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Featured TV on DVD Review: Once Upon a Time: Season One

August 26th, 2012

Once Upon a Time - Buy from Amazon: DVD and Blu-ray

ABC had a great year when it came to new TV shows. They have five new shows that earned overall positive reviews and were big enough hits to get renewed, which was the best out of the major networks. One of their bigger hits was Once Upon a Time, which was one of two Fairytales in the Modern World type shows to debut last fall. During its first season, it picked up many nominations, including three Emmy nods. Did it deserve all of the accolades? If so, is the DVD / Blu-ray worth picking up?

The Show

The series begins in the fairytale world with Prince Charming waking up Snow White before we quickly jump to their wedding day. However, the happy day is interrupted by The Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla). She curses the happy couple, and everyone there, saying she will take away their happiness. She will send them somewhere where happy endings don't happen, the real world.

We then flash to the real world and a little boy, Henry Mills (Jared S. Gilmore), traveling by bus into the big city. Also in the big city is Emma Swan, who is on a date she setup through the internet. At least the guy she's with thinks she's on a date. She's actually a bail bondsman, bail bondsperson. After busting her date, she gets home to have her birthday cupcake but is interrupted by Henry... who is the son she gave up for adoption ten years ago. He wants her to come back to Storybrooke, Maine, where he lives with his adopted family.

While on the way, Henry explains to Emma about fairytales and how they all come true. He believes that his step-mother, Regina Mills, is the Evil Queen and that his mother, Emma, is the child of Snow White and Prince Charming, the one prophesied to end the curse. Of course, everyone else thinks he's a little... different and he's in therapy. However, while Emma doesn't believe him, it is a crazy theory, she has a gift to tell when people are lying, and she's convinced he believes it. She's also convinced Regina Mills is lying when she says she loves Henry, which makes Emma want to stay. Regina clearly doesn't want Emma in town anymore, but the more she tries to push her away, the more Emma is determined to stay.

From this point on, most episodes bounce back and forth between The Enchanted Forest and Storybrooke revealing the backstory of the characters and how they live in the modern world. This does become a problem when it comes to reviewing the show, as we run into spoiler territory right away. I could talk about the more standalone episodes, but unfortunately, these are less interesting and less memorable than the ones that focus on the Emma / Henry / Regina dynamic. Mary, David, and Mr. Gold are also key players and episodes that focus on them also are usually compelling. When we delve into other fairytale characters, like Cinderella, the episodes are less interesting and less memorable. There are some flaws in the main storyline, as it dances close to soap opera territory a few too many times for my liking. Also, Emma is too close to Dana Scully. By that I mean, she sees stuff that is compelling evidence that the curse is real, but still refuses to believe. There's being a skeptic and there's being in denial.

Overall, it is one of the best new shows that came out last fall. If you are a fan of fantasy, then it is a must see. If you are a fan of Lost, then this show is the closest you will find on TV. (This is not surprising, given the creators of this show were major creative forces behind that show.) It has a large enough budget to handle the special effects, and the writing and the cast are strong enough to handle the drama.

The Extras

Extras on the first disc include an audio commentary track on the pilot with the co-creators / executive producers, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. There is also a four-minute rendition of the Once Upon a Time orchestral suite. Disc two has an audio commentary track for 7:15 with Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas. Disc three has an audio commentary track on Skin Deep with Robert Carlyle and Jane Espenson. Disc Four has an audio commentary track on The Stable Boy with Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, as well as Lana Parrilla. The final disc is loaded with extras, including an audio commentary track on A Land Without Magic with Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, as well as Jennifer Morrison. There are several featurettes, starting with Fairy Tales in the Modern World, which is a 20-minute long featurette on the cast and creators and how they merged them into the show. Building Character is a seven-minute featurette on how they fleshed out Belle for the show. Welcome to Storybrooke is a seven-minute look at the real town of Steveston, and how they transformed it to Storybrooke. The Story I Remember: Snow White is a four-minute look at the cast trying to tell the story of Snow White. There are two minutes of outtakes and nine deleted scenes.

The Blu-ray has these extras, plus Once Upon a Time: Origins. This featurette looks at the origins of five fairy tales that are featured in this TV series, and how they had so many inspirations. The Blu-ray also looks great with great details, vivid colors, etc. It isn't as good as theatrical releases, but it is dealing with a TV budget. It is about on par with Lost, for instance. Likewise, the audio has very clear dialogue, good separation, ambient sounds, some dynamics, etc.

Finally, the Blu-ray costs just $5 more than the DVD, at least on The list prices are not nearly as close.

The Verdict

Once Upon a Time is an excellent show if you like the fantasy genre, or if you liked Lost or even X-file or Buffy. Plus, the Super Powered Black Box and Super Showdown have more than enough extras to be worth picking up, while the latter is the much better deal. It might be a contender for Pick of the Week.

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