On one level, ABC’s Once Upon A Time is really interesting. It mixes fantasy elements and real-life drama, and each episode focuses on an individual story while still bringing us some movement in the larger plot of the town. But there’s a big problem for me when television that’s supposed to be somewhat family-friendly, even to the point of integrating classic Disney characters into its fairy tale cast, can’t stop doubling down on a major anti-family theme.

[This post includes major spoilers for those who haven’t seen the show at all, and minor spoilers for last Sunday’s episode.]

The show begins when a young boy, Henry, shows up unexpectedly on Emma Swan’s doorstep and announces that he’s the child she gave up for adoption. Emma returns Henry to his home, and learns that he believes everyone in his town is a storybook character under the influence of an evil spell that made them forget their true selves. Emma sees Henry’s fairy tale fantasy as a sign that he’s deeply unhappy, and she decides to move to the town to be near him.

In doing so, she ignores the wishes of Henry’s adoptive mom, Regina. The show presents that as totally okay,  because Regina is a controlling, emotionally distant woman who, by the way, is secretly the evil queen who cast the spell that trapped all the storybook characters in the real world in the first place. Regina also has a history of bad parenting, since she’s Snow White’s wicked stepmother.

Instead of giving the main characters of Once Upon A Time some level of nuance, Regina and Emma’s dueling moms routine is portrayed as a struggle of good against evil. The audience is told that Regina can’t truly care about Henry, because the curse that she used to doom the town has literally made her incapable of love. There are a few times when Regina feels like a more realistic woman whose obsession with revenge has just carried her too far into darkness, but then the show has her go and do something cartoonishly evil like kill her own father or rape a huntsman.

Henry thinks that Emma is the key to fixing the curse and helping his friends and neighbors remember their storybook selves. Emma doesn’t believe in Henry’s other world, but sometimes indulges his stories anyway. Emma and Regina clash over everything, especially when it comes to Emma’s relationship with Henry or her growing role in the community. Regina makes cutting remarks over Emma’s fitness to be a mother, while multiple characters make references to Emma being Henry’s “real” mother. At one point there’s even a suggestion that Emma might be able to challenge Regina for custody.

The last few episodes before the break seemed to have moved away from such directly crummy portrayal of adoption. But then on the most recent episode, Mr. Gold (who is fairytale’s Rumplestilskin) told Regina that her claim to be Henry’s mom was just a technicality.

Seriously, ABC? I want to like this show, but you aren’t helping matters. Adoptive families are real families, and you need to stop suggesting otherwise. I get it, Regina is evil. That doesn’t excuse the constant undercurrent of scorn heaped on her in the name of being an adoptive parent. I may check out the rest of the season in hopes that they find a way to move around that unpleasantness, but the idea of the good birth mother swooping in to save the town from the evil adoptive mom is such a major part of the show that I don’t have much hope of that happening.

I haven’t watched a scripted show on MTV since the days of Daria, but this trailer for Death Valley caught my eye. They’re going for the horror/comedy thing, so I thought it might appeal to some of my fellow urban fantasy fans.

Death Valley premieres tonight on MTV at 10:30.

True BloodWe’re less than a month away from new True Blood episodes!

On June 1, HBO will be hosting a fan event at fifty movie theaters across the country. There will be a Q&A with Alan Ball and cast members, a screening of the season two finale, and a “sneak peek” of season three. To win free tickets to one of these events, you have to become a fan of True Blood on Facebook and then go to the “Sweeps” tab on that page. Once you get registered for the contest, you need to wait until your city comes up – the city that they’re currently giving seats away for changes every six minutes. When I won my seats the locations were coming up in alphabetical order by state abbreviation, so it was easy to see about how long I’d need to keep an eye on the site. Good luck!

And while you wait, check out the first four minisodes:

We’ll get a new minisode each Sunday until the show begins. And for those that need to catch up, the Season Two DVD set releases next Tuesday, May 25. Pick it up to find out why there’s blood in Eric’s hair.

Being Human – a show about a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost who share an apartment – starts on BBC America this week. The first episode is July 25 at 9 pm.

There’s been some really entertaining genre television coming from the UK in recent years (Hex, Primeval, and especially Jekyll), so it’s probably worth checking out.

beinghuman

edit:  post updated with bonus eye candy

There’s a new article about True Blood on the Sci-Fi channel website, so those who can’t wait for the show may want to check it out.

“True Blood is coming to HBO on Sept. 7, the latest offering from Alan Ball (Six Feet Under) and a new twist on the vampire genre. Does it suck? A preview of the show’s first two hours reveals that Ball’s southern-fried take on fang-banging has real bite.”

It’s largely rehashed information, and the author manages to set off a pet peeve by attributing some things established in the series to the adaptation. But if you haven’t been following the True Blood news too closely then you’ll probably find a few things of interest.

Happy Birthday to me, True Blood starts on September 7th. If you’ve been living under a rock, that’s the new HBO show that’s based on the vampire books by Charlaine Harris. I saw an early version of the first episode, and it had both good points and some things that could have been done better. They’d better not screw this one up.

On September 18th, we get the first new Supernatural episode. I can’t wait to see what happens to Dean, but this season I’m hoping for just a little less angst and a little more ass-kicking. If you’ve never seen this show, check out the first season box set quick. If you’re determined, you’ll be able to catch all the way up by the premiere. It’s about eye-candy brothers who fight monsters to a rock music soundtrack. There’s a lot of humor and action, and it just keeps getting better. If you can watch either “Mystery Spot” or “Ghostfacers” from Season 3 and not be totally in love with this show, then you can’t be my friend anymore.

Pushing Daisies is back for a second season on October 1, probably thanks in part to its 12 freaking Emmy nominations. It’s about Ned, a pie maker who can bring the dead back to life with a touch. A second touch will undo the effect, and if he’s not fast enough then something else nearby will die in order to balance things out. Ned helps a private detective with a mean knitting habit solve murders, and both Ned’s girlfriend and his dog have been on the receiving end of his powers. It’s sad and cute and beautiful and fun. This is easily last fall’s best new show, so check it out if you haven’t yet.

Reaper, the hit-or-miss comedy show about a guy who hunts escaped souls for the devil, will be returning at some point, though a date hasn’t been announced. I can’t say that I’ve missed it this summer, but I’ll probably try to work it into my DVR schedule because Ray Wise is fantastic in this.

True Blood Comic Book

July 29, 2008

HBO is releasing an online comic set in the world of True Blood. It doesn’t seem to be directly related to the main plot of the Harris books, the main character is a powerful vampire who has mixed feelings about the recent decision for vampires to admit their existence.

The interface that shows you the comic is a bit of a pain, because you have to zoom in quite a bit on each page to be able to read the text. You’d think that the “actual size” button would show you the full-sized images with one click, but no such luck.

There are several pages of promotional stuff after the comic, including an interview with Alan Ball and TruBlood ads. In addition to the True Blood sites I’ve already posted about, there are ads for the American Vampire League and the anti-vamp Fellowship of the Sun group.

New comic book pages will be posted each Wednesday. To read the first installment, just follow the link from HBO’s main True Blood page.