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Fairy tale shows ‘Grimm’ and ‘Once’ may end tragically

Ginnifer Goodwplays Snow White ABC’s “Once UpTime.”

Ginnifer Goodwin plays Snow White in ABC’s “Once Upon a Time.”

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7 to 8 p.m. Sundays on WLS-Channel 7

‘Grimm’ ★★

8 to 9 p.m. Fridays on WMAQ-Channel 5. Twitter followers of @NBCGrimm can watch a sneak peek of the premiere now.

Updated: January 23, 2012 4:27AM

Once upon a time (like this week), there were two new shows based on classic fairy tales.

One is your basic police procedural dressed in big bad wolf’s clothing. The other is a fantasy drama featuring storybook characters trapped in the modern world.

Try as they might, neither show looks like it’s headed for a happy ending when reality — in the form of Nielsen ratings — sets in.

Debuting Sunday on ABC, “Once Upon a Time” has the better shot of the two shows. The sparkly new drama flips back and forth between two worlds, the one we live in and the “imaginary” one inhabited by Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin of “Big Love”), Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle, “The Full Monty”) and all of those fairy-tale characters we read about in bedtime stories.

The premiere kicks off with the Evil Queen crashing Snow White and Prince Charming’s Disney-esque wedding. Instead of a toaster, the queen’s gift is a curse: These fairy-tale folks will be trapped in the modern-day town of Storybrooke, Maine, where there is no happily ever after. (The queen isn’t that evil; she could have sent them to Detroit.)

The characters’ only hope for salvation is Snow White’s baby, Emma, well played in grown-up form by Arlington Heights native Jennifer Morrison (“How I Met Your Mother,” “House”). Emma, now 28, is a lonely, tough-as-nails bail bonds collector from Boston who gets sucked into Storybrooke’s drama by a 10-year-old boy who carts around a book of fairy tales and has the whole curse thing figured out.

Wear your neckbrace, because “Once Upon a Time” has lots of flashbacks. That’s no surprise, given that the series is written and produced by the “Lost” team of Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis. It also has lots of Disney touches in the form of a CGI Jiminy Cricket, Tinker Bell and other special effects. Again, no surprise, since Disney owns ABC.

“Once Upon a Time” gets points for being creative and different, and I’ve certainly watched worse shows this season. (We’re about to get to one.) But I don’t see this fairy-tale fantasy having broad enough appeal to conjure up the kind of viewer numbers it will need to stick around.

It’s going to take one industrial-sized magic wand to save “Grimm,” the Peacock Network’s new policer that largely lives up to its name.

Inspired by the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, the show centers on a Portland homicide detective named Nick (a mostly forgettable David Giuntoli, “Road Rules”). He’s investigating the murder of a college student who was wearing a little red riding hoodie while jogging through the forest.

Nick’s creepy, dying aunt drops by to break the news that he’s a descendent of the Grimms. Turns out the dark stories the German brothers chronicled were fact, not fiction, and Nick has the power to see modern-day villains masquerading as regular people. That gift makes for some admittedly decent shots of humans morphing into monsters.

The show’s other saving grace, if there is one, comes from the comic relief delivered by Silas Weir Mitchell (“Prison Break”). He plays a “Blutbad,” or big bad wolf, who’s abandoned his evil ways thanks to a “strict regimen of diet, drugs and pilates.”

Rather than being dark and edgy, “Grimm” ends up being a show that’s trying to be dark and edgy. It relies way too much on cheap scare tactics (cue the sudden, dramatic music!) to deliver its suspense.

Underneath the special effects and fairy-tale plot propeller lurks just another crime drama, and not a very good one at that. The premiere features one of the most boring murder investigations I’ve ever seen on TV. (And please tell me that cop had a plastic bag around the iPod he wanted checked for fingerprints.)

My guess is “Grimm” won’t live happily ever after season one.

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