Urban Fantasy TV

Now that the urban fantasy wave has crested in the print media – this doesn’t mean it’s going away, in fact it’s still a golden marketplace, just that it’s past the new-and-edgy point – it has found its way, or found its way again, onto TV. I could argue that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a decade ahead of its time in TV urban fantasy, or I could just say that it, and the sibling show Angel, were merely really good TV. Perhaps those are topics for another time.

Network TV has two offerings right now; Grimm, on NBC, and Once Upon a Time on CBS. I’ve only seen Grimm.

Grimm is like the adorable contestant on American Idol, who can sing but isn’t the strongest, but is the one that everybody likes. I’m sure Grimm will grow into its intriguing premise, but it isn’t there yet.

The premise of Grimm is that there are people – grimms — who can see the otherworldly creatures who live among us disguised by glamours. Many of these creatures are not harmful to humans, but the grimms are charged with killing the ones who are, or as a grimm character explains, “the bad ones.” Our grimm is named Nick Burkhardt and he is a detective in Portland, Oregon. Nick is an orphan (there’s a surprise) who was raised by his Aunt Marie. In Episode One, Aunt Marie, who is dying of cancer, pays Nick a visit. While the two of them are out walking they are attacked by a creature, a creature Marie tells Nick is a “grimm reaper.”

This is the first Nick has known of his supernatural destiny, and the show goes on from there.

The actor who plays Nick (David Guintoli) is good-looking. Actually, he is pretty, with big, deep blue eyes and shiny black hair. He may be a little too pretty for the role. He has a clever African American detective partner named Carl who is still alive (yaay!) after seven episodes, and a pretty veterinarian fiancé who shows up as eye candy for male viewers, and to drop helpful swatches of exposition about animal behavior since most of the monsters have an animal component (wolves, pigs, bears, rats and goats . . . You may see a pattern emerging.) She isn’t dead yet either, and Aunt Marie wasn’t dispatched until Episode Three, so that alone makes Grimm unusual television.

Aunt Marie left Nick an Airstream trailer filled with grimm weapons and a book, a handwritten Young Grimm’s Guide to Monsters, that gives information about various creatures. If you ever watched a TV show called Charmed, this book will seem quite familiar. I always like magical books though, and I would have been disappointed if Aunt Marie had left her data on a blog, for instance, or a flash drive.

There is a through-story developing, with a police captain who is more than he seems, and a gorgeous blond woman who is a hexenbeast in her spare time. The best character so far, though, is Monroe, the other sidekick, the werewolf who adheres to a rigid twelve-step program. Monroe does Pilates and collects clocks, plays cello and tries to remain calm – although he does fall off the wagon when his smokin’-hot bad-girl werewolf ex shows up.

Another plus, for me at least, is setting the story correctly in the Pacific northwest. They are doing a fine job of using beautiful coastal Oregon as a set, even if the show isn’t filmed entirely on location.

Right now, Grimm is trying too hard to connect each story to one of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales. This is the show being clever; the brothers who collected the tales actually covered up the grim (pun intended) reality the original stories addressed; werewolves, billy goats gruff, thinking rats. Also, Nick needs to take the spotlight more. I am delighted that his cop partner and his life partner aren’t dead yet, but between Carl and Monroe, pretty-boy Nick can frequently phone it in. I think one fix for this is to put Life Partner Girl in jeopardy without killing her, or, alternately, to let us discover that she is a spy for the paranormals. Or, what the heck, surprise me.


The best candidate for urban fantasy TV premieres in two weeks; it’s Lost Girl on Syfy.  I know, I’m amazed too. Lost Girl’s world has the look of Harry Dresden’s or even Seanann McGuire’s, and the idea that the fey girl who “won’t choose” is a succubus is a fine one.

We’ll see how they do with it.

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2 Responses to Urban Fantasy TV

  1. Chad Hull says:

    I haven’t seen (and probably won’t see) Grimm but the American Idol bit made me think of the English horrifically awesome Merlin. I do believe in the power awesomely bad TV. Sometimes, for some viewers, the end result is stronger than it’s components–no matter how bad those parts are–and enjoyment can be found.

    Both of those shows look like they were given decent budgets so perhaps the producers will stick with them and something good will happen. I have been curious as to Once Upon a Time.

  2. Marion says:

    Merlin really is pretty bad. I have friends who watch Once Upon a Time faithfully and really like it, so I have to assume ther is good story-telling there, or something.

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