Primetime

ONCE UPON A TIME: A Magical Spell Of Success

I’ve never been able to sit down and actively explain what it is about a certain television show that makes it a part of my heart, and I think that reason is why there’s only been two that have really assumed the status of “absolute favorite show ever.” It’s weird saying that sometimes because, let’s face it…I have a lot of favorite shows. I have shows that I adore for the stories, the creators, the actors, I even have my “favorite show on television” right now.

Back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, I became obsessed with The X-Files. I mean, obsessed. I’m talking wall-papering my bedroom with photos of Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny, having nicknames and speaking in FBI code with friends, memorizing everything about an episode, collecting trading cards, leaving huge black sharpied “DO NOT TAPE AT 9 P.M. OR I WILL BE ANGRY” signs on the television for nights that I would have to go out and miss an episode (sometimes I wonder how I survived without a DVR.) The friends I made through the show, who I still keep in touch with today, are some of my closest and also the first people I ever met through Internet or a thing called “fandom.”

So, yes. I was, in a word, obsessed, but that’s not why it meant so much to me. It was because from the moment I started watching, the moment I fell in love with Gillian Anderson and the character of Dana Scully, my life changed for the better. I started working harder at school and gained an interest in medicine which gave me a goal to work towards. I applied to college on the pre-med track, I wrote papers on diseases high schoolers had never heard of, and all of this was inspired by one person on a television show. Sure, I ditched the pre-med thing before I even started college after being scared out of the program, but the fact that it was so important that it helped me get to where I am today makes it an immeasurable part of my life – so much so that for years after The X-Files ended, I found it hard to be interested in other shows. I guess I felt like I had to find something that I loved with the same intensity, which I never found…until 2004.

Enter LOST. And despite the whole “plane crash, JJ Abrams, Hawaii, big budget, Matthew Fox returning to television, cool idea” thing, let’s face it – I only really tuned in because of one Mr. Dominic Monaghan (as a side note, to this day I will never not be grateful to that one casting decision.) The pilot hooked me, but it was really the defining episode of “Walkabout” that left me obsessed. My roommate and I would watch every Thursday night (we even had a pact – because she let me watch LOST at 8 instead of Smallville, I was to let her watch Criminal Intent on Sundays at 9 instead of Desperate Housewives.) We had our own inside jokes and fun moments that we shared, yet the show soon became something more to me. It festered into a full-out obsession where I needed to know every single episode, needed to theorize every scene, needed to buy every magazine or interview. When I was upset and needed an escape, I watched my new favorite television show, the one that was able to take me out of my thoughts and provide me with enjoyment and a place for my mind to travel to. When I needed to be reminded that it was okay to fail, I read interviews and articles.

The whole point of this blog post is that I’ve been asked a lot what my favorite show is out of all the shows that have premiered this season. And when people ask me why Once Upon A Time is my favorite, it’s not just because of the simple stuff. To me, a show is important when it reaches that status of giving you a personal connection – whether it’s an actor that inspires you, a storyline that hits close to home, or a scene that makes you cry uncontrollably. And however premature it may seem, I love that Once Upon A Time does that for me in a number of ways. I haven’t felt this strongly about a primetime show in a long time. Why do I have so much of a love for it? Certainly, it doesn’t hurt that fairytale aspect of the show is something I love and am interested in, but more than that, it’s a program that’s fun, smart, engaging and makes me think. The characters allow me to feel, the stories allow me to channel my inner imagination, and the themes allow me to play out my inner fantasies.

I elected early on to review this show weekly as part of my freelance duties – because before even seeing the pilot, I knew that I somehow wanted to be involved in bringing it to an audience and help it out in any way I could. I take my duties seriously as a reviewer, and I don’t choose to put my time into shows that I don’t have an avid interest in. More than any other show I cover right now, this is the one that makes me most excited to write. This is the one that I feel proud of when I hash out a theory or make a connection with a character or pick up on plot moments. And every time I see a ratings rise or a positive comment, I feel intensely proud of Eddy and Adam. Because when you’ve spent six years of your life invested in a television show that was made as much for the fans as it was for those who created it, you feel an overwhelming sense of loyalty, a need to see those who you believe in succeed, a need to help these talented people reach a new audience in hopes someone will feel the way you did when they reached out to you. I’m pretty sure we all have that one actor/writer/creator/whoever who that we feel that towards, because television fans are like that – it’s what sets us apart and lets us understand each other.

Here’s to hoping that Once will sustain its current status as my new “It” show – the one that inspires me to change, to be a better person, to help me when I’m feeling down or when I need to remind myself of the simple things in life. I have confidence it can and will be, and I hope it stays around long enough to make others feel the same.

Once Upon A Time airs Sunday nights at 8/7c on ABC.

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