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ABC’s fairy-tale drama ‘Once Upon a Time’ gets off to a good start

The Details

Once Upon a Time
Three and a half stars
Sundays, 8 p.m., ABC

The end of Lost in May 2010 created a gap for intricate serialized genre storytelling on network TV, one that hasn’t been filled by failures like The Event and FlashForward. Two former Lost writer-producers, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, are the latest TV creators to try their hands at replicating Lost’s success with Once Upon a Time, a serialized fantasy drama with a format familiar to Lost fans. Time’s characters are recognizable faces from fairy tales who have been stripped of their memories and stranded in the small town of Storybrooke, Maine. Each episode is split between their present-day adventures and flashbacks to their lives before they came to our modern world. Only one small boy knows the truth, and he must convince the grown-up daughter (Jennifer Morrison) of Snow White and Prince Charming to set things right.

Time has a much more whimsical tone than Lost, and some of the fairy-tale sequences are a little cheesy and stilted, especially in the first episode. The plotting is less about grand mysteries than about unfolding little details over time, which makes for fewer shocking moments but probably will lead to more cohesive storytelling in the long run. Even when the fairy-tale parallels seem sort of silly, the able cast sells them as grounded and meaningful, especially Ginnifer Goodwin as a feisty Snow White-turned-schoolteacher and Lana Parrilla as the delightfully evil queen/mayor. Most would-be Lost replacements have faltered in their grand ambitions; by staying contained and character-driven, Time may beat them all out in the end.

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Josh Bell

Josh Bell is the film editor for Las Vegas Weekly, where he's been writing movie and TV reviews since 2002. ...

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