Tube Talk: Fairy tales and horror shows debut this fall

By Paula Hendrickson
Contributing Writer

With the TV landscape riddled with crime procedurals, sitcoms and medical dramas, innovative series tend to stand out. In October, three new shows (and one returning drama) will bring fairy tales and horror stories to life.

First up this week, FX debuts the much-hyped American Horror Story from Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, two of the creative minds behind Glee and Nip/Tuck. Given the show’s pedigree, you can expect a smart, dark and twisted take on the classic family-moves-into-a-haunted-house genre. The superb cast includes Connie Britton (a recent Emmy nominee for her work on Friday Night Lights), Dylan McDermott (The Practice) and two-time Oscar-winner Jessica Lange in her first regular role on a TV series.

American Horror Story will likely be a love-it or hate-it kind of show, but one thing is clear: it’s not for kids.

Also not for kids? AMC’s The Walking Dead, last year’s surprise hit about a small group of people fighting to survive after the world is overrun with zombies, courtesy of what appears to be a zombie virus. Fans have been anticipating the new season for the better part of a year. Will Rick find out about Lori and Shane? Which character will be infected next? Where will they head after narrowly escaping the auto-destruction of the CDC? More importantly, will we finally learn where the zombie virus originated?

The fairy tales debut later this month, starting with Once Upon a Time, an intriguing concept about a New England town populated with classic fairy tale characters who have no idea who they really are, or that they’re trapped in a curse from the Evil Queen (played with relish by Lana Parrilla, Swingtown, Miami Medical). The show shifts between the fairy tale realm and the present day, where the Evil Queen is the mayor of Storybrooke and the adoptive mother of the son Jennifer Morrison (House) gave up for adoption.

Once Upon a Time is a fun mish-mash of fairy tale stories and characters. (There was one character who I don’t think qualifies as a fairy tale character. Watch the pilot, and see if you can see which one I’m talking about.) Ginnifer Goodwin is perfectly cast as Snow White, and Robert Carlyle is creepy and nearly unrecognizable as Rumplestiltskin. This beautifully-produced show — created by former Lost producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis — is something families can watch together, but is also inventive enough to hold the attention of anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of fairy tales.

NBC’s Grimm is a darker show, an odd blend of a procedural cop show and a supernatural drama. That’s not surprising since it counts former Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel writer-producer David Greenwalt as a co-creator and one of the executive producers. Just as Buffy was the chosen Slayer, the main character of Grimm — Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli, of Priviledged and MTVs Road Rules) — is fated to protect humanity from supernatural creatures and demons roaming the world, with the Grimm brothers’ famous fairy tales being his primer. The catch? Nick’s also a homicide detective.

As you’d expect from Greenwalt, Grimm has a quirky sense of humor. One of the best-drawn characters in the pilot is Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell, Prison Break), a church-going, recovering “blutbad” (in his case, a Big Bad Wolf) passing as human. I’m not sure the supernatural and procedural elements will ever really gel, but like the other series mentioned above, at least they’re attempting something novel.

Programming notes

American Horror Story premieres at 9 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 5, on FX.

The Walking Dead returns at 8 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 16, on AMC.

Once Upon a Time premieres at 7 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 23, on ABC.

Grimm premieres at 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 28, on NBC.

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Follow her on Twitter at P_Hendrickson and send your suggestions to

From the Oct. 5-11, 2011, issue

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