TV REVIEW: GRIMM
POSTED 2:51pm | 1 NOVEMBER 2011
Much like Once Upon A Time, which I reviewed last week, Grimm is also set in a modern world where the characters of fairytales are actually real, but this time it's a detective procedural as opposed to a human drama.
The first episode opens with a young female university student running through the woods wearing a red hooded jumper to the sound of The Eurythmics Sweet Dreams playing on her iPod. A few seconds later, accompanied by a blur and a growl from screen right, she is tackled into the bushes and we hear her scream briefly while she is torn to pieces. After that we're introduced to crime-solving duo Det. Nick Burckhardt (David Giuntoli, from, well, nothing, really, besides a few guest spots on random shows) and Det. Hank Griffin (Russell Hornsby, from Gideon's Crossing and Haunted), who chat idly about marriage and happily ever afters (get it?) after Nick exits the jeweller with (presumably) an expensive wedding ring for his fiance.
The two of them spot the hot, blonde, lawyer walking down the street, and while Hank checks out her arse, Nick is distracted by the distortions that appear briefly in her face making her look like some sort of wide-mouthed vampire. He shakes it off as nothing, and then they're off to the crime scene established at the start to investigate what happened to the red-hooded jogger. They find a boot print at the scene instead of the bear or cougar tracks they were expecting, causing Det. Burckhardt to stare off into the distance in thought with hands on hips, the first sign that this case might be unusual. Then they luck upon the jogger's iPod, still playing Sweet Dreams (on loop? Or perhaps they got to the scene really, really quickly), and then it's back to the station to run fingerprints and DNA or whatever. At the station Nick sees a perp in custody, and when he looks at the guys face it distorts into the toothy vampire look same as the lawyers, which makes him slightly more concerned now that he may in fact be seeing things and/or losing his mind.
After a bit more investigating and some leads, Nick heads home to his finace Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch, from mostly bit-parts again), and is surprised with a visit from his Aunt Marie Kessler (a bald Kate Burton, from Big Trouble in Little China and Grey's Anatomy), the woman who raised Nick after his parents died, and who is herself dying from illness. She has come to tell him the truth about their family before she dies, so they go for a night time stroll around the neighbourhood. She asks him whether he has been seeing strange things lately, like peoples faces distorting, and he responds with a ZOMG - that's exactly what's been happening - face, and she tells him that their family is the last of the Grimm's - people that can see the world as it truly is; one where the monsters from fairytales exist, like the big, bad wolf; and that it is their job to protect the world and hunt these creatures down. Right on cue they are suddenly attacked by one of these creature, a vampire face guy named Holder carrying a large scythe, and the sickly Aunt Marie reveal a hidden blade and kung-fu moves in a fight to the death. Det. Nick unloads a full clip from his police issue handgun to stop the monster, and as he dies Holder's face reverts back to that of a normal human. "Uh-oh", Nick thinks to himself, as everything his Aunt told him appears to be... true!
So, within ten minutes we've got everything we need to know about our characters and their world, and we get into the main story of the episode, which revolves around Nick slowly finding out more about the life of a Grimm, and the search for a missing little girl who was last seen wearing a red-hooded jumper. Along the way we are introduced to hard-arse police Captain Renard (Sasha Roiz from Caprica) and big, bad wolf-turned-good Eddie Munroe (Silas Weir Mitchell from Prison Break) who helps Nick and Hank crack the case with his "inside knowledge". A few standard leaps of logic later and the case is solved, but obviously there are plenty more questions to be asked now, and Nick is all in deep with this whole Grimm thing.
It's a pretty standard first episode that ticks off everything it needed to do to set up the series. The vibe is like the X-Files meets Buffy meets Supernatural, unsurprising because creator and executive producer David Greenwalt (who also wrote this episode) was heavily involved in the X-Files and Buffy, as well as Moonlight, Eureka, Angel, and Miracles, all shows that share similar elements and themes with Grimm. Also executive producing and writing is Jim Kouf, who wrote the excellent Class (1983), but also Rush Hour (1998), Taxi (2004), and National Treasure (2004). What results from this teaming is a real mixture in atmosphere, from very moody and dark, to very campy and over-the-top, to pretty boring and bland. There doesn't seem to be any clear creative vision or focus at play, which is sad, because there is enough good going on here to suggest it could develop into something decent, but all that is overshadowed by the bad.
The first episode was directed by Marc Buckland (who has a strong TV resume that includes episodes of Scrubs, Murder One, and Ed) and he does as much as he can with the material. Music is by the usually genre-good Richard Marvin (3 Ninjas, Six Feet Under, The O.C., In Treatment) but he kind-of just phones this one in, as do the rest of the production staff. There's nothing really that, under analysis, makes the material any better or adds anything dynamic or original to the show.
And that's the main problem with Grimm. For all it's "fairytales-are-real" twistings, it's still just a pretty average, un-original, bland hour of television, that doesn't try anything new to grab the audience or separate it from every other show that has trodden a similar path. It's a late '90s show trapped in the early 2010s that feels like it's not really trying. The relatively unknown cast actually carries it as far as it could go, but in the end, I can find no real reason to recommend Grimm to anyone, and can't see it lasting more than a season on American television (if US TV was judged on quality).
Overall, you can't escape comparing Grimm with Once Upon A Time, both coming out at the same time and having the same hook, but where Once Upon A Time has embraced what it is and has a clear vision for its future, Grimm seems destined to re-hash the past while only using fairytales as a fresh coat of paint on what is essentially a condemned house. Having said all that, it's not exactly terrible, and who knows how it might go from here, but it's just... bland. Average and bland.
Watch list: Unlikely to watch the second episode