Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Once Upon a Time: It's No LOST, But It'll Do

First and most importantly, I want to thank everyone who left a kind message on this site, Facebook, or Twitter in response to yesterday's post. I had mixed feelings about writing out such personal stuff and then putting it on display oh-so-publicly, but now I'm glad I did.

So since you're up to speed on some of the bigger things that have been going on with me over the last few months, let's move on to the #1 question I've been asked by fellow LOST fans during that same time period: "What new shows are you watching now that The Best TV Series Of All Time has come to an end?"

What most people find hard to believe is that I really don't watch TV. I think that since my LOST posts were SO LONG, combined with the fact that, in general, I tend to be well versed in all things pop culture, there's just a natural assumption that I tune in to a lot of shows. But the reality is that since I've typically spent about three nights a week in movie theaters at press screenings since mid-2008, and since I've also had a rotating stack of DVDs begging for attention here at home that entire time as well, it just doesn't leave much room for TV. What's more, I don't have any of the cable channels like HBO or Showtime, and I'm just one of those people that hardly ever has a TV on overall—I refuse to watch any sort of news program (I read the news instead) and prefer silence whenever possible, so I'm not one to have shows/commercials/whatever on for background noise. However, I read a ton of entertainment magazines, blogs, Twitter feeds and sites, so I tend to have a handle on what's going on with all of the mainstream/popular TV series, even if I've never once watched them.

The shows I've chosen to keep up with over the years (and by that I mean that I DVR them and then sometimes weeks go by before I'm finally caught up) would admittedly fall into the "COMPLETELY MINDLESS entertainment" category. I think my brain just needed a rest after LOST. So the only shows I've watched with any regularity are Gossip Girl (yay for Chuck Bass!), The Amazing Race (travel/vacation ideas, duh), Survivor (new shades of deviousness never fail to amaze me, even after a decade), Top Chef (I hate to cook but like to learn about and be able to better appreciate good food), The Office (this one may soon get the boot, but I still love Jim at least), and—as embarrassed as I am to admit this—every recent season of The Real World and The Challenge on MTV (doesn't get more mindless than that, folks). That's it. My husband and I usually DVR all of the late-night talk shows as well, but only so that we can pick and choose to watch a specific interview or band/singer's performance that we're interested in.

But there is one show that I picked up this season, and as you already know from the title and graphic in this post, it's Once Upon a Time. I chose this one because: 1) I love, love, love fairy tales, 2) it's from two of the writers of LOST, and 3) it had gotten the thumbs up in advance of its premiere from many of my TV critic pals, like JOpinionated.

I don't foresee myself giving up on this show, despite some of the major problems I have with it, which I'm about to list out for you. But I'll start with the positive: I'm not going to give up on it because I like its core concept too much. All of the characters are living in the present day in this weird town and have no idea that they're actually all major figures from fairy tales. We see LOST-like flashbacks to their fairy-tale existences and learn how those same experiences have now translated into their current situations. It's unique and creative and I've usually found myself shedding a tear at least once an episode—another thing it has in common with LOST!

But make no mistake: Once Upon a Time is no LOST. Not even close. Here are the two main reasons why:

1) It might have the worst special effects I've seen on TV in years. Granted, I've just revealed that I don't watch that much TV so I'm probably not a good judge of what is and isn't acceptable, but so much of OUaT looks amateurishly green-screened or horribly CGI'd or just laughably fake that my husband actually refuses to watch it. I know this isn't the writers' fault, but I certainly hope that since the show has done well in the ratings that ABC will give the production team a higher FX budget going forward. It would help my enjoyment of the series immensely to not be so distracted by the B-movie-looking scenes.

2) There's no one character or actor/actress I'm really digging. As you all know, I immediately loved the character of John Locke on LOST, but also personally identified very closely with Jack from the beginning...and also adored almost ALL of the other characters, with Desmond, Sawyer, Sayid, Hurley, Charlie, Lapidus, Ben and Juliet (and Vincent, dammit!) being other favorites. On OUaT, I'm feeling no such love for anyone. If I HAD to pick a favorite, it would have been the character that was just killed off in this past weekend's episode—d'oh. And don't get me started on the kid, Henry (who's trying to convince everyone of their real identities). A child actor has to be REALLY good to not annoy the crap out of me, and the little guy playing Henry is unfortunately not up to snuff.

But the story's the thing, and that's what OUaT has going for it. I absolutely must know how everything's going to turn out for these characters—not because I really care about any of them individually at this point, but rather because the overall set-up is just so intriguing to me. How will they react when they learn who they really are? Will they remain in our world or go back to fairy-tale land? Are people like Henry and Emma Swan recognizable fairy-tale characters or not? Etc., etc.

I know a lot of you are watching Once Upon a Time, too, and so I'd love to hear your thoughts. Do you agree with my gripes above, or am I being too hard on the show? Spoilers are allowed in the comments, of course!

- e


Arjun said...

Even your post made me shed a tear when I began reading names of the LOSTIES! :(

But if you say this is good, then it's worth a try!

tierdear said...

I feel the same way about Once Upon a Time. I'm so starved for something that smacks of Lost at this point that I would consider attaching myself to a Kardashian spin off if it was written by the Lost writers.

Also, GIRLFRIEND, I don't think I knew you watched Gossip Girl!?!?!?!??!??!? That has been my guilty pleasure for YEARS.

We should Gchat sometime about it. Are you a Chair or Dair shipper?! :)

Mommy with a Masters said...

I completely agree with you on just about everything about OUaT! The special effects drive me crazy!! But not crazy enough to stop watching. I'm intrigued by the characters, but not really draw into anyone specifically. Have you noticed the shout-outs to LOST? The mayor's house is #108. Henry had an Apollo candy bar, and Emma drank the same whiskey that Penny's dad said was too good for Desmond. I'm sure there are more, but those are the ones I've caught!

Joshua said...

The only other problem I have is Morrison who I find a rather wooden lead.

However, the show is totally awesome and just gets better with each episode (the pilot I found to be the weakest).

And who can resist the LOST references? Lets not forget the clock was stuck at 8.15 as well as the Apollo bars, MacCutcheon Whiskey, house #108 ...

Spanio said...

Firstly, congrats and it's totally good that you're still alive after all this time!
I haven't watched this fairy tale show, but will probably give it a go once I have some free time..

The one show I am watching that I feel I absolutely must recommend is my pick for "best tv show currently on television."

Breaking Bad.

It's about subject matter I typically don't care about, but I actually am in love with this show. The tight continuity and strong character development might be the only things it has in common with LOST (well.. there is this one thing that happens later... but I'll let you discover that on your own).

The first 3 seasons are streaming on Netflix, so definitely check it out if you get the chance. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

(I really didn't mean to derail your thread here, I just feel like converting everyone to this show!)

Brian said...

I'm not foolish enough to think my facebook comment instigated this entry, but I'm glad it's here nonetheless. If you wanted, you could also mention the LOST easter eggs hidden for viewers such as yourself (the bottle of MacCutcheon in this last episode in honor of the actor that played Widmore).

As far as the show, my big turn off is that they started out like gangbusters and already I'm recognizing "mid-season" types of episodes where nothing happens. The "trapped in a cave underground" episode seemed similar in spirit to the Dharma van episode or the "this station could release toxic gas all over the island" episode. Contrived drama that is quickly resolved with just a hint of importance at the very end.

But, all in all, it's the only new show that has kept my attention and I look forward to it every week. I think Rumplestiltskin has "Ben" potential. Chick from House is NO Jack Shepherd, sadly.

Aunt J-ha said...

I'm also digging Once Upon a Time, But as I watch, I find myself wishing for more episodes of Big Love and Swingtown. Still, it is fun and I'm intrigued to see where it goes. The last episode with the huntsman history was the best so far, so I think it will continue to hook me.

As for Lost substitute, Have you seen American Horror Story? Very Intriguing story line, kind of scary but not over the top. Its drawing me in.

WOW Music Studios said...

Hi e--

We are watching OUaT, but are not that thrilled with it. Pay t.v. is the way to go these days if you want great stories and characters that you care about like we did with the ones on LOST.

If you ever decide to get Showtime, you will get to watch three of the best shows on t.v.:

1) "Nurse Jackie". I think you would love this show because the writing is very witty. Acting is fantastic. Story and characters are great. I think the first two seasons are on DVD.

2) "Homeland". New this year. Fantastic story, so well written. Cast is perfect. Smart t.v. and very entertaining. We are hooked.

3) "Dexter." The first 3 seasons were absolutely top-notch, some of the best writing on t.v. and wonderful characters. Last 2 seasons have been good but not great since the creator left. But renting the first 3 seasons is highly recommended. Of course, having a baby and all, you might be a bit grossed out times.

The last few weeks of my pregnancy, I was too tired to go anywhere, so I just watched DVDs waiting for the baby to come. Maybe some of these suggestions will help pass the time.


another e (Emily)

Peg Burgess said...

You a right it is not LOST, which was a one of a kind. That said it is a show that makes me look forward to the next episode. I enjoy "Henry", think the "Evil Queen" is wonderful and love the back and forth of the storyline. I do think that "Emma" was mis-cast, but she has the potential to move up the scale. Will enjoy your input on this one.

Outbck844 said...

I'm with you, OUAT has filled the LOST hole the best that it can. I didn't think I would, but it is very well done. I guess I don't have an issue with the visual effects. I don't expect it to be movie quality. Plus, if you compare it to Terra Nova it looks awesome. I tried to get into Person of Interest, but I just cannot feel that show. Looking forward to Alcatraz though.

R.P. McMurphy said...

e, congrats on your big news. Sleep now, while you can!

I'm very much enjoying Once Upon A Time. I agree that the effects stand out, so much so that I think it is intentional. The green screens are so obvious, it has to be on purpose. Perhaps an indicator of the Fairy Tale World not actually being reality? Kind of like looking at a storybook.

Others have pointed out some of the LOST nods on the show. I love seeing them but wish they weren't so blatant. I like having to look for them, like the Geronimo Jackson sticker on Emma's VW.

Always love your insights.

IndiaC said...

OUaT has held my interest from the beginning and I, too, was drawn in by the LOST parallels. I did appreciate certain Lost fan jokes like the clock being stuck on 8:15 in the first episode and the other things mentioned, but i agree with everything you said. The only character that I felt connected to was Graham and that could only be because we got the heart of his story. Hopefully, they will find a way to make that work out for us, but otherwise no character has stolen my heart. Where you loved John Locke, I loved Charlie Pace, and only the Doctor and Rory have come close to filling that void. I am incredibly intrigued by Rumpelstitskin/Mr. Gold. He is the most interesting character for me thus far, but other than that I have yet to find the magic. I will stick with the show because I, too, need to know what happens to them and I am incredibly curious about what Snow did to upset the Queen, but those answers probably won't come for quite sometime. I hope you'll write the occasional review about the show. They always make me happy :)

Tarah said...

Glad you're back, E, and congrats on your pregnancy! Although, that probably means it will be months before we hear from you again. :) We have been watching OUaT here as well, and have enjoyed it. I agree with your assessment completely. We have also really enjoyed watching Michael Emerson and Jim Caviezel do Person of Interest. I think that show is just getting rolling, and that there will be more depth and layers to it as we go. I think you should give that one a try too!

Angel said...

Hi E.
I love Once Upon a Time, It's unique, quirky and fun. I love Rumplestiltskin the best! He's so deliciously evil in his "past fairy tale" life... The graphics could use tweaking and since they got picked up for another season I'll cross my fingers for better effects.

Kelly, UK said...

Hi e,
I hope all is well with you, your man and little Des :)

Just wanted to say I have been watching OUaT and enjoying it very much. Sure, there are some shaky CGI bits, but the plot is original and although I don't feel strongly connected to any of the characters yet (I'm up to where the sheriff was killed), there's potential. Very glad to read it has been picked up for a second season too.

Other US shows I love are How I Met Your Mother and Community - the comedy is brilliantly quirky and unexpected. And I do care a lot about those characters...