Throwdown: Once Upon a Time vs. Grimm

By Tim Surette

Nov 10, 2011

Sometimes it's not enough to let two similar things coexist amicably. Sometimes, it's necessary to label one of them as "better" so we can keep order in the world. We see similar trends, facsimiles, and straight-up rip-offs in television all the time; as such, we've decided to do our part to determine who does what better. And so we present our new Throwdown series, a semi-regular feature in which we'll pit two like things against each other and ask you, our good-looking and intelligent readers, to help us name a winner.

Our first topic is simply too easy to ignore: Two of the fall season's new shows—ABC's Once Upon a Time and NBC's Grimm—have brought fairy tales to primetime. And while yes, the fairy tale thing has been done before, we've never seen two such shows present new takes on "Little Red Riding Hood" and its ilk within a week of each other. But we're not here today to decide which show is better, we're here to ask...

Which show is more successful in bringing fairy tales to television, Once Upon a Time or Grimm?

Under a microscope, Once Upon a Time and Grimm are very different shows. Once Upon a Time is a serialized, high-concept mystery that alternates between two different universes, one fairy tale and one "real." Grimm is a procedural and always stays within a single, modern-day world. Their different approaches to bringing fairy tales to life have yielded very different results. Let's run down the basics and throw out some pros and cons with each approach:

Once Upon a Time
Once Upon a Time has left the world of fairy tales completely intact by giving the stories their own alternate universe. This creates a fantasy world where Snow White can be Snow White, and Prince Charming can be dashing as all heck. It's a place that looks like Disneyland after dark, full of elaborate get-ups, community theater-style makeup, and embellished acting as everyone really gets into character.

Pros: The mainstream vision of fairy tales isn't damaged in any way, we get to see ridiculous witch fights, and actual dwarves show up!

Cons: The two universes don't really cross over (yet?), and are we too old for these familiar fairy tales?

Grimm, meanwhile, has opted to incorporate fairy tales into the real world by saying those old stories were actually real, creating a universe where fairy tale creatures both good and evil live in secret among normal, everyday people. The fairy tales themselves are tweaked or rewritten to fit into our universe, for better or for worse. Grimm also presents its take on fairy tales in a creepy alt-art way, rendering them almost unrecognizable from the pop-culture interpretations popularized by Disney and others.

Pros: We get to see cool, artistic interpretations of fairy tales in the real world (did you see the Big Bad Wolf's house in the pilot?), and the idea of fairy tales as legitimate folklore leads to real-world scares. Our hero can actually interact with the fairy tales.

Cons: The fairy tale creatures don't necessarily adhere to the classic stories we know them from, so really, what's the point?

So which approach do you prefer? Once Upon a Time serves up a traditional fairy tale preparation, complete with costumes and a self-contained fantasy world, while Grimm presents a scarier, more alternative take by recasting the familiar stories so they fit into the real world. And which show do you think is more successful in bringing fairy tales to TV? Make your case in the comments!

The best arguments will determine the winner, so come out swinging but please remember to keep it clean. (P.S. Got an idea for a future Throwdown? Email it to us at!)

Follow writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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  • jessmccormac Oct 29, 2013

    Once upon a time is meh. Grimm is good but its a clear ripoff of lost girl

  • sophtilly Apr 29, 2013

    I think both shows are absolutely awesome but my fav show ever is Grimm. i gotta say it's pretty cool! anyone who thinks both these shows suck need 2 watch them again (or for the first time) and then they will see how awesome they are and if they still dont think theyre the awesomest shows they should go away and get a life

  • RobertPirlot May 09, 2012

    If I wanted to see a Fairy Tale I'd watch a Disney Movie but Grimm has more artistic thought put into it. Taking Fairy Tales and adding some imagination is something I want to see. Not the same boring crap we see. Unfortunately America doesn't really like very different shows and only want the crap they know and have seen, so it will fail like shows such as Pushing Daisy. SAD really.

  • CrystalBowman0 Apr 15, 2012

    I stopped watching Grimm a long time back. I guess that shows which one I think has a better take on fairy tales.

  • ToyasComics Jan 23, 2012

    Both are boring as hell. Grimm is for teens (where the main character is stylized after Dylan Dog) and Once is just fallowing recent Hollywood fairytale boom. Nothing special.

  • MarkusAureliu Nov 24, 2011

    Once Upon a Time is like a lollipop, after two sucks its fainingly familiar. Grimm is like peanut-brittle you never know how it will crack.

  • TimSpot Nov 16, 2011

    CLOSING THE POLLS GUYS! This was a surprisingly big response! Look for the wrap-up and winner announcement tomorrow, along with our next edition of Throwdown. And it's a good one!

  • diamonddust Nov 14, 2011

    Final tally:

    Once Upon a Time: 96

    Grimm: 27

  • SohiHien Nov 14, 2011

    I like once upon a time better then GRIMM. I find Grimm to be too much of a Supernaturalv(Which is the best show hands down) rip off and instead of focusing on the cool being a Grimm aspect it is too much of a cop show. I find the episodes are a long slow predictable build up to a quick finish (like most cop shows) Once upon a time keeps me wondering who will show up next and who each character is in the real world and what will happen next. I will keep watching Grimm when I can to see where it goes but I'm not as interested or excited about it as I am with Once Upon a Time.

  • NeeUyank Nov 14, 2011

    for me it is definitely Grimm.. it is dark, realistic, and gives a better perspective on "fairy tales re-visited for adults" premise.. whereas OUAT seems just like a "fairy tales re-produced", which feels too "family-friendly"..

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