Fall TV: “Once Upon a Time” Vs “Grimm”

Looking at the upcoming fall TV season, we've noticed a few shows that appear to be filling the same void with similar themes. Over the next few days we'll be breaking some of them down for you.

This time around, we have a little case of "Twice Upon a Time" - two series that attempt to make fairytales the new superheroes with twisty takes on classic characters from long ago and far away...

Grimm (NBC)
Nick Burckhardt (David Giuntoli) is a homicide detective from Portland who gets thrown off his game when he starts seeing gruesome, monstrous faces appearing on seemingly normal people. While investigating the brutal murder of a young jogger, he is visited by his aging aunt who explains that he is actually a descendent of the "Grimms," a group of humans with the ability to see mythological creatures known as Hexenbiests and Blutbads (which one character explains has been butchered into "big bad wolf.") Now he has to accept his legacy and protect humans against ancient evils they don't even know were real.

Once Upon a Time (ABC)

Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) is a bail bondsman (sorry, bail bondsperson) living a lonely, deadbeat-chasing life in Boston. One day, she is visited by a small boy who claims to be the child she gave up for adoption ten years earlier. The precocious kid coaxes her to return to his home of Storybrooke, a community she is told is made up of fairy tale characters who don't know they are fairy tale characters. In a parallel world, we find out that Snow White's (Ginnifer Goodwin) happy ending was marred by an Evil Queen's (Lana Parrilla) curse, and that the curse is why these characters are trapped in our world. Only one person holds the key to breaking the curse and setting the beloved storybook characters free.

The Fairytale Treatment

Both "Grimm" and "Once Upon a Time" owe some debt to the Vertigo Comics series "Fables" created by Bill Willingham back in 2002 which imagines fairy tale characters living and working in modern-day Manhattan. The concept caught producers' fancy before. NBC tried developing a "Fables" series in 2006, though it never aired, and ABC tried something in 2008. But this is the first time anything even remotely related has made it to the small screen.

Despite the fairy tale baseline, "Grimm" and "Once Upon a Time" vary wildly in tone and structure, making them unique enough in their own right so they could, conceivably, exist side by side. "Grimm" takes its cues from horror movies and serial killer thrillers. It's dark, it's creepy, and it's meant to be unsettling (screaming monster heads are frequent).  "Once Upon a Time" on the other hand, is aiming for fantasy, with its influence clearly "Harry Potter" (humans don't know that they're magical). The tone is lighter, more like a magical mystery, and the idea behind it is that the "fairy tale" world exists in a parallel universe to this one - and that world is populated by traditional versions of classic characters (even a CGI Jiminy Cricket). "Grimm" also imagines that "their" world has always been a part of "ours," in the shadows, while "Once Upon a Time" basically positions "our" world as a fairy tale prison where happy endings don't exist.

The Creators

The tonal differences make a hell of a lot more sense when you consider the creative forces behind each show. The dark and bloody "Grimm" comes courtesy of producers David Greenwalt, Jim Kouf, Todd Millinerm and Steve Oster, who have all collectively and individually worked on similarly-themed shows like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Angel," "Kidnapped," "Carnivale," "The Cape," and, um, "Hot in Cleveland."

"Once Upon a Time," however, is headed up by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, who both cut their teeth on the superhero soap opera "Birds of Prey" and then reteamed for the mysterious puzzle-solver "Lost." Both of those elements are very much in play on this show.

"Grimm" premieres on NBC Friday, October 21st at 9 PM ET. "Once Upon a Time" bows Sunday, October 23rd at 8 PM ET on ABC.


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