Who's the fairiest of them all?

Kirsty Harrison

31st March 2012

Once Upon a Time and Grimm: both shows based on fairytales. But which has the edge in the fairy stakes? Let's line them up and get them to fight each other with, I don't know, wands or something.

2012 is a year of fairytales. There are two Snow Whites duking it out at the cinema (*spit* Pah! Films!), Shrek has come to life in the West End and despite the fact that recent reports tell us kids are now wusses who can't handle a little light granny-eating, Snow White, Aladdin and Jack and his Beanstalk keep popping up with their drag queen mother-in-laws every Christmas.

TV fairytales usually don't fare very well (a little homophone humour for you there), with the exception of 1987's Emmy-winning Beauty And The Beast, but networks were so keen to jump on the unexpected nostalgia trend that they created not one but two new dramas based on classic childrens' tales: Grimm (Watch, Mondays, 9pm) and Once Upon A Time (Channel 5, Sundays, 8pm).

Grimm has been showing in the UK since February, and Once... premieres on Sunday at 8pm. Which one is Charming and which is Dopey? Let's compare and find out.

Plot: Detective Nick Burkhardt discovers he's the last descendant of a family of monster-hunting criminal profilers called 'Grimms'. He must protect this world from the supernatural horrors, and solve crimes with eerie connections to classic fairytales.

Cast: David Giuntoli, Silas Weir Mitchell, Bitsie Tulloch, Russell Hornsby. (No, I'm not making the names up.)


Essentially: Procedural crime drama with goblins. CSI Sunnydale.

In a land far, far away? Portland, Oregon. So no.

Damsels in distress?: Frequently. Specifically, Nick's girlfriend Juliette, who has no idea what's going on.

Who's our hero? Nick, his detective partner Hank and pal Monroe the Wider Blutbad (vegetarian werewolf). Hank has a huge case of the notgays and Monroe gets all the best lines.

Wicked Queen? So far there's not one big bad, but they've got to keep an eye on those Reapers of the Grimm. They look like Goombas in trenchcoats.

Tagline: Not your usual suspects... (groan).

Sample dialogue: "You're gonna have to dig deep within yourself and, like, pull up the history of your ancestors, and I mean all of them, man, to bring it."

Do you recognise these stories, ma'am? Kind of - Grimm uses a lot of German in its monster names, and has a foot in the original toe-severing darkness of the Brothers Grimm tales. For the amount of research involved, I'm impressed.
Once Upon A Time

Plot: On Snow White's wedding day, the Evil Queen curses all the inhabitants of the Enchanted Forest to a miserable loveless existence. In our world, Emma Swan finds herself drawn to a small town where all the residents seem curiously familiar.

Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas and a thousand other people.


Essentially: Lost in Disneyland.

In a land far, far away? Sort of. One foot in Storybrooke, Maine, where everyone's having a bit of a shit time of it, and the other in the magical Enchanted Forest, which isn't doing much better. The story splits between the two places, often showing the parallels between the adventures of characters' true identities in the land that was, and the ones they've been cursed with by the Evil Queen.

Damsels in distress? There's Snow White, Red Riding Hood, Gretel and Cinderella, but none of them could really be called "in distress". There's a serious collection of kick-ass female roles in this show.

Who's our hero? Emma Swan, orphan, sheriff and potentially the daughter of Snow and Prince Charming who was placed in a magical wardrobe (stay with me) and was spirited away before the curse took hold. Emma was brought to Storybrooke by her biological son Henry, who she gave up for adoption. He's convinced that his home town is populated by people from his Big Book of Fairy Stories. Why does he live in Storybrooke if he's not a fairytale character? Well, because he was adopted by Regina Mills, mayor of Storybrooke and ...

Wicked Queen? Evil Queen of the Enchanted Forest! Yes, Regina is evil at home AND away. On a lesser note there is Mr Gold (Rumplestiltskin) who is villianous, but always just out to make a profit for himself. Not evil, not good, just dangerous.

Tagline: They didn't seem to go for one. I guess 'Once Upon A Time' is a good enough draw.

Sample dialogue: "The Queen took your heart. She ripped it out. It's kind of her thing."

Do you recognise these stories, ma'am? Completely. A lot of people have said that there's too much emphasis on the Disney interpretation of fairytales, and maybe that's true for some characters, but these are the stories that I was brought up on. There's Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, there's Pinocchio and there's even a dip into Wonderland later in the series.

It's OUAT, hands down. Grimm is a perfectly adequate procedural drama with a supernatural twist, Once Upon A Time is a fairytale. Not just in the Enchanted Forest, where the stories are beautifully brought to life (with sumptuous costumes and sets), but in Storybrooke where no one knows why they can't leave town and everyday heroes try and vanquish villains.

Good versus evil. What more could you want? Some of Robert Carlyle's Rumplestiltskin? Well, if we give you some, you have to watch the show. Deal?

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