Once Upon a Time, in case you haven’t heard, is an ABC show currently in its third season. The best way to describe it is “Enchanted for grownups.” Or “the ultimate Disney crossover fanfiction.” Or “that show where Snow White and Prince Charming’s daughter got knocked up by Rumpelstiltskin’s son and their kid got adopted by Snow White’s evil stepmother who was almost the lovechild of Rumpelstiltskin and the Miller’s Daughter and that’s just the beginning.”
Although Once‘s original pitch was classic fairy tale characters living in the modern world, it quickly became obvious that “classic fairy tale” = “anything either in the public domain or owned by Disney.” So far the world of the Enchanted Forest has intersected with Wonderland, Frankenstein, the Knights of the Round Table, Robin Hood, Neverland, and most recently, Oz. Which is AWESOME. Go big or go home, right? Once Upon a Time is almost sure to get a fourth season. Here are a few yet-untapped veins in the Disney properties and public domain gold mines.
5. SHERLOCK HOLMES
There’s always a mystery afoot in Storybrook. Who better than Sherlock Holmes, the world’s greatest public domain detective, to show up and solve one? Sadly, it’s unlikely that CBS or the BBC would loan Miller or Cumberbatch to a rival network. Just as well, though, since pulling Holmes and Watson out of 19th century London seems more in keeping with Once’s style. Most likely scenario: Sherlock must solve a paternity case, and he discovers that he himself is the Blue Fairy’s son, Aladdin’s brother, and Captain Hook’s father.
Srsrly tho, WHY have there not been vampires in Storybrook yet? Half of Regina’s Evil Queen costumes look like they were designed for a vampire (hmmm, maybe Carmilla would be better?). There could be this whole storyline about Dracula only being able to drink blood from someone if they have a heart, and Regina has to use her magic heart-stealing powers to save the whole town from being vampired, and Dracula is Jiminy Cricket’s son, Grumpy the Dwarf’s brother, and Mulan’s father.
The property rights situation on this one is complicated, but Disney distributed the Narnia movies, so I’m throwing it in here anyway. We’ve already seen several characters travel to and from Storybrook via wardrobe. Agrabah, a major location in the underrated Wonderland spinoff, could easily be part of the Calormen Empire. Come on, writers; I want a twisted, tangled backstory about the War of the Drobes in the land of Spare Oom. A story in which Mister Tumnus is revealed to be Red Riding Hood’s son, Ariel’s brother, and Mushu’s father.
Miss Piggy: “Mirror on moi’s dressing room wall, who’s the biggest diva of them all?”
Muppet mirror: “O Queen of Hams, if camp could kill, we’d all be slain by Regina Mills.”
Miss Piggy drags the Muppet crew to Storybrook to investigate. A battle royale between her and Regina ends in an accidental curse that turns everyone in Storybrook into Muppets. They spend the whole episode trying to put things back to normal. Chaos and random musical numbers ensue. All is put to right at the end, but not before it is discovered that Miss Piggy is Cora’s other long-lost daughter, Kermit the Frog is Princess Tiana’s brother, and Gonzo is Rumpelstiltskin’s grandfather.
I’m not one to fall for hype. Usually the more I feel like people or advertisers want me to like something, the more skeptical I am about that thing. But sometimes, for any number of reasons, I’ll come upon a work that seems like something that I will love. Many times I do end up loving that thing. Recent cases include Sleepy Hollow, Janelle Monae’s albums, and Ender’s Game (both the book and the movie). And then there are works that make me feel like I’m on a first date with someone who looked like a great match on paper, but with whom, for some indefinable reason, I have zero chemistry.
This post contains only my extremely subjective opinion. It’s not an objective analysis of these works or a statement regarding the character, intellect, or taste of those who do love them. 10 through 6 are things I wanted to love but instead only liked. Or merely didn’t actively dislike. 5 through 1 are things for which I ended up feeling something between annoyance and trauma. I realize I am wrong about all of them.
10. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (1993)
I did like this one, kind of, but it was a huge disappointment because I really wanted to LOVE it. Much Ado About Nothing ties with Twelfth Night as my favorite Shakespearean play. The cast for this version is unbelievable. Kate Beckinsale! Denzel Washington! Wilson from House! I just couldn’t buy Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson as the leads, though. I didn’t feel like I was watching Beatrice and Benedick. I felt like I was watching two graduates of The William Shatner School of Hammy Acting play Beatrice and Benedick.
Like Much Ado, I don’t dislike Grimm. I do enjoy it. I watch it most weeks. But while I love elements of Grimm (notably the Portland setting, the German folklore, and Monroe and Rosalee together and individually), I find I merely like the show as a whole. It’s a pleasant diversion when there’s nothing else to catch my attention. When Sleepy Hollow came out, a friend of mine commented that Sleepy Hollow is what he’d wanted Grimm to be. I think that sums it up for me as well.
Everything about this TNT drama seems like I should really enjoy it. I love cheesy detective shows that focus more on the quirky crime-solvers than the actual crimes. I love dry, witty cynicism. I love Rachel Leigh Cook. And yet, I’ve stayed tuned for this show after Rizzoli and Isles at least a dozen times, and I can’t tell you a single thing about a single episode. Except that Rachel Leigh Cook is beautiful when she’s bitchy.
7. THE OFFICE (BBC)
I love British humor, and I love the American version of The Office. This seemed like a no-brainer. The handful of episodes I’ve seen were entertaining enough, but didn’t compel me to watch more.
I never thought I’d say this about a movie, but Battleship disappointed me by not being bad enough. I mean, it was based on a toy made of grids and pegs, and it starred Liam Neeson, Taylor Kitsch, Rhianna, and a bunch of CGI aliens! I went into this movie expecting something gloriously stupid. Instead, the movie tried too hard to actually be good, and ended up being forgettably mediocre.
I had some misgivings about this because I was never a fan of Fred Armisen on SNL. *coughblackfacecough* But I liked crunchy comedy, Portland, and Carrie Brownstein, so I gave it a chance. Maybe I’d like Armisen better with better writing and directing and no blackface, I told myself. I was wrong. I keep coming back to Portlandia hoping I’ll get over it. The writing is witty and clever. Carrie Brownstein is wonderful. The jokes are spot-on for someone who was crunchy before it was cool (I was helping my mom divide co-op orders of organic amaranth flour in kindergarten). Alas, for some reason, Fred Armisen is just one of those actors who annoys me by existing.
This show looked like it’d be a great guilty pleasure. Gossip Girl in a French castle! The pilot ended up feeling more guilty than pleasant, though. I really did not want to see Susan Pevensie’s boyfriend try to rape Mary Queen of Scots under Anne Shirley’s orders. I might give this one another try when it goes to Netflix, but in the meantime, I haven’t felt compelled to watch it in prime time.
3. THE LAST BATTLE
This was probably my first literary disappointment. I was six years old, almost seven. I’d read through all the Narnia books by myself. I loved them. I mean, LOVED them. It was my first fantasy fandom. I was writing Narnia fanfiction before I even knew fanfiction was a thing. I spent hours imagining adventures with all my favorite characters. My absolute favorite character was Aravis Tarkheena, because she was smart and snarky and she had a talking horse. Most of all, she was a brown princess.
Then I got to The Last Battle, in which it is repeatedly and explicitly stated that the bad Calormenes are dark and the good Narnians are white. I was absolutely heartbroken. I felt like my imaginary friends didn’t want to play with me. From my adult perspective, I’m more aware of Imperialist English attitudes toward the Middle East, and of C.S. Lewis being a product of his culture. But I didn’t know any of that at the time, and I sure as hell didn’t know anything about political correctness. I was friggin’ six. All I knew was that if Lucy and Susan Pevensie met me for real, they’d think I was a bad guy because I looked like a dark Calormene instead of a white Narnian. Not that I could meet Lucy anyway, because she was dead. And apparently I couldn’t get to Narnia if I liked nylons and lipstick like Susan.
I wrote a (probably awful) fanfiction retconning the whole damn book. I don’t remember a thing about it, but I imagine it was better than the original.
2. ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK
I found this show before hearing any of the hype. One of my best friends, whose taste often coincides with mine, had seen the first few episodes and rated it “interesting, but I’m not sure.” I checked out the description on Netflix. Kate Mulgrew piqued my interest, as did that chick from But I’m A Cheerleader! and Laverne Cox. These ladies remain the biggest reasons I wish I could love this show.
I couldn’t get past the pilot. God, I hated the pilot so much. I hated that Piper “used to be a lesbian.” I hated the predatory lesbian prison stereotypes. I hated the thug/ghetto Hispanic prison stereotypes. I can’t help wondering how many of the queer OITNB fangirls have grown up having to make an effort to distance themselves from the stereotype of “thug,” “felon,” “ghetto,” or “person who belongs in prison.” I’ve noticed that most of them are white and/or grew up middle-class. I’m all for more LGBT women and women of color in media, but CAN THEY NOT BE IN FUCKING PRISON??? Can a show have an integrated cast without the white people being literally forced to live and work alongside the people of color? Can the people of color be in the same social strata as the white people? Can there be Latina main characters who are not maids, not immigrants, not from the ghetto, and NOT? IN? FUCKING? PRISON?????
1. THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW
It took me awhile to decide between this and OITNB for #1. Rocky Horror won because, although I hated OITNB more, Rocky Horror was the bigger disappointment. I wanted to love this movie for the experience of loving it. I wanted to go to midnight showings in campy costumes and throw toast at the screen and make a jump to the left and a step to the right. And I can’t even put a finger on why I didn’t like it. I could make a long list of its problematic elements, but there are things I do love that have as many problematic elements if not more. I enjoyed Twilight unironically, for goodness’ sake! Alas, it was not to be. I just found this movie downright unpleasant to watch. Depressing, even. Really depressing. I had to watch Monty Python sketches for about half an hour to make myself un-depressed enough to function again. Although I don’t regret having watched The Rocky Horror Picture Show, I could easily go the rest of my life without watching it again.