How many chances for Once Upon a Time?

Last updated 09:32 10/02/2012

A familiar dilemma reared its head last night: I didn't actually think the first episode of Once Upon a Time was very good, but I like the idea of the show enough to stick with it for a few more weeks. The question is how long I should invest in a show that didn't grab me with the first episode - in fact, I found it downright off-putting at times - when there is no guarantee that I'll enjoy more in a week, or two weeks, or 10 weeks.

20120210(Warning: The following post contains spoilers from last night's Once Upon a Time premiere.)

Most of my qualms are reasonably minor and easily overcome - I think Lana Parrilla is woefully miscast as Regina Mills (though she plays the Evil Queen well enough) and some of the writing has all the subtlety of a Fred Durst lyric - but there are two things that bugged me as I was watching the first episode, which aired last night on TV2.

First, I didn't like the introduction of Emma Swan, the lead character played by Jennifer Morrison who is drawn to Storybrooke (the town name is a perfect example of the subtlety I was talking about earlier) by Henry, the 10-year-old son she gave up for adoption, who believes that the people of Storybrooke are actually characters from a fairytale book he owns, and that Emma is the abandoned daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming (a storyline which we see play out in flashbacks* to before the townspeople ended up in modern times).

It all seemed a little clumsy, even garish, with the development playing out so obviously that they might as well have put a little "this is an important plot point, pay attention" sign in the bottom corner of the screen.

Second, the fantasy scenes - that is, those scenes set in the fictional Enchanted Forest - really started to bug me by the end of the hour. It was like the writers were just including little details in order to prove how clever they are. "Oh look, its Little Red Riding Hood and Grumpy taking part in a round table meeting, look how the writers have twisted my expectations of what a fairy tale should look like!" It was cringeworthy at times, and not in a good way.

Yet, I think there is potentially the start of a really great show in among all the annoying nuggets we were presented with last night. If the show can exercise restraint, be more discerning about when and how to release plot details, then Once Upon a Time could prove to be a fantastic series.

So how long should I wait for it to get its act together?

I'm definitely going to tune in next week. Giving up on a show after one bad episode seems a little unfair - especially when that show is the first episode, the pilot episode of the entire series. So much can change from the first to the second episode of a series: changes due to notes from the network or feedback from audiences have a big influence early in a show's life, plus there is often a bunch of background information (the setup) to get through.

Think about a recent show like Person of Interest, which seemed clunky and bogged down in detail during the first couple of episodes, but which has now settled into a pretty entertaining groove. Besides, if we gave up on every show that had a bad first episode, The X Files would never have made it to two episodes, let alone 200.

On the other hand, I have no interest in giving a bad show six or eight hours of my life, or more - especially not at this time of year, when there are so many other potentially great shows starting or returning. If a show can't grab you in the first half-dozen episodes, it probably never will.

If you ask me, I think three episodes is a pretty happy medium. When we started On the Box, I made a conscious decision that I would give any new show I started a three-episode chance to grab me; I watch far too much telly to pour more time into shows I don't enjoy, but making a decision on a show in fewer episodes than that seems a bit rash.

Once Upon a Time, you've got two more weeks to impress me.

What did you think of the Once Upon a Time premiere? Did you like it, or did you find some of the same faults as me? And how many episodes should we give new shows before giving up on them entirely?

(*) When a show says "from the producers of Lost", you just know there'll be flashbacks.

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77 comments
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Panda   #1   09:39 am Feb 10 2012

The ads put me off but I tried to give it a chance. About 15 mins in I realised both my hubby and I had gone on to doing other things, completely ignoring the telly. It won't get a round 2 in our house!!

Jim   #2   09:40 am Feb 10 2012

It was crap. Won't be watching another.

Would have been better if Brick from "The Middle" played the kid.

rach   #3   09:43 am Feb 10 2012

yeah, I found it clunky and overacted, but it had enough in it to keep me going to see if it gets better. I give a new show 3 episodes to grab me. I too was not grabbed by person of interest by the first two episodes but it was growing on me by the third. sadly I've had to cancel my season pass to it though as it clashes with 'revenge' and 'homeland' and my tivo will only tape 2 channels - what's a girl to do??

Alice   #4   09:46 am Feb 10 2012

For me - if I dislike a show after the first episode I don't watch anymore.

If I am somewhat on the fence I give it another 2 episodes to persuade me. If that doesn't work, then I stop watching.

It is rare indeed that something grabs me from the first episode...

kylie   #5   09:48 am Feb 10 2012

i think that bones will be getting the vote from our house it was ok i had the feeling it should be on a saturday or sunday arvo at 5pm it was just that sort of feeling. They could do that and put drop dead diva on at prime time instead.

Lockswell   #6   09:52 am Feb 10 2012

Our house loved it and it is already on series link! Something a bit different and we cannot wait to see how the story line twists and turns.

Charlie   #7   09:54 am Feb 10 2012

I must admit that I like the concept of the show more than I enjoyed the first episode. I didn't have the same gripes as you mentioned I just found it rather slow.

At the end of the day I am there to watch a tv programme for entertainment, I don't mind the 'clever me' links or the obvious plot developments that come up in this series. I like the potential this programme presents.

If you like the concept, stick with this one. I'd watch at least 3 episodes to make a decision either way, but at the same time I wouldn't force myself to sit through something I hated 'just to give it a chance'.

I found The Wire the hardest series to get into. Although that being said while we enjoyed series 1 eventually, we gave up on series 2. I've been told series 3 is better and I should watch that but haven't been able to find motivation to do that even though the boxed set is sitting right beside the tv

Ms+S   #8   09:56 am Feb 10 2012

I havent watched OUAT yet (have recorded it), but I face the same dilemma with New Girl. That first episode didnt grab me, but I will watch another couple before I decided to continue watching it or not.

bOb   #9   10:01 am Feb 10 2012

Same as you... it didnt really appeal but I've decided to give it 1 more go next week.

Bren   #10   10:05 am Feb 10 2012

The number of episodes I will watch before giving up on a show depends on the reviews. I didn't enjoy New Girl on Tuesday, but have heard it gets better so will give it another crack next week. If a show's getting bad reviews and the first episode is crap then I don't go back. There's too much other stuff to watch to waste time on one that's not great.


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