Once upon a time, there was a comic book called Fables. It was written by a man named Bill Willingham who weaved tales of our favorite storybook characters in modern times hiding away in New York City from an evil adversary. It was critically acclaimed as well as a fan-favorite so it was no ones surprise when the world learned NBC would be turning the comic into a television show.
That was 2006.
Unfortunately, nothing ever developed out of that deal but a little while later another one emerged. It seemed that ABC was now setting up shop in Fabletown with Stu Zicherman and Raven Metzner, two comic fans, attached for an hour-long drama.
That was 2008.
Nothing ever developed out of that second pairing either and I’m not quite sure why, but it saddened many Fables fans including myself.
Fast forward to 2011.
Both NBC and ABC have primetime shows revolving around storybook characters existing for real in modern times. Not only that, ABC’s Once Upon a Time and NBC’s Grimm premiered within a week of each other. And you know what? I still wish at least one of the networks had chosen Fables instead. Or do I?
As of writing, I’ve watched two episodes of Once Upon a Time and one episode of Grimm. I’m not thrilled with either but I have a bit more affection for one. Once Upon a Time, while incredibly cheese-tastic at times (primarily the flashbacks), has at least caught my interest with its actors/characters. First thing’s first, Robert Carlyle is one of my favorite actors. Any reservations I had about giving the show a chance disappeared when I heard he was cast as Rumplestiltskin. Both Ginnifer Goodwin (Snow White) and Jennifer Morrison (Emma Swan) have impressed me with their past work and so far, seem to have great chemistry on the show. And it doesn’t hurt that people like Kristin Bauer van Straten (Pam from HBO’s True Blood) pop up either.
In my eyes, the show also benefits from its behind-the-scene stars. Jane Espenson, pretty much one of my idols, is co-executive producer. Writers on Lost Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis have been granted license from ABC’s parent company Disney to use their versions of classic fairy tale characters. That is, Snow White’s dwarves have their animated names and were seen whistling “Whistle While You Work” from the 1937 film, etc. That gives the show an advantage because it breeds familiarity in the audience from the get-go.While Once Upon a Time is filled with actors whom viewers are probably already familiar with from other popular shows, Grimm is populated with relative newcomers. David Giuntoli, the lead actor, is a former MTV Road Rules cast member. One actor on the show who has at least a few people I know excited is Sasha Roiz, who played Sam Adama on the short-lived Battlestar Galactica prequel series Caprica (as well as appearing on a few other genre shows). Their staff has a nice resume though, the pilot was directed by Marc Buckland, who worked on series like Felicity, The West Wing and My Name Is Earl. The first episode was written by Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel alum David Greenwalt and Will & Grace actor Sean Hayes acts as an executive producer.
Although it’s also playing with fairytale characters, Grimm has a different main concept. It’s billed as a mystery crime drama and NBC has a successful past with that genre, the long-running Law & Order a primary example. The only problem was, the first episode wasn’t very good. It had a way of reminding me of some of Heroes worst episodes and that was disappointing. While it had some interesting, dark moments that made me curious as to what could come down the road, a good chunk of the dialogue and most of their action sequences were extremely weak. It’s one of the reasons I’ve held off watching the second episode. I will sit down with it eventually because I don’t want to judge the show on just one but when you’re already in that state of mind, it’s not a good sign.
Now, I’m not here saying Fables was an entirely unique idea (it is based on the original fables itself after all) or that there’s no room for similar concepts. The two networks have to repeat themselves at some point and in this case they both have. ABC had a sitcom with a similar premise back in the 80s called The Charmings while NBC aired a mini-series called The 10th Kingdom. What I am saying is, although I’m a bit biased already being a fan, I believe Fables would have captured the imaginations of audiences much more.
Unlike Once Upon a Time, the characters of Fables already know who they are and shake up how you’re used to seeing them. In the comic series, Snow White isn’t a schoolteacher who simply can’t remember her past, she’s a woman who has moved past her Prince Charming days to become a strong leader in the community. It seems like ABC took the easy way out in a sense because we aren’t necessarily surprised by these characters, they are who we remember them to be from our childhoods. I want to be surprised in my television viewing. Obviously if they had adapted Fables I wouldn’t have been very surprised by the depictions because I’m a fan but you get what I’m trying to say. In that case you’d think I’d appreciate that from what I’ve seen so far, Grimm has produced generic rather than specific storybook characters to draw from but for some reason, it’s still not doing it for me.
Or maybe I’m just a Fables elitist. Can you blame me though? It’s a fantastic comic series and if you aren’t already reading it you should start. As a fantasy/fairy tale aficionado I appreciate what it did with the characters I learned about growing up and as a grown up, appreciate its adult nature. Maybe CBS will swoop in and pick it up! Where’s my Fairy Godmother when I need her…Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!