Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Once Upon a Time, there was a TV Show on ABC . . .

Once upon a time, ABC aired a TV show with compelling storytelling, where interesting, flawed characters ruled the realm, and true love’s kiss could restore any life. What happened to that show?  

Season 1 of ABC’s Once Upon a Time held such promise. I watched a captivating show with a unique premise, where seemingly familiar characters were recast in truly remarkable ways. Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold and The Mad Hatter/Jefferson were such deep, tortured souls. I could not get enough of them. The story lines between fairyland and Storybrooke were easy to follow and compelling.

What happened? How has the story lost its way? Maybe the writers don’t have a clue where the story is headed. I mean, how many characters can one show introduce? It seems like a dozen secondary characters have come and then disappeared. Plot lines were developed and then vanished. I think the only fictional characters left in the world that the writers have NOT tapped so far are from the Greek and Roman Pantheon!
Then there’s the portal. How often must characters be sucked into fairyland? How many times can the writers get away with this plot device before it becomes cliché and boring? For me, two times is all I can tolerate. So, present-day Storybrooke, present-day Neverland, past Neverland, present-day Enchanted Forest, and past Enchanted Forest, it’s all becoming a boring mess to me.

Finally, there’s Snow and Charming, about as flat and interesting as two pieces of cardboard. I know they’re the epitome of all that is good in people. But, jeez louise, do something interesting or get out! 

Watching season 2 of Once Upon a Time has reinforced to me what good storytelling is all about—interesting, flawed characters set in captivating situations and worlds. I pray I never forget that. I hope the writers of the show quickly right their floundering ship before my interest is sucked into that dreaded portal, never to return.    


  1. I understand what you mean. I do feel the show is more concerned about the special effects, the "flash," the smoke and mirrors in some ways. Though I love how many characters they introduced -it gave the viewers back stories to ponder- it did leave them with quite a load to carry. I wonder if the writers were just trying to add a little piece to each puzzle, and then cram it all into the second season. I actually made my own storyline to one of the characters (who was never introduced) and I must say, I enjoy going back and forth between that story and all the others. Still, I see what you mean. I'm afraid the writers steered off the course, being more concerned with satisying a hungry, fast-paced audience rather than letting the stories and sub-plots unfold in their own time. That is the unfortunate fate of many shows whose producers believe it is moving to slowly. It is very interesting what you're saying about flawed characters, though. I always have trouble with that. I always want my characters to do the noble thing and have perfect morals. If they renew for a third season, let's hope "Once Upon A Time" revives its shadowy appeal.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Grace. I found your comment interesting as well: 'I always want my characters to do the noble thing and have perfect morals.' Isn't it possible for someone to do the noble thing and still have character flaws? If we, as writers, want to reach a broader audience, is it realistic to have characters who always have the right answer or always do the right thing, who never doubt, never stumble, never have inner conflicts? To me, people like that don't exist in the real world and they shouldn't exist in a story.