With the amount of content available on television today, shows are fighting for ways to stand out from the pack. While my DVR is dedicated to only a handful of titles, NBC, with their outstanding Thursday night comedy lineup, leads all basic broadcasting channels. Now it looks as if I’ll have to add another NBC series to the list as Grimm could easily turn into one of my new favorite shows.
The network currently has a brilliant marketing strategy that allows you to watch the series premiere in its commercial-free entirety before it airs nationally on Friday, October 28that 9pm. All you have to do is follow their Twitter account, @NBCGrimm, and check your email (or spam) for a direct message with a code. But if you need some more incentive to check it out, hit the jump for my review of the Grimm series premiere.
Grimm, based on a modern interpretation of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, is one part police procedural and one part supernatural slug fest. That hook is more than enough to get me interested and it’s a fantastically creative way to keep episodes fresh as there are over 200 tales to draw from. Set in Portland, the premiere starts off with a ninety-second intro featuring a college student donning a red hoodie to take a run through the woods. (Does that ring any fairy tale bells?) While listening to “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurythmics, she gets blindsided by a big bad something and the camera pans away from her blood-curdling screams. It’s a clever opening that assures the viewer they’re getting what Grimm promised: a storybook world superimposed over real-life crimes.
With a dead college student in the woods, we’re introduced us to Detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli, Privileged) and his partner on the force, Hank Griffin (Russell Hornsby, Lincoln Heights). The chemistry between the two is good and will hopefully grow more naturally over the course of the season. Aside from the case the two detectives just took on, Burkhardt is psyching himself up for a marriage proposal to his girlfriend Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch, Tyranny) and dealing with the unexpected arrival of his Aunt Marie (Kate Burton, Grey’s Anatomy). While we don’t see a lot of Juliette in the premiere, Tulloch nails her scenes in a nice setup for the conflict that is sure to come.
Aunt Marie, on the other hand, is the catalyst for Burkhardt’s transformation that leads into the rest of the series. A seemingly frail cancer survivor, (Burton was sporting a shaved head) Aunt Marie soon reveals to Burkhardt that he is descended from a long line of Grimms, a sort of sheriff of the supernatural. When she and Burkhardt are attacked by a wicked looking creature with a scythe, Aunt Marie lands in the hospital, leaving Nick to figure things out on his own.
From there, Grimm continues along the procedural path with fairy tale elements sprinkled throughout. There’s a dicey balance here between maintaining a good detective story and giving nods to the folklore without hitting you over the head with it. Sometimes this is done somewhat subtly, for example, in a transition between scenes, Griffin calls Burkhardt “Romeo,” followed immediately by Burkhardt going home to call out his fiancé’s name, “Juliette.” Other times it’s as subtle as a hammer, as in the case of the disappearance of another little girl who was wearing a red-hooded sweatshirt with the initials R.H. We get it; the episode’s about Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf. Moving on.
Two of the most interesting characters in the premiere were the villainous “Postman” (Tim Bagley, S#*! My Dad Says) and the fairy tale informant, Eddie Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell, My Name is Earl). While Bagley’s performance was delightfully creepy (“Do you want a chicken pot pie?” he asks the kidnapped girl he imprisons in his Grandmother’s-cabin-themed basement), one has to assume that it’s short lived. Mitchell, however, will be a recurring cast member and I, for one, am happy to hear that. His quirky portrayal of Monroe, a reformed “blutbad” werewolf-type creature who helps Burkhardt adjust to his Grimm responsibilities, is a perfect tone for the show.
Grimm’s premiere wraps up with a fairy tale ending, as far as the kidnapped child is concerned, but the real ending gives us something far more sinister (along with Marilyn Manson’s version of “Sweet Dreams,” which was a nice way to tie the show up from beginning to end). Although it appears that Burkhardt has the ability to see through the human disguises of supernatural creatures, there are other dangers he’s not yet aware of. With a nice twist at the end, Grimm suggests that not all of the fairy folk are evil and not all the humans are as virtuous as they may appear to be.
I did have a few gripes along the way, but I think a lot of them can be cleared up throughout the season. Chief among my complaints is the lack of Grimm’s identity as a show. Yes, it’s a fairy tale/cop drama, but what does that mean? Where do they want to set the equalizers as far as campy, quirky, scary, creepy and the like?
As I was watching the premiere, I had a hard time pinning it down. The most common comparison you’ll hear is X-Files and I think that’s as close to the mark as you can get. But I got notes of Angel/Buffy for the obvious camp and supernatural elements, along with Pushing Daisies for its dark humor and quirkiness. Occasionally, a little bit of Dexter sneaks in which muddles it up a bit. And maybe because Grimm’s protagonist and plot resemble those of Brandon Routh in Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, I get a touch of that, too. When something is touted as a drama/fantasy/horror mash-up, it’s really got to nail its tone to set itself apart.
The other major gripe I had was due to the visual effects. Perhaps I’m spoiled with the visuals of a show like The Walking Dead or even the now-iconic scene in Breaking Bad’s fourth season finale. Perhaps it’s because, at least in the Grimm premiere, the vfx team seems to favor CG effects over the practically shot shows I mentioned above. The shifting faces of fairy tale characters in disguise is a nice touch, it just doesn’t look cutting edge to me. (Monroe’s transformation was downright laughable.) And that comes as a surprise since makeup effects Oscar-winner Barney Burman (Star Trek) is Grimm’s special makeup effects designer and creator. Take a look at this video and tell me if I’m crazy.
If the writing team of Grimm’s David Greenwalt (Angel) and Jim Kouf (Ghost Whisperer) can keep the attention to detail they showed in the pilot, they can expect a nice long run, as there is no shortage of creative material to draw from. I also think that Grimm will be served well if the cast and directing team gels into a more cohesive unit and develops chemistry and a specific tone as the season goes on. Grimm is off to a fast start, already receiving a positive buzz on social networks and could turn into a very successful and long-lasting series. Go follow @NBCGrimm on Twitter now to see the premiere for yourself and find out why these aren’t your Grandma’s fairy tales.
“Grimm” is a new drama series inspired by the classic Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Portland homicide Detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli, “Turn The Beat Around”) discovers he is descended from an elite line of criminal profilers known as “Grimms,” charged with keeping balance between humanity and the mythological creatures of the world.
As he tries to hide the dangers of his new found calling from his fiancé, Juliette Silverton, (Bitsie Tulloch, “quarterlife”), and his partner, Hank Griffin (Russell Hornsby, “Lincoln Heights”), he becomes ever more entrenched in the ancient rivalries and alliances of the Grimm world.
With help from his confidant, Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell, “Prison Break”), a reformed Grimm creature himself, Nick must navigate through the forces of a larger-than-life mythology, facing off with Hexenbiests, Blutbads and all manner of ancient evils, including royal lines dating back to the original profilers themselves, The Grimm Brothers. Reggie Lee (“Persons Unknown”) and Sasha Roiz (“Caprica”) also star.