"Once Upon a Time" is a new ABC series premiering...

"Once Upon a Time" is a new ABC series premiering Oct. 30, 2011. Credit: ABC

DRAMA PREMIERE "Once Upon a Time"

WHEN | WHERE Sunday at 8 p.m. on ABC / Ch. 7

REASON TO WATCH For fairy-tale lovers and those who love them.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Once upon a time -- sorry, I couldn't resist -- there was an evil queen (Lana Parrilla), who barges into the wedding of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin, "Big Love") and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas). She promises to ruin their lives forever, and then . . . picture at this juncture a nice CGI effect whereby the cursed wedding collapses into an illustration in a big storybook.

You, the viewer, are now in the real world with Henry (Jared Gilmore, "Mad Men"), a 10-year-old who knows the secret of the evil queen's curse. She banished all the great figures of the fairy-tale world to a town in Maine called Storybrooke, where they live as normal humans.

As the show begins, Henry has run away from Storybrooke, where he lives with his adoptive mother, the town mayor (also Parrilla) to search for his birth mother, Emma (Jennifer Morrison, "House"). Her secret, which only Henry knows, is that she is the child of Snow White and Prince Charming.

MY SAY "Once Upon a Time" is not as much a shaggy dog story as a menagerie. Classic characters from one tale are mixed in with characters from another, which all have their counterparts in the real world. How did Jiminy Cricket and Rumpelstiltskin barge their way into Snow White's yarn? A minor quibble compared to the larger one: What the heck is going on here?

In fact, "Once Upon a Time" is cleanly told even as it toggles between real and fairy-tale worlds, where there are actual fairies, but it's also probably worth noting that this is the creation of two former "Lost" writers (Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz). Logic, in other words, is not necessarily a given.

What's best about "Time" is its ambition; it glows with a near-theatrical shine, challenging viewers to think about TV drama as something other than boilerplate. There's a softhearted romantic core as well, or, as Henry would have us believe, dreams really do come true.

BOTTOM LINE Not for all tastes but a few will love this oddball.


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