Grimm vs. Once Upon a Time: Which new fairy-tale TV show is better?

Two new dramas debuting this weekend borrow heavily from classic fairy tales. Will either live happily ever after?

(Image credit: NBC, Facebook/Once Upon A Time)

Comparisons are "unavoidable" when two extremely similar TV shows debut within days of each other, says David Wiegand at The San Francisco Chronicle. Such is the case this weekend, with the premieres of two drama series based on fairy tales. In the police procedural Grimm, airing Friday, each murder is a modern retelling of a fairy tale in which fantastical villains like Red Riding Hood's Big Bad Wolf appear to be human. (The homicide detective, a descendant of the Brothers Grimm, sees them for what they really are.) Debuting Sunday is Once Upon a Time, a fantasy drama about classic fairy tale characters who are transported to the modern-day world, with no recollection of their happily-ever-after pasts. Which of the new series most successfully pulls off the conceit?

Once Upon a Time is easily superior: Once Upon a Time is wacky, yes, with "over-the-top characterizations" and a "giddy" pace as the narrative zips back and forth between present-day reality and fairy land, says Wiegand. But that structure works for the show. The special effects are also top-notch and the cast is winning. Whereas Grimm is predictable and overly serious, Once is "great, fluffy fun" and, better yet, the rare family-friendly show that is still "smart enough to win viewers of any age and level of sophistication."

"Grimm and Once Upon a Time reviews"

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Really? I loved Grimm: Grimm is "one part police procedural and one part supernatural slug fest," says Dave Trumbore at Collider, which is a winning combination. The fairy tale conceit is a creative way to freshen up the tired procedural drama, with over 200 excitingly dark tales from which to draw story lines and characters. The show wisely integrates the folklore subtly (for the most part — a missing girl wearing a red-hooded sweatshirt couldn't be more obvious). With echoes of The X-Files, Buffy, and Pushing Daisies, Grimm's unique tone sets it apart and makes it worth watching.

"Grimm series review"

They could both live happily ever after: Differing wildly in tone and structure, the two series are distinct enough to "exist side by side," says Eric Alt at NBC Bay Area. Grimm is dark and unsettling, taking its cues from "horror movies and serial killer thrillers." Meanwhile, Once Upon a Time is lighter and whimsical, evoking Harry Potter.

"Fall TV: Once Upon a Time vs. Grimm"

Neither show will last: Both shows seem to be struck by their own fairy tale curses, says Lori Rackl at The Chicago Sun-Times. Viewers would be advised to wear a neck brace while watching Once Upon a Time, given all its rapid narrative jumps. Once is admittedly original but lacks the broad appeal to "conjure up" a sufficiently large fanbase. As for Grimm, "it's going to take one industrial-sized magic wand" to save the show from its cheap scare tactics, unconvincing plot lines, and crime drama cliches.

"Fairy tale shows may end tragically"

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