5 gritty upcoming TV series based on classic children's stories

The CW announces Wunderland, a cop show based on Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland — just the latest series that turns a children's story dark

Alice in Wonderland
(Image credit: Rischgitz/Getty Images)

Lewis Carroll's children's classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland chronicles the many bizarre adventures of its titular protagonist as she wanders through a magical dreamscape. But for all his creativity as a writer, Carroll failed to explore at least one plot thread: What if Alice was a cop in Los Angeles? Fortunately for TV viewers, the CW has stepped in to right that wrong with Wunderland, which, if it makes it to air next fall, will join recent hits like ABC's Once Upon a Time and NBC's Grimm as another dark, modern small-screen adaptation of a children's classic. And Wunderland will be in very good company; over the past few months, networks have announced several similarly gritty reworkings of classic children's tales:

1. Wunderland (The CW)

The Hollywood Reporter announced on Wednesday that the CW is developing Wunderland, a gritty re-imagining of Alice's adventures that recasts her as a no-nonsense police detective who discovers a magical underworld (one might even say "wonderland") under Los Angeles. Down the rabbit hole we go...

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2. Beauty and the Beast (The CW)

Despite its gritty intentions, this modernized take on the Beauty and the Beast story (which premieres on the CW on Oct. 11) "suffers from a deep and abiding silliness," says Alyssa Rosenberg at Slate. Kristin Kreuk, the Beauty, has been rewritten as a tough-as-nails New York cop who's trying to discover why her mother was murdered. Victor, the Beast, gained his tragic powers in some kind of super-soldier program. Based on the show's trailer — and unlike the 1980s Linda Hamilton/Ron Perlman show that inspired the new adaptation — Victor isn't a furry monster unless he's stressed or in danger, which should make him appealing to Twilight aficionados.

3. Sleepy Hollow (Fox)

The next TV project from the creators of Fox's sci-fi drama Fringe (Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci) is a loose adaptation of Washington Irving's 1820 short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The TV version rewrites Irving's tale as a "modern-day supernatural thriller" in which protagonist Ichabod Crane "partners with the town's local female sheriff to bring peace to a beleaguered community." But Fox isn't the only network with an eye on the classic story; the CW is reportedly developing its own unique adaptation of Sleepy Hollow, which its creators promise will be a "boundary-pushing horror story for television."

4. The League of Pan (Fox)

Fox's re-imagining of J.M. Barrie's 1904 stage play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, sets the story in the modern day and chronicles the adventures of the Lost Boys, who have been adopted by the Darling family, 10 years after they left Neverland. And though it's the only Pan series currently in development, it's far from the only Peter Pan project on the horizon: Indiewire reports that two competing film prequels, respectively titled Neverland and Peter Pan and the Starcatchers, are also on the way.

5. Gotham (ABC)

ABC's upcoming magic procedural isn't based on a specific fairy tale, but all the familiar elements are in place: Gotham will chronicle the adventures of a — say it with me — female cop (Megan Ketch), whose dogged pursuit of a "seemingly unsolvable case" leads her to discover a secret, magical world embedded within New York City. As Dread Central notes, this is essentially the same premise as NBC's Grimm, but clearly, that's never stopped a network from developing a TV show before.

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