Sunday, November 06, 2011

TV: Fairy tales for grown ups

As children, many of us rely on fairy tales. As adults, many are too lazy for anything else. And they're all part of the great American distortion. NBC and ABC wanted to have a go at fairy tales this season with both insisting the fairy tales were true. True or false, one show succeeds and one falters.


Grimm (NBC, Friday nights, second hour of prime time) stars David Giuntoli as police detective Nick Burkhardt and tries to bring the Grimm fairy tales to life. Except for worrying that his partner Hank (Russel Homsby doing everything perfectly in this role) will turn out to be one of the beasts from the fairy tales, we really enjoy this show. Nick 's always had the ability to profile in the extreme (even noting when some adult, just by looking at them, grew up with a single-parent) but now his gift has gone even further and he can see the beasts under some otherwise human faces. He's not sure what's going on and then his Aunt Marie (Kate Burton) shows up, losing a battle to cancer and desperate to explain to him that the family must battle the evil of those fairy tales, that they were true stories.

Each episode finds Nick with a stand-alone case to solve as well as adding to the long-range storyline where he becomes, in effect, the fairy tale slayer. What he doesn't realize is that the evil goes further than a stray criminal here or there but all the way up in the police force.

While Grimm is involving, Once Upon A Time is bad soap opera. The ABC series (second hour of prime time, Sundays) is uninvolving and plays like a lengthy commercial for Disney. In fact, anything that might be magical has been stripped from the series, the same way Disney handles its films. Although the dialogue and plots are highly simplistic, the backstory is rather convoluted. In fact, we wouldn't be surprised to see Jimmy Stewart and Harvey show up before the season ends.

For now viewers have to make due with Jiminy Cricket transformed into psychiatrist Archie Hopper and, since there's no Pinocchio around, he busies himself with framing people for crimes so they can be wrongly arrested. No, that's not the way we're remembering him either.

Jennifer Morrison plays lead character Emma Swan who we see on a blind date in the opener. The man she's 'dating'? He skipped bail. Emma's a bailbonds collector and she's quickly nabs him. Then she meets a young child Henry who tells her he's her biological son. (For those late to the party, we do not review or critique the work of child actors.) Henry is the son she gave up for adoption. She takes him back to his mother Regina Mills.

Henry attempts to convince her on the way to Storybrooke that the city is the result of the Evil Queen's curse on Snow White and Prince Charming. Oh, and his (adoptive) mother Regina is really the Evil Queen. Emma, he explains, is the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming and she can end the curse.

Ginnifer Goodwin plays Henry's teacher Mary Margaret. And, with an ugly, long wig, she plays Snow White. As Snow White, she's rather bland looking and we had to wonder if everyone missed the part in Snow White where the evil queen wants her dead because Snow White becomes "the most fairest of them all"? Snow's not the only one with looks issues. Josh Dallas is supposed to be a coma patient and also Prince Charming. As the coma patient, maybe. As Prince Charming? Does he rule over the kingdom of Home Depot? Scruffy Dallas never seems either royal or regal and while he and his stubble can pass for good looking, handsome is a huge stretch. You wouldn't accept the two on The Bachelor, let alone as Prince Charming and Snow White. It's as though we paid to stream The Thin Man and ended up with Phyllis Kirk and Peter Lawford instead of Myrna Loy and William Powell.

The whole point of Once Upon a Time is that Emma will save everything, make time move again (she's started it), remove the curse and more. That really doesn't seem like a multi-season show and what's even worse is that it's not even entertaining for the few episodes it should probably last. Each episode seems to exist solely so Disney can stamp their brand on ever more characters and to test out potential Disney World and Disney Land attractions. Such a focus would explain -- although not excuse -- the dull proceedings onscreen.

But nothing explains the cast. The foreigner as Storeybrooke's sheriff (Jamie Dornan sounding alternately British and Irish), Lana Parrilla as the evil queen and Mayor Regina Mills to make sure no one misses the show's ugly message that powerful women are corrupt and most of all Jennifer Morrison who proves that, The Princess Diaries aside, Disney still doesn't know how to cast princesses in live action roles. Morrison has no sparkle, no humor and she's honestly a little too breasty to be a princess anywhere other than Dollywood.

She looks like no fairy tale princess we've ever seen. And most of us can recognize a fairy tale when we hear one. For example, Bill Clinton long ago recognized one and called it out:

"But since you raised the judgment issue, let's go over this again. That is the central argument for his campaign. 'It doesn't matter that I started running for president less a year after I got to the Senate from the Illinois State Senate. I am a great speaker and a charismatic figure and I'm the only one who had the judgment to oppose this war from the beginning. Always, always, always.' "
it is factually not true that everybody that supported that resolution supported Bush attacking Iraq before the UN inspectors were through. Chuck Hagel was one of the co-authors of that resolution. The only Republican Senator that always opposed the war. Every day from the get-go. He authored the resolution to say that Bush could go to war only if they didn't co-operate with the inspectors and he was assured personally by Condi Rice as many of the other Senators were. So, first the case is wrong that way."
"Second, it is wrong that Senator Obama got to go through 15 debates trumpeting his superior judgment and how he had been against the war in every year, numerating the years, and never got asked one time, not once, 'Well, how could you say, that when you said in 2004 you didn't know how you would have voted on the resolution? You said in 2004 there was no difference between you and George Bush on the war and you took that speech you're now running on off your website in 2004* and there's no difference in your voting record and Hillary's ever since?' Give me a break."This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen...So you can talk about Mark Penn all you want. What did you think about the Obama thing calling Hillary the Senator from Punjab? Did you like that?"
"Or what about the Obama hand out that was covered up, the press never reported on, implying that I was a crook? Scouring me, scathing criticism, over my financial reports. Ken Starr spent $70 million and indicted innocent people to find out that I wouldn't take a nickel to see the cow jump over the moon."So, you can take a shot at Mark Penn if you want. It wasn't his best day. He was hurt, he felt badly that we didn't do better in Iowa. But you know, the idea that one of these campaigns is positive and the other is negative when I know the reverse is true and I have seen it and I have been blistered by it for months, is a little tough to take. Just because of the sanitizing coverage that's in the media, doesn't mean the facts aren't out there.

A functioning society would have nodded along and even cheered the above. We don't live in a functioning society. We live amongst and amidst the Cult of St. Barack -- a land where adults want to self-deceive and live out the fairy tale of The Emperor's New Clothes. They're aided in that pathological embrace by the press. For example, Ben Smith (POLITICO) published this last week:

But as the president’s reelection team begins in earnest to attack Mitt Romney, Obama faces one of the most difficult tests of his political career: to tear down Romney without getting a single smudge of dirt on his own shirtfront -- a trick he has performed deftly in previous races.

Barak didn't get caught and called out on dirty campaigning in 2008? Well who's fault is that? We'll answer for you: The press.

The same press that protected time and again. The same press that worked -- either with Journolist or on their own -- to ignore nearly every mistake and error he made and then minimize the few that they bothered to note.

They were the Brothers Grimm (Disney-fied) enlisting into the ranks of the Cult of St. Barack.

They are the reason that people treat an official unemployment rate of 9% and higher (unofficial is at least 17%) as normal and never make the point that, by now, you should have addressed unemployment if you were sworn in back in 2009.

They are the reason that the fairy tale currently told is: "Barack has a jobs plan! Mean old Republicans won't let it advance in the Congress!" While the reality that the House has passed jobs plans written by Republicans but the (Democratically-controlled) Senate won't put any of those to a vote is ignored. (See Jess' post Friday night.)

Fairy tales work due to their simple narrative. And the press is nothing but simple and simple-minded. It's so much easier to repeat the narrative than to do actual work. Bob Somerby grasping that would leave him less puzzled by so much of the nonsense the press churns out.

Barack gives a speech claiming withdrawal from Iraq?

The easiest thing for the press -- official court scribes that they are -- to do is just write that down. Checking out what was said? Verifying it? That's actual work. So much better to just repeat "Once upon a time . . ." and doze off.

Though not beauties, they are our Sleeping Press and they are responsible for the state of this country, they are responsible for people foolishly believeing Bush left the White House and Guantanamo closed, or torture stopped, or the PATRIOT Act ended. They are lulled into this by a press that refuses to do its job because, quite honestly, it's a fat, lazy and declawed press.

And it's a lot like Once Upon A Time in that its many failures are no longer even entertaining. It's just a big mess, an ugly stain on the nation that wastes time and intelligence and, bit by bit, makes us all a little bit dumber each day. Once Upon A Time at least stands the chance of being cancelled, but the press you will always have with you.
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