Pilot Preview: ABC's Newest Fairy-tale, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland

By Lily Sparks

Aug 22, 2013

Hey you! This isn't a review, it's a PREview. Huge difference. Most notably, the "P." Also, these PREviews are based on early cuts of pilots that might change drastically by the time they officially hit the air, so we can't properly review them. But we CAN give you an idea of what to expect. In this series of early looks at the new shows of fall 2013, there's no contemplating, no deep analysis; just super-duper quick thoughts on what we just watched that we're passing on to you. We'll revisit each previewed show in the fall with the hyper-intellectual breakdowns and fart jokes you're used to from us goons here at TV.com.

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland - Thursdays starting October 10 at 8pm on ABC

STARRING AND CREATED BY: ABC essentially commissioned a spin-off series by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz, who’ve been getting direct deposits from ABC since Lost and struck primetime channel gold two seasons ago with the singular hit Once Upon a Time. If this thing takes off, we can presumably expect additional constellations of “OUAT In…” to join the network's burgeoning fairy-tale universe. Alice is played by relative unknown Sophie Lowe; the rest of the main casts includes Naveen Andrews (Lost's Sayid), John Lithgow (Dexter, lots of movies, and of course 3rd Rock from the Sun), Michael Socha (Being Human U.K.), Emma Rigby, and Peter Gadiot.

THE GIST: Pulling on the multi-dimensional mythology of parent series OUAT, Wonderland grounds itself in Storybrooke with a Knave of Hearts being snatched from our favorite Maine hamlet by a CGI rabbit voiced by Lithgow. From there we jump to Victorian England, where Alice is interrogated by her doctors during a probationary hearing at a suitably macabre asylum, and we learn via flashback that she used to run around Wonderland until she fell in love with a tiny man in a bottle (a genie), with whom she traveled betwixt many universes “fighting pirates and swimming with mermaids” until a climatic run-in with a magical showgirl. So: Same shit, different dimension, with a coy hint that the two shows might intermingle.

SNAP JUDGEMENT: The pilot of this highly anticipated series perhaps owes more to Flash Gordon than OUAT in terms of tone and sensibility. The version ABC has screened for press is only about 20 minutes long, and the remarkably poor integration of CGI backgrounds and action sequences—which will hopefully be fixed up before the official series premiere—is super cheesy. Also, OUAT apparently couldn’t spare a single strong dialogue scribe to moonlight for Wonderland, which, if you watch OUAT, should tell you something. Still, what I saw was loony enough to be “bad in a good way” fun.

PILOTITIS DIAGNOSIS: This is a textbook opener structured for maximum exposition. Everything gets laid out for you in the flashbacks and then circled in highlighter marker with the narrative device and then beaten about your head and chest with the parallel dialogue (the kids will be able to keep up with mom and dad). But it left me interested in Episode 2, which is ultimately a pilot's only job.

FACES TO WATCH OUT FOR: Keep your eyes on the Knave of Hearts (Socha), who Alice will presumably be clocking some time with; he’s super charismatic. Emma Rigby gets a real Black Swan entrance, and John Lithgow voices the White Rabbit, which is fun insomuch as you can imagine the crazy “Acting” faces he’s doing in the recording booth during the 15 minutes it took for him to record two episodes.

RANDOM THOUGHTS: Are any thoughts random? Our consciousness floats over the inner churning of a primal and deliberate ego and id, so let’s not pretend there isn’t some chemical formula that could account for me saying this show is batshit insane (my B vitamins are prolly low). The pilot's terrible (and again, possibly under-construction) CGI and over-the-topness of the Bad Character truly made me think of Flash Gordon, and yet I still can't wait to see more of that Caterpillar getting high. Also, I was surprised that the love interest is a genie from Agrabah (and therefore presumably Arab), yet he's played by Peter Gadriot?

EXCITEMENT LEVEL: I’m holding at a steady 5.5. Before the pilot of OUAT premiered way back when, I was a solid 10, but after two seasons of maddening shenanigans in Storybrooke I feel like a badly beaten child edging toward my abuser’s twin.

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  • DanielAshe1 Oct 06, 2013

    I just don't think you can have a Wonderland show without the Mad Hatter. And since they already used that character in the basic OUAT it seems like he won't be showing up on this unless they can tag the same actor. I will give it a try but Wonderland was never my favorite as a kid.

  • GateKeeper06 Oct 04, 2013

    I am really looking forward to this show! It looks like a mini movie. I do like flashbacks. I want to know why is the bottle in wonderland, why is the red queen after Cyrus? Were those 2 in love before? Why is Jafar so nasty towards Alice? I am already hooked!

  • reinrose Oct 01, 2013

    Why must every OUAT story be told 50% in flashback? Ah yes, Alice is in Wonderland collecting evidence for her negligent, disbelieving father. Somehow a genie's lamp ended up there and she fell madly in love with him. For some reason a Vegas showgirl took offence and tried to kill the genie. All details are to be revealed later with explanations that are so thinly explained as to barely be believed!
    Could someone please tell these people I don't always need to know where someone's been to enjoy where they go? We can't just start with Alice being introduced to Wonderland? Already she's been to Agrabah and Kung-fu world and learned to sword twirl with the Amazons? Already I have a headache and this is just the preview.

  • MandySCG Aug 24, 2013

    The trailer is good, so I'll probably watch a few episodes to see if I like it. I loved Once Upon a Time at first, but I'm bored with it now.

  • Raniatlw Aug 24, 2013

    I'd watch just for Michael Socha. Loved him in Being Human! :)

  • Liria Aug 24, 2013

    I liked the trailer, and I miss seeing Michael Socha, so I'll probably check this out. :)

  • giftofamber Aug 24, 2013

    Lily, you put it perfectly "I feel like a badly beaten child edging toward my abuser's twin." Having seen the extended preview at Comic Con, it was like OUAT only very, very, very straight. Very straight. It has potential & I was looking forward to it more as a midseason replacement, so if I have nothing better to watch, I may check it out. Is there some reason that CGI on ABC is so horrid? Budget issues?

  • Svanehjerte Aug 23, 2013

    I think it looks GREAT! The only two minuses is the CGI and that the queen looked so cheap, almost like a prostitute. I hope she'll get more "classy outfits". The CGI isn't the best, but it is more than acceptable for me to not care about it. The story sounds good, the genie is gorgeous and I like the Alice/Genie romance, John Lithgow is in it... I already know I will love it before I have even watched an episode.

    The regular OUaT is still great too.

  • AnoukvdZee Aug 23, 2013

    You're kidding me! The trailer for this was great, they have the ability to start over completely and do everything right they can no longer fix in that trainwreck of OUaT, and they STILL screw it up? I so very much hope they improve upon that pilot. If this one fails, I will have nothing new to watch this season and considering the summer we had, I have a feeling we're in a huge slump.

  • angelpix24 Aug 23, 2013

    You had me at Michael Socha :)

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