'Once Upon a Time' spinoff a gamble

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland

Bill Harris, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:49 PM ET

The first word in Once Upon a Time is "once," but TV viewers are being asked to go down the rabbit hole twice.

Spinoff series Once Upon a Time in Wonderland debuts Thursday, Oct. 10 on ABC and City. Original series Once Upon a Time, meanwhile, already has begun its third season, airing Sundays on ABC and CTV.

"(Once Upon a Time in Wonderland) will work very similar to the other show in that we will tell flashbacks of these characters before the present-day story that's taking place in Wonderland," executive producer Edward Kitsis explains.

"As far as how it fits in with (Once Upon a Time), we saw a bit of Wonderland through the Mad Hatter story and, obviously, the Queen of Hearts (who was played by Barbara Hershey). But we really loved Wonderland and we felt like we didn't show you Alice in a lot of the world. So we think this show has its own mythology that is not dependent upon the mother ship."

It is fairly dependent, though, on you knowing Alice in Wonderland mythology reasonably well. And that's a bit of a dangerous game, relying upon TV watchers to have read a book. Calm down, I'm kidding. But I've never actually read Alice in Wonderland. What percentage of TV viewers in 2013 have?

As Once Upon a Time in Wonderland begins, Alice (played by 23-year-old English-born and Australian-raised actress Sophie Lowe) is in Victorian England. She has returned from her original adventures in Wonderland to a world that, understandably, does not believe a word she says about where she has been. Eventually she is jettisoned to an asylum, where she's facing the prospect of a primitive lobotomy.

Certainly no one can scream "spoiler" if I convey that the main character does not have a lobotomy in the first episode. The Wonderland world is woven in, introducing us to characters such as the Knave of Hearts (Michael Socha), the Red Queen (Emma Rigby), Cyrus (Peter Gadiot), Jafar (Naveen Andrews) and the White Rabbit (voiced by John Lithgow).

I loved the first season of Once Upon a Time because it was such a cool premise. Characters from various fairy tales and fantasy stories were living in a small town in our modern world, oblivious to their true identities because of a curse. But the curse was broken at the end of season one, and the show hasn't had the same magic since.

So it remains to be seen if conditions are ripe for a spinoff. The lovers at the centre of this narrative - Alice and Cyrus - are a tad bland, and it's the Red Queen who provides the spice. Then again, that model initially worked on the original show, with the evil Regina (Lana Parrilla) being far more interesting than the milquetoast Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas).

Putting all that aside, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland feels like a Sunday show, not a Thursday show. But hey, maybe days of the week don't matter in Wonderland. It literally is a whole new hole.


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