Magazine article Variety

Fairy Tale Comes True for 'Lost' Boys

Magazine article Variety

Fairy Tale Comes True for 'Lost' Boys

Article excerpt

Forget the hoofers of "Smash," the dinosaurs of "Terra Nova" or the post-Charlie Sheen refurbishing of "Two and a Half Men." The biggest long-shot of the 2011-12 season was ABC's foray into fantasy with the Evil Queen, Snow White, Rumplestiltskin, Pinocchio and the rest of the gang in "Once Upon a Time."

The ABC Studios show, created and exec produced by "Lost" alums Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, is an intricate construction of two parallel worlds - fairy-tale land and the contempo cursed town of Storybrooke, Maine - with core characters who inhabit different personas in each realm as storylines drawn from age-old fables converge. It's a multilevel chess game for producers, further complicated by elaborate vfx, makeup and costuming needs, and it puts unusual demands on cast members Lana Parrilla, Jennifer Morrison, Robert Carlyle, Ginnifer Goodwin and 1 1-year-old Jared Gilmore.

Appropriately, the fairy-tale drama is delivering a happy ending for the network as its first season wraps May 13. "Once Upon the Time" has defied the odds against fantasy fare on broadcast TV to become a big-tent Sunday night success story. It ranks as ABC's No. 3 show in the adults 18-49 demo, behind only "Modern Family" and "Grey's Anatomy."

Once's" viewer base is buoyed by its appeal to two distinct demos: genre fans and family auds. It ranks No. 2 among all scripted primetime skeins (behind only ABC sitcom "The Middle") among programs that adults and youths watch together. The show clicked with viewers out of the gate in its October premiere, and has held steady throughout the season in its 8 p.m. berth, with an average of 11.6 million viewers and 4.0 rating/10 share in adults 18-49, according to Nielsen.

ABC has had a prosperous year with its freshman shows, fielding bona fide hits with the soapy drama "Revenge" and domestic comedy "Suburgatory." But none of the Alphabet's frosh crop was as much of a convention-defying gamble as "Once," so the rewards are particularly gratifying. The show reps a big investment for Disney on many levels, not the least of which is allowing producers to work with a handful of characters, such as Jiminy Cricket, that have a strong association with the Disney brand.

"This show has very, very complex production issues," says Barry Jossen, exec veep of ABC Studios. "But maybe the most complicated thing of all was taking the creative leap of faith that a TV series starring beloved fairy-tale characters could be a broadly appealing primetime series."

That the series is so well-realized is testament to the skill of Kitsis and Horowitz, and the fact the longtime writing partners nurtured their idea for the show for nearly a decade. The central premise revolves around answering the questions about what happened to Snow White, the Evil Queen, et al, in the periods surrounding their oft-told tales, e.g. before "once upon a tune" and after "happily ever after."

"We'd always talked about how much we loved these stories and how formative they were for us," Horowitz says. "And we always talked about how hard it would be to be the Evil Queen in a land of happy endings," Kitsis says. "We liked the idea that these stories could be happy and sad, dark and light."

It took years to bring "Once" to fruition, because the two knew they didn't have the chops to pull off such an elaborate production when the idea was first conceived, back when they were staff writers on the WB's "Felicity. …

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