Shows with similar thematic elements that debut around the same time isn't exactly something new -- just think of 30 Rock and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Ghost Whisperer and Medium, Lipstick Jungle and Cashmere Mafia or even this season's Mad Men wannabes Pan Am and Playboy Club. Now Grimm is appearing less than a week after Once Upon a Time and on the surface, they have one major commonality: both take classic fairytale characters and storylines and attempt to bring them into the present day. But the similarities primarily end there. Will viewers look past the promos and magazine blurbs to realize that the programs are absolutely nothing alike? Or will they be forcibly lumped together forever? And more importantly, will either last more than a season or two?
Grimm is a dark procedural drama that follows a detective who discovers that he's descended from a line of criminal profilers who have the ability to see big bad wolves and other supernatural beasties of fairytale fame that are masquerading as humans and committing nefarious crimes. The pilot felt a lot like the early seasons of Supernatural, with Nick (David Guintoli) coming to terms with his family legacy and trying to fulfill his destiny while keeping his personal life separate. Here's hoping that his fiancé doesn't end up on the ceiling engulfed in flames by the season's end. Or that no one goes to hell and back. Grimm's a moody mystery with a creature-of-the-week showing up for Nick to put a stop to, thanks to help from reformed bad wolf Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell, who does creepy really well). It's almost like Alaric teaming with Damon or Stefan to take down threats on The Vampire Diaries.
By contrast, Once Upon a Time is a brightly colored, highly stylized, epic saga that involves Snow White and Prince Charming saving their only child by having her smuggled through a magic tree into our world in order to escape the clutches of the Evil Queen. In our reality, the characters still exist in the town of Storybrooke, and the now adult child (Jennifer Morrison) has been drawn back there to help them fight off evil and recapture their memories. The show has the look and feel of Pushing Daisies with its vibrant palate, bizarre little town, flashbacks to earlier times and magical elements. Instead of solving mysteries like pie-maker Ned, Emma's a badass bounty hunter, but both characters try to figure out the bizarre birthrights they have been stuck with. And judging by the feedback generated by the series premiere, the audience will likely be divided into love-it and hate-it factions just like Daisies was. Once's drama is whimsical, fanciful and over-the-top in some ways, but though there's a "war" brewing and Rumpelstiltskin gives us the creeps, the show's not what you'd call scary by any stretch of the imagination.
But while comparing these two new series against each other seems unfair, it is likely that audiences will gravitate towards one over the other instead of watching both. Once Upon a Time had the luxury of debuting first to a sizable audience, while Grimm has more of an uphill battle as it airs on Friday nights in the exact same 9 PM timeslot as Supernatural. It's unlikely that the fans watching the latter are going to switch at this point -- even though Grimm might be more satisfying. Plus, Grimm has Chuck as its lead-in, and that perennial bubble show isn't exactly a ratings grabber, while Once secured the family-friendly Sundays at 8 PM slot. Then again, Supernatural has managed to hang on for seven years, whereas Pushing Daisies only got two abbreviated seasons, so although the prospects may seem grim for Grimm, a happy ending would not be a complete fairytale.
Will Grimm investigate such fairytales as "The Donkey Cabbages" and "The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage"? Find out in this video:
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