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Fool me twice "Upon a Time," shame on me

By Lombardo David
Saturday, October 12, 2013

If you've got it, use it.

That appears to be the reasoning behind ABC's creation of "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland," a Thursday night fantasy drama that is a spin-off of "Once Upon a Time."

The Mickey Mouse channel has decided to again tap into its wealth of storybook characters and is trying to recreate the mild success of "Once Upon a Time," with a smaller world that focuses on the characters from Alice in Wonderland and Aladdin. The odd pairing is just one of many oddities about the show.








"Knave of Hearts" and Alice

While the original show focuses on a handful of core characters and has a serialized plot, which moves along with a new challenge each episode, the new show appears to have a more narrow focus and is more reliant on a season-long story arc. It's almost odd how small the cast is, as it appears to be only six main actors (that includes an animated character), which is less than just the number of dwarves on "Once Upon a Time."

The debut of the show on Thursday night was mildly entertaining, but it didn't stand out from this year's new drama "Sleepy Hallow," which also relies on a famous fictional character, and didn't even come close to measuring up to the original.

The pilot introduces us to Alice, a mental patient who claims to have been to Wonderland as a young girl. She decides to return to Wonderland, with a little help, in order to find her love, a genie, who she thought was dead. That's about it (except it's also not clear whether Alice lives in the past or another world. Just another not-fun twist to the show).

Star Sophie Low's performance as Alice wasn't nearly as interesting as Ginnifer Goodwin's portrayal of Snow White. The most disturbingly bad element was Naveen Andrews, apparently channeling the evil version of Sayid on Lost, as show villain Jafar, from Aladdin.

Standing out from the pack is Michael Socha, as the Knave of Hearts. He is an interesting actor and it shows in the first episode, as Socha makes something out of nothing.

My devotion to Socha stems from his role on the U.K. version of Being Human, where he played a dim werewolf. In that performance he used heavy eyes to convey a depth of emotions.

A large problem with the show is its goal, which has evolved to be more grandiose than initially conceived. Designed as a winter-fill-in for the mother show, Wonderland has grown to its own standalone show, with a first season order of more than 13 episodes. Its current vision of a full-season run is far too lofty.

There is a version of this show that could work for a limited run, either as a 13-episode miniseries or a 13-epsiode season every year. If it went the miniseries run, I think ABC should have followed the "American Horror Story" model, and just tried a different winter-fill-in every year. The show could focus on a different fantasy world each year.

So while it's great that ABC wants a full-season run for this show, I don't think it has that long to live.

Follow @poozer87 on Twitter.

 
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