We Recommend: Once Upon A Time

Starting tonight on Channel Five, it’s Once Upon A Time, a fairytale-based soap-drama... thing. Alongside Homeland, it’s one of the big new series from the US this year, and it also has direct competition in the form of Grimm, a grindingly average new series in which fairytale characters re-enact Buffy.

So, can Once Upon A Time triumph over this stiff opposition?

The action revolves around the town of Storybrooke (see what they did there?) in Maine, populated entirely by fairytale characters “banished” to our world by some evil curse, now living normal human lives, having forgotten they were once Snow White or whoever.

Outsider Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison of House fame) is brought to Storybrooke by her long-lost son, who knows the truth, but no-one seems to believe him. And worst of all, her kid’s adoptive mother is Regina, aka the Evil Queen who cursed them all.

It appears Once Upon A Time has salvaged a few writers from departed island mystery Lost, and that doesn’t surprise me, because you might notice a few familiar tics. After all, in both cases we see a bunch of characters hang around a mysterious location with af secret, whilst flashbacks reveal the past events that inform the present.

Because, yes, the pilot episode spends a while indulging in lengthy flashbacks to fairytale land, while Emma wanders around Storybrooke getting shouted at. Like many pilot episodes, especially those setting up a very complex world, it’s not the most smooth and brilliant of viewing experiences.

But nonetheless, Once Upon A Time has a definite charm and style of its own, even if some of the acting veers into soap territory at times, especially Lana Parrilla as The Most Obvious Evil Villain In The World. The best showing, not surprisingly, comes from Robert Carlyle as Mister Gold, who is clearly going to be a big reason to keep watching.

And, more importantly, Once Upon A Time seems like it has a story that might be going somewhere and hasn’t been done a million times before, which by itself puts it well up on Grimm. It’s definitely watchable light fluff for a Sunday night, anyway.

Once Upon A Time airs on Sunday nights at 8PM on Channel 5, starting tonight. More on the Channel 5 official site.

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