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TV Wasteland: Happily Ever After?
ABC hopes to conjure some Lost magic for its fairy tale.
By Rob Vaux
October 16, 2011
Do we really need a modern updating of classic fairy tales? ABC thinks so. It’s unveiling a new series, Once Upon a Time, this Sunday night with a concept as contrived and gimmicky as you’ll ever see. A young woman returns to a small Maine town where she was given away for adoption long ago, only to find that the residents are all fairy tale characters who have lost their memories. She sticks around to find out if the enchantment is real or not, and learns a whole bunch of details that never made it to the storybooks.
The sexy name on the credits is Damon Lindelof, one of the geniuses behind Lost who serves as co-creator here. The use of flashbacks and parallel lives mirrors that other show, but are we ready to buy it with big bad wolves and poison apples added to the mix? It feels decidedly shaky, especially coming in the midst of a disappointing fall season in which high-concept turkeys have become the name of the game. Once Upon a Time may break that streak, but it’s going to take some real magic from Lindelof and colleagues Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis. At least they’re smart enough to put it on early in the evening, before the double-punch of Dexter and The Walking Dead really lay it out. We’ll cover it here and see if it really is happily ever after… or if this witches’ brew proves as toxic as it looks.
Once Upon a Time premieres this Sunday, October 23, at 8:00 PM EDT on ABC.
Terra Nova (Fox, 8:00 PM EDT)
One of those pesky Sixers shows up with a forlorn puppy dog look in hopes of getting into the compound and away from various pointy-toothed Sixer-vores out there.
Survival of the Dead (AMC, 8:00 PM EDT)
George A. Romero caches his reputation into a sixth zombie movie, and while it brims with interesting ideas – featuring a western storyline with a pair of feuding families – it’s obvious that the formula is running dry.
The Hills Have Eyes (AMC, 10:00 PM EDT)
Alexandre Aja reinvents Wes Craven’s seminal horror story with surprisingly effective results. Nicely played Alex.
The Legend of Hell House (FMC, 8:00 PM and 10:00 PM EDT)
This very good repackaging of The Haunting of Hill House features a team of investigators seeking the source of a mysterious haunting in an old spooky mansion.
Iron Man (FX, 8:00 PM EDT)
Man, that Avengers trailer makes it very clear who the star of the show is, doesn’t it?
Ravenous (IFC, 9:15 PM EDT)
Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle headline a gleefully gory effort about cannibals in the Sierra Nevadas circa 1847. This is one of the best horror-comedies no one has ever seen.
I Am Number Four (Showtime, 7:00 PM EDT)
Chalk this one up to a near miss, as Twilight-style teen angst pairs with sci-fi action to decidedly mixed results.
Horror of Dracula (TCM, 8:00 PM EDT)
Christopher Lee’s nearly wordless Count steals the show in Hammer’s seminal version of the classic story.
House on Haunted Hill (TCM, 9:30 PM EDT)
William Castle scores one of his better-known efforts as Vincent Price hosts a party that everyone is just dying to get into. Get it? Because they’re actually dying and… right, I’ll just shut up now.
The Scream Awards 2011 (Spike, 9:00 PM EDT)
Spike uncorks a sixth edition of its annual awards show honoring achievements in sci-fi and horror. Nominees include the expected comic book and fantasy leads, but with a few worthy offbeat choices sprinkled in the mix (such as Chloe Grace Moretz’s brilliant work in Let Me In). Sparkly vampires have been uniformly banned from the proceedings.
Diary of the Dead (AMC, 8:00 PM)
AMC is running Romero’s sixth zombie film before his fifth. The good news is that the timing doesn’t matter. The bad news is that this one’s “found footage” gimmick was old when the film was first released and hasn’t improved with age.
Scream 3 (AMC, 10:15 PM EDT)
Kevin Smith cameos? Movies within movies? They weren’t even pretending that this was anything but a cash grab, were they?
The Final Destination (Cinemax, 8:30 PM EDT)
It’s Part 4, for those keeping score at home. It was also in 3D originally, though it probably won’t be here.
Ghost Rider (FX, 7:30 PM EDT)
Because Ghost Rider doesn’t actually piss fire in this one, it therefore cannot hope to compete with the upcoming sequel in which the fire-pissing is apparently wall-to-wall.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (IFC, 10:30 PM EDT)
This sequel to the remake to the Tobe Hooper classic actually starts out quite promisingly… before falling completely off of the cliff.
Saw II and Saw III (Syfy, 7:00 PM EDT and 9:00 PM EDT)
If you look closely, you can spot the exact point where the franchise goes off the rails. It happens in one of these two films; the only question is where.
American Horror Story (FX, 10:00 PM EDT)
Vivien wisely decides to sell the house, then learns the details about who lived there before them.
Ghost Hunters (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
The team travels to Buffalo, home of the Rapids Theatre and reports of an undead actress still waiting for that callback.
Flight of the Living Dead (AMC, 8:00 PM EDT)
They should have just called it Zombies on a Plane and dropped all pretense.
House of Wax (AMC, 10:15 PM EDT)
This loose updating of the Vincent Price original could have been much better had it been just a little bolder in its presentation. Also, the Paris Hilton Stank™ gets a little intense.
Ninja Assassin (Cinemax, 6:50 PM EDT)
Ninjas! Ninjas-ninjas-ninjas!!! YAAAYYYYYYYY!!!
*ahem* There are ninjas in it.
District 9 (FX, 7:30 PM EDT)
Movies like this remind us just how great science fiction can be… and how rarely it ever is.
How to Train your Dragon (HBO, 7:30 PM EDT)
Dreamworks’ clever, rousing story about an unorthodox Viking boy and his fire-breathing pet provides plenty of gentler entertainment for those who have had their fill of horror movies.
The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 8:00 PM EDT)
I’m still getting used to a world where Brent Spiner is now Sheldon’s mortal enemy. Sheldon needs to explain it to his mother, who shows up for a visit this week.
The Vampire Diaries (The CW, 8:00 PM EDT)
My fifteen-year-old cousin assures me that this show is mega-cool. I have thus officially passed into old fart country because I see no mega-cool here. Senior year begins this week on the show. With vampires. I suppose that’s cool to someone somewhere.
The Secret Circle (The CW, 9:00 PM EDT)
Faye’s ex-boyfriend shows up and starts putting the moves on Cassie, prompting an unholy revenge that probably won’t be nearly as gruesome as it should be.
Slither (AMC, 8:00 PM EDT)
Nathan Fillion headlines another surprisingly good horror comedy that Universal shot in the foot by refusing to screen it for critics. Check the Rotten Tomatoes page to see how wise that decision was.
Lake Placid (AMC, 10:00 PM EDT)
Not as good as Slither, but damn that Betty White is cool.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (7:30 PM EDT)
In case you’re one of the five people on the planet who hasn’t actually seen it yet.
Dying Breed (IFC, 7:00 PM EDT)
A group of hikers run across an evil Tasmanian village while searching for an endangered tiger. Wacky misunderstandings no doubt ensue.
Saw (IFC, 9:00 PM EDT)
Love it or hate it, it’s here uncut. Oh wait, there’s tons of commercials jammed into it. Damn you IFC!!!
Hostel Part II (Syfy, 7:00 PM EDT)
Thank God they’re airing this before the children’s bedtime. “Come on kids, you’re going to miss the disembowelings!”
Resident Evil (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
Hard to believe this series has become as durable as it has, but strangely enough, it kind of deserves its longevity. I won’t call them great, but they can be a lot of fun.
Nikita (The CW, 8:00 PM EDT)
Michael tries to help out an old flame, though Nikita suspects ulterior motives. She’s crazy like that.
Supernatural (The CW, 9:00 PM EDT)
Charisma Carpenter guest stars as a witch who unleashes ungodly destruction when she finds out her husband has been cheating on her.
Sanctuary (Syfy, 10:00 PM EDT)
Magnus gets called onto the carpet by the UN following the supernatural uprising. Bet it’s a truly enchanting discussion.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold (Cartoon, 7:00 PM EDT)
The Justice League loses their powers. Luckily, Batman doesn’t have any – and he’s pretty good at figuring stuff out – so he leads the effort to find them again.
Young Justice (Cartoon, 6:30 PM EDT)
Fishnet fans rejoice, for your high priestess has arrived! Zatanna Zatara guest stars when Red Tornado goes missing and the team has to find him.
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (AMC, 8:00 PM EDT)
It’s not actually the final Friday. The movie people are lying to us.
Brotherhood of Blood (IFC, 7:00 PM EDT)
A gorgeous vampire slayer is held captive by her prey while an undead demon arises to destroy human and vampire alike. Best bring a scorecard; this is apt to get complicated.
From Dusk till Dawn (IFC, 8:45 PM EDT)
This is less complicated: there’s a strip bar full of vampires, and George Clooney has to kill them with a little help from his friends.
Scream (MTV, 10:00 PM EDT)
It’s a horror icon. I’m still trying to figure out why.
Gods and Monsters (Sundance, 10:00 PM EDT)
Ian McKellan has never been better… and that’s saying something.
She (TCM, 8:00 PM EDT)
The title refers to a 2,000 year old goddess played by Ursula Andress in her prime. I could tell you more about it, but I really shouldn’t have to.
Prehistoric Women (TCM, 10:00 PM EDT)
They’re not actually prehistoric, they just run around in the jungle with furry bikinis on. And I’m okay with that.
Fringe is a rerun, since Fox is covering the World Series. Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a rerun for more nebulous reasons.
Let Me In (Starz, 9:00 PM EDT)
Starz presents the very good American version of the seminal modern vampire classic that will make you forget all about those Twilight wanks.
From Dusk till Dawn (AMC, 8:00 PM EDT)
In case you missed the IFC screening, AMC has it even more watered down!
From Dusk till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (AMC, 10:15 PM EDT)
Ignore Bruce Campbell’s name on the credits. He’s gone within the first five minutes… and the rest of it blows chunks.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (FX, 8:00 PM EDT)
It’s big, it’s loud, it sucks. Is anyone really surprised?
The Descent (IFC, 8;00 PM EDT)
There’s a money shot in here that scared me more than any movie it’s seen in recent memory. Seriously.
Piranha (Showtime, 7:30 PM EDT)
When the cops tell you to get out of the water, listen to them. They probably have a good reason for doing so.
Jeepers Creepers 2 (Syfy, 7:00 PM EDT)
Trust me, it’s a lot better than it sounds.
Halloween (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
Someone tell Rob Zombie that including more white trash doesn’t make it scarier. Just sadder.
The Walking Dead (AMC, 9:00 PM EDT)
Has a new safe spot been discovered? The group can only hope that Rick’s instincts on it are correct, because the alternative is too zombie-intensive for anyone’s comfort levels.
Once Upon a Time (ABC, 8:00 PM EDT)
ABC unveils its new show about fairy tale characters living unknowingly in the modern world. See the top of the article for more.
Dexter (Showtime, 9:00 PM EDT)
The religious nature of the new killings becomes apparent, even as Dexter grapples with serious questions of faith.
The Exorcist (BBC America, 8:00 PM EDT)
If you’re itching for a horror movie, they don’t get much more horror-y than this.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (FX, 8:00 PM EDT and 10:00 PM EDT)
FX is running the film back-to-back, each one featuring an alternate ending. Take it for what you will.
End of Days (Syfy, 6:30 PM EDT)
The title describes Schwarzenegger’s career at that stage more aptly than anyone would care to admit.
The Haunting in Connecticut (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
Note to Virginia Madsen: What did we say? What did we do?