Tuesday, a mostly dull television night, is usually a DVR/On Demand catch-up day. Justified isn't on until 10 p.m. and we're not going to watch an elimination episode of The Voice, so it's a good time to watch something we didn't have time for before. And that show for us, usually, is ABC's Once Upon a Time. Yeah. That thing.
It began simply enough in the fall, with innocent curiosity. The premise — a modern New England town populated by fairy tale characters who don't know they're fairy tale characters — was intriguing, and all the TV writer people who'd seen an early pilot seemed excited about it. So we watched the first episode this fall and were, alas, put off by its Disneyfied sappiness, by the irksomely precocious kid at the story's center, by the chintzy special effects and green screen awkwardness of the show's fairy tale portions (half the show takes place in the real world, half in a heavily, but cheaply, CGI-ed make-believe land). Ah well, we gave it a try. Maybe next time, ABC.
But then, pulled back by some strange force, likely having to do with the show's central question — namely, when will they realize they're Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood and Jiminy Cricket etc.? — we watched the next week. We groaned at everything, sure, but there we were, faced pressed close to the small Hulu screen when we should have been doing something far more productive. And so it went like that for weeks. We told no one, shrugged our shoulders ambivalently when someone asked us about the show, kept it our quiet weird secret. But now it's been months, whole seasons have changed, so it just needs to be said: We've seen every episode of Once Upon a Time and we are hungry for more.
It's maybe because all the characters are so frustrating and dopey (one is quite literally Dopey), we just need to see them try to wrap their stupid brains around this fairly simple concept (to us, anyway) that the kid of all people has known about the whole time. None is more goopy and annoying than Ginnifer Goodwin's Mary Margaret/Snow White character, who is so innocent and cutesy and all those terrible things that it's oddly satisfying to watch the Evil Queen/Evil Mayor torment her so. (This whole thing is kind of Snow White's fault.) We can't wait until Mary Margaret finds out she's Snow White and learns what she did (basically screwed the Queen out of true love, as we discovered in the most recent episode) and is like "Oooops..." That's why we hold on! To watch all these dummies figure it out and giggle sadly.
But, yes, sigh, of course it's also genuine, non-ironic fun to see how they handle each particular fairy tale/story. Some have been rather clever — they somehow managed to combine Beauty and the Beast with Rumpelstiltskin and have it work well — and others have been screamingly, hilariously awful. You simply must go and watch brooding-faced actor Sebastian Stan, from Gossip Girl and Kings, make a terrific fool of himself in the Mad Hatter episode. Here's a sampling. Tasty, right? Go watch the rest. The whole show is like that, silly and ridiculous and a little embarrassing, but in a fun way, in an oddly compelling way.
That's the best way to look at this strange addiction, probably. As something dumb but funny, a little embarrassing but then what TV addiction isn't. Anyway, that was our Tuesday night. What's your shameful show? Your dirty TV secret that you now, all the way here in April, feel finally ready to admit ?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.