Once upon a time, two networks battled for fairytale supremacy. On ABC last week, Once Upon a Time premiered, telling the story of a Bostonian bounty hunter who may or may not (all signs indicate that she may) be the daughter of Prince Charming and Snow White. On NBC, Grimm premiered on Friday, showcasing the rise of a police detective who is the descendant of the Grimms, who seem to be fairy tale bounty hunters.
So far, Once Upon a Time is doing a better job engaging the audience. Granted, it’s had the benefit of one more episode. Perhaps I should have given one more episode to Grimm before offering an opinion but the beauty of being an American is that I have the opportunity to give my opinion at any time I wish to. I can also change my mind if Grimm makes up for it’s current foibles.
What I like more about Once Upon a Time is that I already know what I’m getting into. Rather than recreate the stories we grew up with, this show is telling a brand new story starring our favorite childhood characters. Snow White, Prince Charming, Rumpelstiltskin, Geppetto, Maleficent, and so many more have the history that we’re familiar with and their stories are richer by depositing them in Storybrooke, Maine and wiping their memories due to a spell cast by the Evil Witch. Enter Emma Swan, the Bostonian bounty hunter, who is approached by the son she gave up for adoption ten years earlier to save his little town from the Witch’s curse. Flashbacks to life before the curse add legitimacy to the story being told. It feels like it is a continuation of the fairy tales we all know and love.
Grimm, on the other hand, is a reimagining of the history of the Brothers Grimm. Portland, OR detective Nick Burkhardt begins to see strangers’ faces morph to reveal darker origins. Some of these people are called Bludbods (or something crazy like that) which are actually what we would refer to as big bad wolves. Werewolves. The first episode details Detective Burkhardt trying to solve a murder/kidnapping case where people wearing red hoodies are being mauled to death and/or kidnapped. Sound familiar? At the same time, the good detective’s aunt mysteriously arrives from out of town to tell him his heritage. Apparently, she is about to die, which is why Burkhardt can suddenly see the true nature of some of the people around him. He is a Grimm, which is a fairy tale slayer of sorts. Mostly, it looks like he’s a werewolf hunter. It feels like Grimm is trying to piggy-back on the success of Twilight, True Blood, and Vampire Diaries.
The main difference between the two shows is tone. Both are definitely mysteries but Grimm has a “monster of the week” leading up to a “big bad” formula whereas Once Upon a Time has a more organic story with each episode leading up to a big reveal but without the gimmick of a mini-mystery each week to keep the audience engaged. Other shows have definitely followed the same formula, notably shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Veronica Mars, and usually Dexter and maybe that’s why Grimm isn’t exactly working for me: I’ve seen it before. It’s predictable. On the other hand, Once Upon a Time is a little different and I’m liking how it’s slowly peeling back the layers for a rich storytelling experience.
I’ll definitely give Grimm a few more episodes. David Greenwalt (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Jim Kouf (Angel) are producers that definitely have the “monster of the week” formula down to a science so maybe it’s just a slow burn. After all, I didn’t start to like Ringer until almost six episodes in and I was only giving it a shot because of Sarah Michelle Geller. However, if someone forced me to choose between the two of them for space on my DVR, at this point, I’d have to give the space to Once Upon a Time.
I will say that (aside from the obvious werewolf references in Grimm) I am just glad it’s not another show about vampires.