Archives for posts with tag: Once Upon A Time

I don’t watch anywhere near as much TV as I used to. Over recent years I’ve whittled it down to a few favorites that go on for season after season, and tend to try one or two new shows a year. This time the new ones are The Crazy Ones and Almost Human, both of which I really enjoy.

The ones I’ve watched the longest from day one are Criminal Minds, the NCIS twins, Once Upon a Time, and The Big Bang Theory. Newer finds are Haven, Warehouse 13, Falling Skies, The Game of Thrones, and The Walking Dead. And I have to throw in occasional bouts of Spongebob, because that’s the perfect show to chase away minor annoyances with its goofy yellow giggles.

Futurama deserves its own special difficultified category, because I love it so much. This year brought an awesome season that they insist really was the last one. At last. I add a whispered maybe, because it’s returned from the dead before. More than once…

Um…turns out I still watch quite a lot of TV. I guess I used to watch so much that the pruned back current version seems positively sparse. It seems like less since the seasons tend to be shorter and some series are summer only or split into two separate parts of a single season.

There’s usually an episode or two of all that I watch that take an emotional toll. This year has had so many that it’s been gutwrenching.

The worst one that comes to most minds is probably The Game of Thrones’ Red Wedding. That was absolutely a shocker, though I’m not as deeply involved as most fans. I’ve never read the books and only started watching the series because Sean Bean was in it. We all know how that ended after one season. I now refer to his character as Dead Ned’s Head. I didn’t watch the most recent season for quite a long time after it aired, so I’d picked up the general drift from frenzied wailing and gnashing of teeth that blew up Twitter. Then when I watched it, I’d thought it was one episode later than it was, and blindsided myself with watching it unexpectedly. It was painful, gory, and perhaps Michelle Fairley’s finest GoT moment. If a character has to go, it’s nice when their swan song is a tour de
force.

Whether he’s Rumple or his Storybrook counterpart Mr. Gold, the baddie we’ve loved to hate has had a rough Once Upon a Time season. His journey has had enough twists and turns to make even The Dark One queasy. His reunion with Pan led to the kind of twist/reveal fest that makes TV shine, and the road that led him down made me tumble into a rabbit hole lined with alternating layers of admiration and disappointment, until he redeemed himself grandly. The final fatal twist left me horrified, though if next season’s preview was to be believed you can’t keep a great bad guy down…or doomed…for long.

NCIS did it to me twice. I was sad to see Ziva leave, but devastated when near the end of the previous season they killed off her father. I’m a huge Michael Nouri fan and always looked forward to his appearances as the complicated, sometimes difficult, always riveting Eli David. Blindsided, horrified, jawdroppingly disappointed. I kept waiting for it to turn out to be a ploy…still waiting…not really waiting anymore. Sigh.

And then there’s The Walking Dead. I didn’t start watching that until they were at the farm. Just had a chance to figure out pretty much who everyone was…in time for Sophia to go into the barn. Daryl is my favorite character there. I was impressed with Norman Reedus all the way back to Dark Harbor, and that drastically increased from watching him on The Walking Dead. It’s probably easy to see this next part coming. My second favorite character? Why Hershel, of course. By the time the fall season finale was through with me, I was left wondering if I want to continue watching a show that can hurt me so much. Ridiculous, isn’t it? To feel so devastated by the fate of a fictional character. There it is, though. Hershel put the human and the humane in what was left of humankind, as the zombie apocalypse wore on year after year. The walkers walked on and the infected living fought to live. It’s one thing to fight against herds of unknowing undead, another entirely another to go up against a broken, depraved, vulnerable, psychopath like the Governor. First the can’t look away little girl in the flashflood walker trap and then the didn’t look away fast enough brutal, grisly (senseless?) use of Hershel as a way for the Governor to discharge at least the raw, initial explosion of grief and rage over losing a second little girl to the new normal. That sequence seemed to go on and on, leaving little room for satisfaction in what came after. I’ll probably keep watching the show. It’s got a rare finger on the pulse of the place where bloody horror meets humanity at its worse…and finest. But I’ll be wary from now on, watching for the defining moments that gut me where I sit.

So it was a difficult TV year. I’ll hold out at least a little hope that 2014 will bring a little glee for Daryl and Michonne shippers, a fun and adventurous reboot for transplanted Storybrookers, and for Joffrey to fall face first into a dung heap…full of flies…with his entire kingdom watching…at the very least. However, at the same time I’ll be bracing for a not so charming ever after, for the rest of the Starks to fall into new ruin, and a new big bad that makes the Governor look like Gandhi. At least one of those shows will still manage to blindside me anyway.

I hope.

I’ll be the first to admit that Once Upon A Time hits rough patches. Too many of them, but mostly it’s really only guilty of getting bogged down in its own rich playground. There’s simply too much story to potentially be told even if the series runs for decades. Fairytale characters and endless permutations thereof are like a candy store so big no story lover can choose any easier than the proverbial kid in a candy shop. Inevitably sometimes the kids fall all over themselves trying to get the most licks out of that one luscious lollipop, when there are divine assorted chocolates waiting on the next shelf.

So, yeah, I could have done with less Hugo and the magic beans and Tamara and whatsisname. Things got a little top heavy when Regina tried so hard to be good that she made herself badder in the process. And I stopped caring about Neil before…oh, yeah, well, I never really cared about him. His little boyness I liked though, and I came to extend that to the grownup version….

…this season.

This season Once Upon A Time did what they do best. Reboot! Suddenly we’re in Neverland and the twist/reveal/twist/revealapalooza begins. Oddly my two favorite characters are Henry the true believer and Rumple the true black heart. Or is that quite right? Robert Carlyle is an amazing actor. That tragically romantic devil Mister Gold had his origins in the soft spot The Dark One developed for Belle. Subtlety wrapped up in flamboyant darkness. What’s not to love?

The season so far, for all the other characters’ coolness moments, belonged to Henry and Rumple. Family and longing, honor, dishonor, and redemption. Peter Pan’s origin was the centerpiece and that singular reveal is my favorite of the series so far. It becomes harder and harder for a television series to blindside us, in our everyday world of constant, instant information.

Once Upon A Time blindsided the heck out of me this season…time and time again. I love that. The thrill of WTH is the holy grail of modern day entertainment. To get sucked so far in that we care is, in my opinion, the reason for entertainment. Books, movies, TV…characters that make me love them in spite of how flawed they are…that’s what storytelling is all about.

Transport me to another place…another time…give me characters I want to know…want to be…want to run away from in the dark…want to fight with shoulder to shoulder…. Give me Rumple and Henry and Pan. Then reboot again and again and again. Keep it fresh. Keep it real, within its unreality. Promise enough and keep those promises most of the time. That will keep me believing and watching…once upon a time.

I’ve come across numerous indications that the writing of ABC’s hit series Once Upon a Time strikes some people as awful.

I think I know why.

And I beg to differ.

From the moment I first heard  the concept, I was thrilled and optimistic. In depth stories of beloved fairy tale characters? What’s not to like? Their parallel lives in the horrible, horrible place they’ve been banished to? What’s not to love? (TPTB have long been forgiven for the little fact that that horrible, horrible place is the reality we all call home without aide of banishment. We’ve suffered all along in this dreary life without magic. Who knew?) That the men behind the Once Upon a Time magic also guided us through the deliciously confounding labyrinth that was Lost? Icing. Cake. I wasn’t crazy about the end, but what a ride it was that led us there!

So. I have adored Once Upon a Time, from the first moment until the recent cliffhanger. I love everything about it. The costumes alone are a reason to watch.  Regina\Evil Queen is like quicksilver.Now you hate her. Then you don’t.Wait…now you hate her again. I forgive her for calling those lowly Red Delicious hanging from her poison tree by the lofty title Honey Crisp. I may think the writers know their stuff, but like the rest of us, they are human.  I’m almost certain of it. 

The thing is that fairy tales are their own off from center little genre. I’m not sure what the Brothers Grimm and all their dark angled comrades in words actually intended, but I like to think it wasn’t to scare children to sleep. That probably lies squarely on the head of some nameless peasant, with a tendency toward dark humor and the uncanny for his time ability to read.

Fairy tales come with a certain stylized language. Not so much the words themselves, but how they’re arranged. There’s a cadence and flair to the way they sound in the heads of their readers. In the right voice/brain combination, they emerge the same way when read aloud. Gifted actors capture that atmospheric rhythm perfectly. Think The Princess Bride.

There is drama in fairy tales that is missing in our everyday lives. High drama. If we aren’t exposed to it often, we don’t recognize it when it suddenly appears. It sounds stilted and unnatural to our untutored ears. Only if we know to expect it do we recognize its arrival. Once Upon a Time captures the extravagance of high drama to a tea…er…T. The Mad Hatter influence, don’t you know?

If you’ve read Wicked and its sister books, you know I just channeled Sir Brrr for a second there. If I could have my fondest Once Upon a Time wish granted, it would be for a Wizard of Oz episode, with Idina Menzel playing old Westie.

I suppose I’m a bit sensitive to the reactions of unaccustomed ears to specific speech patterns, whether written or spoken. I once got a very nice comment from a literary magazine on a story set in England, followed by a second comment that the dialogue seemed unnatural. It seemed unnatural to someone not familiar with words, speech patterns, and idioms common to
the British.

I cut my teenage reading teeth on Dickens, Shakespeare, and the Bronte sisters, and spent several weeks traveling around the U. K. as an adult. I’ve read enough Anne Perry Victorian mysteries to have a crush on Monk and wish for a Great Aunt Vespasia of my own.

I’ve been an Anglophile almost as long as I’ve been a person, and though I do not affect a British accent, I probably would if I thought I could get by with it. When I create British characters, I hear them that way in my head. Hopefully, all readers don’t need me in their heads with them to translate.

And hopefully all Once Upon a Time viewers don’t need the Brothers Grimm in their heads to translate fairy tale speak for them. Worse yet, Mr. Gold. I’m sure Rumplestiltskin would be happy to oblige. Just remember, dearie…down the road there’s always a price for his services.

Once Upon a Time Season 2 Promo

The new fall TV season is getting close enough that it’s time to start up the anticipation machine. In high gear.

While I will admit that some shows are best limited to runs of a few years, others can sail on into infinity and I’ll happily watch.

A few of my favorites–

Fringe–Top of the heap. I went from mildly enjoying it to “can hardly wait for every episode”. Science tends to interest me, so of course Walter’s version of fringe science fascinates me.

It caters hugely to the most curious centers of my brain. The ones involving Observers, the guy who played Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows so very creepily, and watching Leonard Nimoy inhabit William Bell, the anti-Spock if ever I saw one.

While on the subject of catering…it’s always a smart idea to refrain from watching and eating at the same time. In the way of walking and chewing gum, it just might make you fall down…on your way to the bathroom to throw up!

John Noble deserves awards for his work on Fringe. Most Endearingly Tragic Not Quite Right In the Head Super Scientist. At the very least. Funny how having part of his brain removed by his best friend made him a better person

And funny how Pacey grew up to be such a charmingly romantic mad genius’ son…and a bit of a chip off the old block. Depending on which version of Peter you consider. But then I lost track of exactly which Peter I was seeing and how many Olivia’s are roaming the multiple universes at any given moment somewhere in the middle of last season.

You know what? I don’t mind a bit.

Once Upon A Time–I fell in love with this one from the commercials.The people in charge know how to create lush visuals, fascinating characters, and storylines that keep me guessing.

The costumes alone deserve their own accolades. Regina looks appropriately evil whether in Storybrook or storybook land. And I still want to raid her closet.

I want to visit Mr. Gold’s shop.

In fact I’d be happy to vacation in either reality. As long as the big bads were all toned down for the duration and the happily ever after potential did a preview show while I was there.

And I remembered that even apples in tart form are not to be approached lightly.

The NCIS twins–I started watching both because favorite actors are among the casts. David McCallum is priceless as Ducky on NCIS, as is Linda Hunt as NCIS:LA’s Hetty. I’m still watching both these excellent series all this time later. ‘Nough said.

Criminal Minds–Another cast related choice. I’ve loved Mandy Patinkin’s work since Yentl. He was amazing on Chicago Hope. And he has a true gift for singing, which I know in detail from having a number of his CDs.

I’m fascinated enough by the series’ criminal psychology storylines to remain a fan even this long since Patinkin’s deep well Gideon departed. The cast remains strong and the storylines remain fresh, which can be a problem with long lived TV dramas. The story they did a while back guest starring Harold and Maude’s Bud Cort was so outstanding that it rebooted the entire series for me.

Keep it fresh, keep it surprising, keep the audience. Criminal Minds knows this mantra well.

I can’t cover TV I’m looking forward to without mentioning Downton Abbey. I love it so much I simply cannot wait for more. Unfortunately, I have no choice since the new season doesn’t start until early next year.

The absence of new series is intentional. I can’t decide what to try. If anything. It seems to have been all but proven by fall seasons past that at least half the new shows I fall in love with get cancelled before I’m finished with them.

Often before I really get started….