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Reimagining Fairy Tales: Grimm, Once Upon A Time and Their Modern Spin On Fantasy

There’s something about fairy tales that resonates throughout the generations. We remember the stories from our childhood -- the princesses and princes, the grotesque creatures and devious villains, the near triumph of evil, defeated by good just at the end -- and we pass them on to our children and grandchildren. They’re timeless stories we love to hear (and tell) over and over.

For years, television producers have tried to reframe fairy tales in new ways. In the early ‘80s, actress Shelley Duvall gathered an astonishing array of actors and directors for her star-studded Showtime anthology series Faerie Tale Theatre. Later in the decade, ABC put Snow White, Prince Charming, the Evil Queen, and the Magic Mirror in Los Angeles after a thousand-year sleep in the cute sitcom The Charmings. And CBS turned the story of Beauty and the Beast into a dark-hued romance for three seasons. This year, two new series are placing familiar fairy tales in a modern context.

NBC's Grimm, which airs on Friday nights, is set in Portland, where homicide detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) develops the ability to see supernatural creatures. He discovers that he is descended from a group of hunters known as Grimms. The Grimms have taken charge of preserving the balance between the physical and mythological worlds and protecting humanity from otherworldly forces.

Burkhardt learns that his abilities as a Grimm relate to the cases he must solve. He begins to make the connections between the grisly crimes in Portland and the fairytale creatures behind them. He teams up with a "reformed big bad wolf” named Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) who helps him solve the cases and make sense of the fantastical realm, and he discovers more about his destiny as a Grimm.

Grimm is a dark program, rooted in more literal interpretations of the Brothers Grimm's frightening fairy tales than most adaptations. Additionally, the show tackles some of the more obscure stories in the Brothers Grimm canon. The program relies on moody cinematography, grotesque makeup, and special effects to tell the show’s tale. The production design on Grimm goes a long way toward establishing the series’ dramatic tone.