Pilot Pirate: “Once Upon a Time,” “Prime Suspect”

Welcome back to the Pilot Pirate, where we preview the latest scripts looking for a home on the 2011-12 primetime TV schedule. Each week, we read and preview some of the projects interest to the AfterEllen.com community, breaking down scripts to help you, the optimistic TV fan anxiously awaiting the next Modern Family or Glee, keep up with the onslaught of pilots in contention.

A reminder: These are early stage scripts that are likely to be revised and, in some cases, drastically change before filming, and only some of which will make it to the airwaves.

This week: Once Upon a Time and Prime Suspect

Pilot: Once Upon a Time (drama)
Writers: Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz (Lost)
Network: ABC
Logline: A woman travels to a town where fairy tales are real.
Cast: Jennifer Morrison (How I Met Your Mother), Ginnifer Goodwin (Big Love), Lee Arenberg, Jamie Dornan, Josh Dallas, Lana Parrilla (Boomtown, 24, Lost), Raphael Sbarge, Jared Gilmore, Jakob Davies, Mike Coleman, Mig Macario
Executive producers: Horowitz, Kitsis, Mark Mylod, Steve Pearlman, Damon Lindelof (consulting producer)
Director: Mark Mylod (Shameless, United States of Tara)

Ginnifer Goodwin and Jennifer Morrison

The characters:
Anna Swan, late 20s, confident and strong but not completely comfortable in who she is. The daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming who was given up at birth (Morrison).
Sister Mary Margaret Blanchard/Snow White, Henry’s teacher and, well, the fairest of them all (Goodwin).
Henry the grandson of Snow White and Prince Charming (Gilmore).
Mayor Regina/Evil Queen, Henry’s adoptive mother and Snow White’s nemesis (Parrilla).

Considering all the buzz in Hollywood about multiple Snow White projects, including a pair of big-screen films in the works attracting huge names like Julia Roberts, Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron, my money is on this script being the one that stands out among them. Yes, the other two are big-budget feature films and this is just a pilot script for a possible TV drama. But in a word, the script for Once Upon a Time is magical.

Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, who were among the executive producers on Lost, have used their experience with time travel well here.

“Once” revolves around Anna, a twentysomething orphan who spends her 28th birthday as a bailbondsperson until Henry, a 10-year-old boy claiming to be the son she gave up for adoption, shows up on her doorstep. The savvy kid eventually manipulates Anna into driving him home to Storybrooke, a quaint town outside Boston where time has literally stopped.

The script is intercut with the story of Snow White and Prince Charming — starting with when Charming brings Snow back from the dead with a kiss and telling the story of their wedding, Snow’s pregnancy and the curse that would see the fairy tale couple send their newly born daughter, Anna, into the “real world” via an enchanted cabinet to prevent a curse from the Evil Queen (Parilla).

There are a ton of characters included in the script — the Seven Dwarfs, Jiminy Cricket and Pinocchio and we eventually meet their real-life counterparts in Storybrooke, and it isn’t long until their personality traits become evident in the townies Anna encounters after spending a night in the suburban town.

While Anna initially rejects Henry, she eventually begins to believe his story — from a massive book of fairy tales that he believes to be true — that she’s Snow White’s daughter and can help free the people of Storybrooke (and their counterparts in Fairy Tale Land) from the Evil Queen/Mayor’s curse.

The dual storytelling here is inspired. It’s also sweet and wholesome while still being mysterious and hopeful. There’s plenty of potential for love stories and it’s a perfect example of family viewing at its best. Goodwin and Morrison are perfect casting. Let’s hope fairy tale characters are the new superheroes.

Pilot Pirate outlook: The sweetest and most interesting use of time travel yet. Quite possibly the fairest of all the pilot scripts.

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