terribly invested in it. Until they kill off the hipster Sheriff. And then *sobs*. I’m also digging the clearly feminist vibe. Not many other shows have three ladies in the main leading roles. Though, again, the whiteness is a bit over-powering.

      The arguments to the contrary are that fairy tales are “European.” But that seems lazy given the efforts to make them relevant in modern society. If America was still 98% white, that would work.

      I keep TRYING to get into comedies. I really do. I know there are great shows like “Parks and REc” and “Community” out there. Frankly, all this kerfuffle over Community is piquing my interest, along with the fact that I’ve caught a few muted episodes at the gym. I’m thinking New Girl and Two Broke Chicks are also contenders.

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