TV and Movies
Once Upon a Time vs Grimm

Once Upon a Time, Sundays at 8 on ABC

There are few things true geeks like more than a genuine debate about who or what is the best of something. Who’s the best Star Trek captain? (Kirk) Who’s the best Doctor? (David Tennant) So it’s really no surprise that when Once Upon a Time and Grimm, two very similar shows, debuted this fall people immediately started to argue over which was better and which would manage to escape cancellation.

I started off firmly in the Grimm camp. It’s so reminiscent of Buffy that it felt a bit like going back to a high school reunion. Everyone is the same, but slightly different. In this case, the effects were a bit better but they still had that somewhat cheesy, not quite scary look of the Buffy baddies. It made me want to say “Awww!” every time a demon showed his true colors.

But the biggest similarity between Grimm and Buffy is the story itself. Instead of a slayer, you have a Grimm. Instead of a teenage girl, you have a cop. Those might seem like big differences, but the stories of the shows run so closely it’s like they’re in parallel universes that almost touch but not quite.

Once Upon a Time, however, is a bit different. Like Grimm, the characters from the world of make-believe are real and living here with us but this is not their home. They all think they’re human, and that’s how they’re living, but only because they’ve all been transported here by the Evil Queen and lost their memories in the process.

Our heroine, she’s one of them, only she’s been living outside their little town. This makes her the most human of the lot and she holds the key to putting everything back to rights. The only problem is that there’s just one little boy who knows the truth and neither our heroine nor anyone else believes his story.

Grimm, Fridays at 9 on NBC

This show isn’t a weekly battle with a new bad guy, it’s an ongoing struggle to put an entire world, the world of fantasy and fairytale, back in its rightful place. And although no one knows who they really are, the evil or good that formed them has carried over into their human lives. Snow White is a gentle, naive teacher. The Evil Queen is nasty and controlling and even has a tree full of lovely red apples in her backyard.

The story of Once Upon a Time unfolds in our world and theirs, through a series of flashbacks to the time before the Evil Queen cast her spell. We see how Snow White and Prince Charming met and it’s full of exactly what you’d expect, but at the same time it’s a surprise. The prince defeats trolls with a shiny sword and shoots arrows like he’s Robin Hood, but his princess isn’t cowering in fear.  It’s the story we all know, but not quite the way we know it.

So, despite starting off loving Grimm, I’ve found myself sucked in to the world of Once Upon a Time. I don’t how their stories will end. I can’t imagine how it’s all going to come together and I find myself rooting for the good guys and against evil just like I did reading about them as a kid. Despite revolving around characters we’ve all know since childhood, Once Upon a Time manages to tell a new story. Whether it leads us to the dwarfs and the safety of their cottage or into the darkest parts of the forest is hard to tell, but I can’t wait to find out.

Nicole has her own blog, Total Fan Girl and hosts a segment on The D6 Generation gaming podcast. She's a contributor to Nerd Approved, Fashionably Geek and That's Nerdalicious. She also geeks-out over cars as Technology Editor at The Fast Lane Car . In her spare time, she's Mom to two geek girls and teaches them all the important things in life like Han shot first, vampires don't sparkle and always carry a towel.

39 Comments
Jackie

November 16, 2011 9:50 am Reply

Love Once upon a time, it tells an interesting ongoing story!! Grimm is just another cop show, but instead of criminals its fantasy characters, meh…

bigbeck89

November 16, 2011 10:01 am Reply

I’m just worried that they are going to blur the line between ‘evil’ and ‘good’ in Once Upon a Time and make us end up feeling bad for the Evil Queen… It works sometimes, but I think that in a show like this, it will cause for and underwhelming and anti-climatic end to the story.

    Jason W.

    November 16, 2011 10:12 am Reply

    I think they’ll blur the lines a little bit, but with the other characters, not so much the Queen. Without giving out too many spoilers, she had her chance to change, but chose not to, as evidenced by how she enacted the curse.

      Nicole Wakelin

      November 16, 2011 12:10 pm Reply

      Yes, there was that one scene (don’t want to spoil) where I felt bad for her, for about 3 seconds. Most of the time she’s so evil I just want to smack her. I think they’ll play on that a little, just enough to make you feel sorry for her for an instant, before reminding you she’s so evil there’s nothing that’s going to save her in the end.

Jason W.

November 16, 2011 10:20 am Reply

My wife and I are big fans of Once Upon a Time. I love how they meshed all the tales and characters together and put a slight twist to the original stories.

    Nicole Wakelin

    November 16, 2011 12:12 pm Reply

    That’s what keeps it interesting, even when they’re in the fairy tale world. We all know Snow White and Cinderella and the story is the same, but not quite. There’s always a little twist that takes the characters don’t a completely different path.

Amy Kraft
Amy Kraft

November 16, 2011 10:22 am Reply

I’m so grateful for this run-down of the shows. I haven’t started either one, but have been curious about both.

    Nicole Wakelin

    November 16, 2011 12:12 pm Reply

    Once Upon a Time first, Amy…then we can chat about it ;)

Randal S

November 16, 2011 11:15 am Reply

I have Once Opon a Time saved, but not watched yet. My wife wants to watch it also. Thereofr I can;t comment on that show. However, I have watched all of Grimm. IMO, it’s definitely more than just a police procedural. There is a whole back story with age old struggles hinted at and discovering a new take on the old fairy tales.

    Nicole Wakelin

    November 16, 2011 12:14 pm Reply

    I’d agree, it’s not just a police procedural, although that’s a part of the show. Maybe a supernatural procedural? The crux of it is his discovery of his greater mission as a Grimm and the huge history that he has to learn on the fly. It’s a good show, I just think it’s less original than OUAT.

Lisa

November 16, 2011 12:00 pm Reply

Once Upon a Time is so entertaining. I was captivated by the first episode and got my husband and 12-year-old daughter hooked on it, too.

    Nicole Wakelin

    November 16, 2011 12:15 pm Reply

    If my kids were just a tad older, I’d be watching it with them, too. At the moment, I fear the Evil Queen would keep them up at night, and that means I’d be up at night…so not gonna happen :)

Carl

November 16, 2011 12:29 pm Reply

I watched the first few episodes of Grimm, then gave up. The premise is interesting, but the feel is, as Nicole says, very much Buffy for the over-30s, but I don’t know how long they can string out the monster of the week/unraveling the back story. It needs a bigger arc than that to sustain it.

Frankly, the more I watched, the more annoying it got. How many times are they going to have something JUMP! at a character from just out of shot, only to turn out not to be dangerous?

More damning, none of the characters other than the protagonist behaves believably. They all seem to do whatever is required of them by the plot rather than any real motivation. The hero’s girlfriend, in particular, shows every sign of having a refrigerator in her future, if you know what I mean.

And annoyingly, there was a plot hole/continuity error in the first episode you could have driven a bus through (no spoiler!).

    Nicole Wakelin

    November 16, 2011 1:04 pm Reply

    Yeah, the writing is definitely not as tight as I’d like, and the monster of the week thing is getting old. There really does need to be more attention to what he is and his abilities. I’m still watching, though, and hope it improves and eventually grabs me.

Elizabeth

November 16, 2011 12:34 pm Reply

I agree that Once Upon A Time is more original compared to Grimm, of course even it reminds me a bit too much of either the latest season of Haven, or even a darker version of Eureka… la sigh

    Nicole Wakelin

    November 16, 2011 1:05 pm Reply

    You know, I tried to get into Haven, I really did, but somehow I just couldn’t stick with the show past the first few episodes. And don’t even mention Eureka, my beloved Eureka…you’re gonna make me cry :(

      Elizabeth

      November 16, 2011 2:35 pm Reply

      I miss it too :(
      It’s just a pattern I’ve been noticing of clueless law enforcement (ish) person stumbling upon a group of cursed/special people and trying to keep things under control. That is all…

coregeek

November 16, 2011 2:44 pm Reply

I’ve been watching both but find myself enjoying Once Upon a Time more. Mostly for the reasons you discussed. OUAT is a big surprise for me because I didn’t really expect to like it, the previews made it look cheesy. Much to my surprise it’s not and actually has a great tone and the production values are very good too. Best of all though, like most great stories, OUAT has an excellent villain that is played pitch perfect and that’s really what has made the show for me. That in turn makes the danger feel real and as viewer care more for the heroes.

    Nicole Wakelin

    November 16, 2011 4:10 pm Reply

    She is a fantastic villain! You really do feel like she’d do anything to get what she wants.

Layvba

November 16, 2011 2:57 pm Reply

Once Upon A Time because there is an interesting retelling of stories (ie…Cinderella). The characters are good and the mixture of past and present really grabs my attention. Grimm is a lot like Supernatural. Its too bad the aunt had to die before she was able to guide him. There is so much he has to learn about. There is so much development needed.

    Nicole Wakelin

    November 16, 2011 4:16 pm Reply

    Yes, I do wonder if they’d kept her around for another episode, or even just let them have a few more conversations, if it might have made his character better.

Cory

November 16, 2011 4:00 pm Reply

I hate to be “that guy,” but I just can’t watch Once Upon a Time, nor come even close to calling it original or clever, given that the extremely excellent, and aware winning comic series “Fables” has already tread very heavily down that road.

Everything positive comment I’ve heard about Once Upon a Time, and every episode description I’ve read shows that they have so purposefully and almost criminally lifted their “great” ideas from this comic.

Grimm, on the other hand, while also about fairytale figures, at least manages to follow its own path. Yes, it is very much an X-Files and Buffy mash-up, but at least it’s concept is one that is not so high concept as to be entirely a rip-off of one singular IP.

Once Upon a Time is so specific in its “originality” that it’s impossible to ignore the straight-up plagiarism.

    Nicole Wakelin

    November 16, 2011 4:30 pm Reply

    I’ve only just begun Fables so I can’t compare every storyline, but the one huge difference in the one I read (Legends in Exile, the five issues about who killed Rose Red) is that those characters all know they’re storybook legends living in a human world. They are trying to hide themselves and pass themselves off as one of us. In OUAT, they don’t know who they are and think they’re human. That’s a pretty big difference.

    But, I can see how the fact that they both deal with storybook characters living in the real world upsets fans of Fables. But, to me, it would be equivalent to calling Grimm a Buffy rip-off because of their blatant similarities. There are differences between Buffy/Grimm just like there are between Fables/OUAT.

    Either way, as far as television programming, OUAT hasn’t been done before. Not original in the comic universe, but in the television one, yes.

Jennifer D.
Jennifer D.

November 16, 2011 5:14 pm Reply

I prefer Grimm, but like them both. Once Upon A Time leans towards the cheesy side but I still enjoy it. Grimm is more mysterious and I enjoy trying to figure out what is going on.

    Nicole Wakelin
    Nicole Wakelin

    November 16, 2011 8:22 pm Reply

    OUAT is definitely not as dark as Grimm, but I’m not sure it’s cheesier. Honestly, there’s a bit of good-natured cheese to be found in both shows!

Eleana

November 16, 2011 9:38 pm Reply

In our household, we have really enjoyed OUAT, but haven’t gotten around to watching Grimm yet.

As an AVID reader & fan of Fables, I have to totally disagree with the previous commenter about OUAT being a total ripoff of Fables. There are many, many more differences than there are similarities. In Fables, the characters know who they are and are in hiding in our world. They are living amongst us & interacting with us. Also, the villain in Fables is not revealed until far into the series. None of the characters on OUAT are anything like their counterparts in Fables either. And as was pointed out previously, while Grimm has been compared to Buffy, another television series, OUAT hasn’t really been done before on tv.

If anything, watching OUAT just makes me think how awesome Fables could be if made into a series or miniseries.

Thanks for the comparison!

    Nicole Wakelin

    November 16, 2011 10:03 pm Reply

    I’m so happy to hear some more feedback about the ripoff complaints from someone who’s read through all of Fables. I kept wondering if maybe there was something I was missing in the rest of the series that made people feel the way they did. Sounds like that’s not the case, at least for you as a Fables fan. I have got to get my hands on the rest of those comics. I have to know who the villain is!!

Lari

November 16, 2011 10:10 pm Reply

I never saw Buffy, so maybe that’s why I’m loving Grimm, but Once Upon a Time is really getting on my nerves. I can’t stand the characters. And the pacing is way too slow…

    Nicole Wakelin
    Nicole Wakelin

    November 16, 2011 10:14 pm Reply

    Ah, if you’ve never seen Buffy then I can see how Grimm would really be appealing. It’s funny, I feel like that moves slower than OUAT for some reason!

Lari

November 16, 2011 10:14 pm Reply

Also, why on earth would an evil queen, who would KILL HER OWN FATHER, not kill characters which are easy targets in her own little purgatory? It just seems like a serious plot hole.

I mean, are we seriously supposed to believe that a life in the suburbs is really a fate worse than death?

I feel like Once Upon a Time really doesn’t know what it’s trying to be, and it’s meandering a little too much for my tastes.

Sorry, I’m just really frustrated with Once Upon a Time because I really, really, really wanted to like that show.

    Nicole Wakelin
    Nicole Wakelin

    November 16, 2011 10:18 pm Reply

    Wait, what? If you mean the real world as her purgatory, well, she’ss human now, or at least thinks she’s human. If she just went around killing people here then she’d go to jail. She’s still evil, but she has to live by our rules and doesn’t even know she killed her Dad. If she still knew she was the Evil Queen, well then, I think she’d be killing folks off left and right!

      Lari

      November 16, 2011 11:14 pm Reply

      Hmm… I see. I had this impression that she “kind of knew” she was the baddie from the other world. Perhaps, she doesn’t. Well, I’m still watching the show, because I’m hoping it will get better, maybe something terrible will happen to that annoying little boy and I’ll enjoy it more. XD

      Lari

      November 16, 2011 11:15 pm Reply

      Still, I think they made the “curse” way more melodramatically worse than it actually was.

        Nicole Wakelin

        November 17, 2011 10:32 am Reply

        The curse was a bit melodramatic, I’ll give you that for sure! But you want them to kill the kid? You’re as evil as the Queen ;)

Milehimama

November 16, 2011 11:26 pm Reply

Kirk, seriously? Say it ain’t so!

    Nicole Wakelin

    November 17, 2011 10:35 am Reply

    I can’t believe NO ONE else has had an issue with my Captain choice! That’s just about the geek argument to end all arguments. And, yes, James T. Kirk is my favorite and he’s the best. I love him and I will not be swayed. All other arguments are invalid ;)

Becca Mallay

November 17, 2011 12:35 pm Reply

I loved your review of both shows! (Can I call it a review?) I think you are spot on; you express exactly how I feel about the shows. It’s not much of a debate for me, though. I love both of them, and am so happy they exist. I hope neither of them gets cancelled for a good, long, time! TV is sadly short on fantasies!

    Nicole Wakelin

    November 17, 2011 12:46 pm Reply

    You certainly may call it a review! And I agree, it’s nice to see that, despite which is better, the networks took a chance on two fantasy shows. Honestly, I’d love to see both of them survive in hopes that it would encourage the networks to schedule more fantasy.

facebook fans

January 1, 2012 11:12 pm Reply

I want to be entertained *in my Iman voice from Michael Jacksons Remember fondly the Time video*

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