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Holy shit. Once Upon a Time is fucking terrible.

I love the premise - fairytale characters denied their happy ending and cursed to live in the real world, with no memory of their "real" lives. If done well, it could be incredibly entertaining. Of course, Disney/ABC seems to have a tough time making quality TV these days; their entire lineup is made up of forgettable dramas or shitty, passionless ripoffs of better shows.

Once Upon a Time (OUaT, I'll abbreviate) feels like the latter, except that there was never a better fairytale show. They just went straight for a shitty, passionless ripoff of the Disney vault.

Here's how I imagine the studio exec meeting went:

"Let's see, so vampires and werewolves were hot, and for some reason people like Desperate Housewives, but when we combined the two with The Gates, it tanked. Then superheroes were big, so we decided to make another Heroes, I mean, The Incredibles, I mean, No Ordinary Family, but that flopped, too. Sassy female cops are popular on basic cable, let's put two of 'em in Body of Proof. Hey, people like that '60s Mad Men shit, right? Let's do that, but without any subtlety and make it about hot stewardesses and espionage! It'll go for at least a season if we give it a big enough marketing blitz. But we gotta rip off something new!"

"Conspiracy-themed island mystery-adventure?"

"No, Phil, Fox is doing that. With dinosaurs."

"Damn. Maybe we can do that, but during the Ice Age, with, like, CGI wooly mammoths 'n shit."

"We need something new. I was thinking, get ready for it...fairytales!"

"Yeah, but, Dave, NBC's doing that, with Grimm."

"I know, but that never stopped us before, Phil."

"You're right, Dave! Emma! Call my favorite hacks - I mean, writers - and get them over here. We gotta start spitballin' this project!"

*Aaaand...scene!* .

I'm convinced I've somehow teleported my consciousness into that room, because it doesn't seem possible that a skilled, powerful, passionate show-runner - somebody who gave a rat's ass about the content - could have put this shit together. Here is a sampling of the dialogue, which was delivered with the cheesiest, one-dimensional over-acting imaginable.

Evil Queen, at Snow White's wedding: I shall destroy your happiness, if it is the last thing I do.
Prince: Hey! *throws sword, she apparates away and reappears in her evil lair*
Henchman: Would you like something to drink? *presents a goblet on a silver tray*
Evil Queen: Do I look like I need a drink?
Henchman: I was only trying to help.
Evil Queen: Thank you. *takes goblet*
Mirror on Wall: Now that was an awfully big threat. Destroy everyone's happiness? How do you plan on accomplishing that?
Evil Queen: The dark curse.
Henchman: Are you sure, your majesty?
Mirror on Wall: But you said you'd never use it -
Henchman: -you made a deal when you gave away that curse -
Mirror on Wall: - you traded it away -
Henchman: - she won't be happy to see you.
Queen: Since when do I care about anyone's happiness but mine? Prepare the carriage. I'm going to the forbidden fortress.

Cut to -

Pam the Vampire's castle

Pam, I mean, "Maleficent": How are you dear?
Evil Queen: I'm doing fine.
Pam, I mean, "Maleficent": Are you? If it were me, I'd be simply tortured...watching that flake of snow so happy.

Srsly. You can't make this shit up.

Every line is bad. The Prince's delivery of "Hey!" sounds like a frat boy shouting across a parking lot. The Henchman's appearance with the goblet, and the exchange about whether or not the queen wants a drink, is weird and superfluous. Then the Mirror on the Wall and the Henchman deliver embarrassingly obvious exposition, culminating with one of the most clunky self-insights a character has ever uttered:

"Since when do I care about anyone's happiness but mine?"

You guys, this is for real. I actually paused it and ran it back. She really said it:

"Since when do I care about anyone's happiness but mine?"

And she didn't say it with an evil laugh, which might have softened its clunkiness by delivering a weak, ironic little self-aware insight into her own state of evil. No. She was serious. She actually, unironically chided her henchmen for cautioning her that she might piss off a fellow villain.

But, hey, right, it's only their second episode, sometimes it takes a while for a show to get it's stride....

...until we get to Pam the Vampire and "flake of snow."

Seriously. "Flake of snow." Granted, it was laced with all of Pam's heavy irony and smirking superiority, but...well..."flake of snow." It's not funny, and it's not an insult. It's just unbelievably stupid.

That's when I paused the stream and started writing this entry.


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July 2012

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