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.
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.