"A commonplace book is what a provident poet cannot subsist without, for this proverbial reason, that “great wits have short memories:” and whereas, on the other hand, poets, being liars by profession, ought to have good memories; to reconcile these, a book of this sort, is in the nature of a supplemental memory, or a record of what occurs remarkable in every day’s reading or conversation." - Jonathan Swift, "A Letter of Advice to a Young Poet"

Monday, October 31, 2011

Television in a sad state of affairs

Take a look at this picture.

Now look at this one.

See any similarities? Oh, I don't know, maybe the fact that both NBC and ABC think that by putting actors in modern dress in the middle of a dark, foreboding forest atmosphere and surrounding them with other actors dressed up as princesses and monsters....you get a fresh and exciting new take on fairy tales? Not quite, I'm afraid.

The press shot for Grimm, trying very hard to be creepy, suggests that we might have "thought they were just fairy tales." Actually, sir, I thought "they" were highly complex folk tales with a long oral, written, and cinematic tradition, a form of storytelling that is ripe for innovative rewrites and adaptations, but which gains nothing from simply being updated and spruced up with some fancy CGI.

Bitterness aside, I appreciate the impetus behind both new series, which I sampled this weekend in my ongoing effort to see and read everything fairy-tale related. Once Upon A Time imagines that the traditional fairy tale characters, through a very complicated series of events, have become stuck in a small town in Maine and need to be saved by the long-lost daughter of Snow White, who in turn has a long-lost child, a son, who was adopted by the Evil Queen, who doesn't know that she's the Evil Queen but is evil nonetheless. Really, don't ask for clarification. It would only make things worse.

This is standard fairy tale adaptation fare - what if we make all the fairy tale characters real and mix them up with normal people? - but just imagine for a minute the reverse. What if, instead of having the fairy tale characters think they're regular people, we had regular people thinking they were fairy tale characters? That might be a bit more psychologically interesting. And it would also address the problem our society has of making us believe that our lives will turn out happily ever after and that we'll all become princesses - a problem that lies at the root of stuff like Once Upon A Time.

Grimm is a little less guilty of this kind of wishful thinking, and I actually thought the premise was kind of cool - a cop learns he is the last of the Grimms and must fight the monsters his ancestors wrote about, who are all in disguise as humans. It might be my weakness for crime shows, but I had a little hope for this one. Unfortunately, instead of fantasy and crime drama combining into one glorious whole, I got a contrived script, complete lack of psychological depth, and very poor acting. Blargh.

So to cleanse my palatte, I watched this for the second or third time, and it was brilliant as ever:

Maybe I'll write an in-depth review of it in another post, but for now, I'm just basking in its wonderfullness.

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