Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Once upon a time—The End

I actually got excited when I first read about the new ABC show, "Once Upon a Time." Critics lauded it as a return to the family hour, comparing it to the old Sunday night standard, "The Wonderful World of Disney."

That's because there is nothing on TV currently that our family watches together. We usually don't even channel surf in front of our kid in the evenings, since we don't know when a simulated murder, rape, or assault might appear. Of course there is "children's TV," but it's a parallel world/ghetto of silly Disney Channel shows or oft-repeated Sponge Bob episodes—the type of shows that my tween-aged kid despises or is tired of (she outgrew PBS a few years ago). When we occasionally sit down in front of the TV together, it's mostly to old TV shows and movies.

"Once Upon a Time" promised to bring fairy tales to life, with storybook characters exiled to modern-day Maine. I imagined it was going to be a TV version of "Enchanted," which we all found charming and funny (though just a tad scary at the end).

But E-girl watched most of Sunday night's episode behind a blanket raised over her face. She couldn't stand seeing the hunter kill the deer, or the queen tear out his heart, or the mayor/queen crushing the heart of his modern-day sheriff counterpart.

And then there were the nightmares afterwards... I dreamed of deer being slaughtered, of hearts ripped out and dripping blood, of people chased by an evil presence—the type of dreams I rarely have and certainly never relish. E-girl is still upset about seeing the queen murder her own father a few weeks ago. It has affected her dreams, though not as a nightly occurrence.

Of course, we'll get over it. Neither of us will become serial killers as the result of watching this show—the argument that always seems to be trotted out whenever a parent or anyone else tries to explain why they are bothered by screen violence that (they or) their kids are exposed to: "TV violence doesn't correlate with real-life aggression..." And real-life is full of violence, blah, blah, blah.

But why should I want my tenderhearted child to become callous now (or ever)? Or why would I want her to watch something before bedtime that will give her insomnia?

With a title like "Once Upon a Time" you keep hoping for a happy ending at the end of each show [and not at the end of a five-season series—although, given that its producers also did "Lost," there may be no real resolution]. But each episode has seemed increasingly grim (pardon the pun).

So we'll go back to our DVD player and our Netflix Instant queue. As E-girl put it at the end of it, "I think I'd rather watch 'Rocky and Bullwinkle'."

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