Pilot Perception: Once Upon a Time in Wonderland

Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The Show: Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, ABC in the U.S. and City in Canada, Fridays at 8:30/7:30c

The Pedigree: As the title implies, this is an adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland stories from the people who brought you Once Upon a Time, Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis. They wrote the pilot with Jane Espenson (Buffy) and Zack Estrin (No Ordinary Family), and Ralph Hemecker (Once Upon a Time) directed.

The Cast & How You Know Them: The show stars Sophie Lowe (The Slap), Peter Gadiot (The Forbidden Girl), Michael Socha (Being Human), Emma Rigby (Hollyoaks), Naveen Andrews (Lost), and the voice of John Lithgow (3rd Rock from the Sun).

The Premise: When Alice, a young woman in Victorian England, talks about the magical things she’s seen in Wonderland, her doctors think she’s crazy and want to give her a treatment that will wipe her memory. But she doesn’t want to lose Wonderland or her true love Cyrus, and the Knave of Hearts and the White Rabbit arrive to save her from her fate.

A Taste:

What Works: It might partially just be that the show looks so different than most other things I watch, but I was thoroughly enchanted by this pilot. Having Alice and Cyrus already together (though currently separated against their will) was a refreshing change from the standard will they/won’t they premise, and I like that Cyrus seems pretty enlightened for a fairy tale hero, liking it that Alice is independent and up for adventure. I also like that about her: she’s spunky and irreverent without seeming completely anachronistic. The Knave of Hearts is an extremely fun character so far as well.

What Doesn’t: I still think the Aladdin elements and characters inserted into Wonderland are kind of weird, though they worked better than I expected. And I realize that the scene set in the present day made this fit in with the Once Upon a Time set-up, but it didn’t really feel necessary here. Some of the special effects are pretty bad – oh, TV budgets.

Our Favorite Line: “We’re late!” “I’m not interested in your important dates, rabbit.”

You Might Like This if you like Once Upon a Time and other fairy tale themed shows. You might love or hate it if you’re a big fan of other versions of Alice in Wonderland, depending on how much of a purist you are, so if you fall into that category you might want to check out an episode or two.

If You’re Interested: Watch the pilot on the ABC, Hulu, or City sites, then tune in next Thursday for episode two.

(Photo courtesy of ABC.)

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