"Once Upon a Time in Wonderland" pilot, "Down the Rabbit...

"Once Upon a Time in Wonderland" pilot, "Down the Rabbit Hole": Alice returns home to her father telling her that everyone thought she was dead. Her imaginative stories about a talking White Rabbit and a mystical place called Wonderland end up getting her admitted into an asylum where Dr. Lydgate convinces her to have a procedure that will allow her to forget her pain. Credit: ABC

THE SHOW "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Thursday night at 8 on ABC/7

WHY TO WATCH Adventurous Alice, her cute male chum, a White Rabbit with John Lithgow's wit and computer-generated imagery in overdrive

WHAT IT'S ABOUT If viewers like fairy tales -- that is, its ABC predecessor, "Once Upon a Time" -- then why not Victorian fantasy? We're already into it with the original show's trip to Peter Pan land. Now, the spinoff, "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland," revisits Lewis Carroll's hallucinatory adventures.

Returned home from her initial girlhood odyssey, teen Alice (Sophie Lowe) is logically thought mad and promptly asylum-ized. She yearns to return for her true love, genie Cyrus (Peter Gadiot), thought killed after granting Alice three wishes. But Cyrus has been spotted, Alice learns from the Knave of Hearts (Michael Socha), so they return to the land of Mad Hatters and hookah-smoking Caterpillars conjured by CGI.

MY SAY The vital imagery of Sunday's "Once Upon a Time" was actually emotional -- moms, sons, lost lovers. "Wonderland" attempts to tap that same well, with Alice and Cyrus agreeing, "When you really love someone, you don't need proof -- you can feel it."

But Thursday night's premiere hops from one "miraculous, strange and terrifying adventure" to another, amid the dual universes of wonderland and real-world. There's too much going on to tell what might ultimately stick, other than the contents of the Mallow Marsh.

BOTTOM LINE "Wonderland" promises to be eye-popping. What about heart-rending?


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