‘Grimm’ vs. ‘Once Upon a Time’: Can Either Fairy-Tale Series Live Happily Ever After?

Fall TV
NBC's "Grimm" takes on ABC's "Once Upon a Time" (NBC/Eric Ogden, ABC/Kharen Hill)
NBC's "Grimm" takes on ABC's "Once Upon a Time" (NBC/Eric Ogden, ABC/Kharen Hill)

(Television Without Pity) — Shows that debut around the same time with similar thematic elements aren't exactly a new thing -- 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 "The Playboy Club."

Now NBC's "Grimm" is premiering less than a week after ABC's "Once Upon a Time," and on the surface they have one major commonality: Both take classic fairy-tale 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 lump them together forever? And, more important, will either show 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 fairy-tale fame that are masquerading as humans and committing nefarious crimes. The pilot feels a lot like the early seasons of "Supernatural," with Nick (David Giuntoli) coming to terms with his family legacy and trying to fulfill his destiny while keeping his personal life separate. Here's hoping that his fiancée 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" is 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."

Watch a special extended preview of "Grimm" right here:

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 palette, bizarre little town, flashbacks to earlier times, and magical elements. Instead of solving mysteries like piemaker Ned, Emma's a 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" 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.

Watch the premiere of "Once Upon a Time" in full right here:

But while comparing these two new series against each other seems unfair, it is likely that audiences will gravitate toward one over the other instead of watching both. "Once Upon a Time" had the luxury of debuting first to a sizable audience, while "Grimm" will fight more of an uphill battle, as it airs on Friday nights in the exact same 9pm 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 8pm 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 fairy tale.

"Grimm" premieres Friday, 10/28 at 9pm ET on NBC; "Once Upon a Time" airs Sundays at 8pm ET on ABC.

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