June 17, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Disclaimer:  Network pilots now in circulation are not necessarily in the form that will air in the Fall.  Pilots are often reedited and rescored, and in some cases even recast or reshot.  So these critiques shouldn’t be taken as full TV pilot reviews, but rather as a guide to the general style and content of the new shows coming your way.
GRIMM –  Friday 9PM on NBC:   If Nothing Else Is On…

Alongside their 2 mid-1960s nostalgic soaps (Pan Am and The Playboy Club), next season ABC and NBC are both giving us shows about fairytale characters who live in the real world:  Once Upon A Time and GRIMM.  Of the 2, NBC’s is by far the most… aptly named.

Grimm is, beyond its veneer of mythology, a far more straightforward horror story than we’re used to in the post-Buffy era (this despite the fact that co-writers Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt are both veterans of the Whedonverse).  Homicide Detective Nick Burckhardt (David Giuntoli) discovers one day that when he looks at the faces of certain passersby, he sees the secret, monstrous identities they wear behind their normal facades; before the pilot is over, he’s learned from his dying aunt (Kate Burton) that as her power fades, he’s growing into his place as a “Grimm,” basically a monster-hunter who can identify the Big Bad Wolves and evil witches among us.  This comes in handy as he sets out to solve the crimes these otherworldly villains commit. As the series goes on, there will presumably be a monster-of-the-week, and Nick will gradually learn more about his abilities and the peril he’s now in.

There’s nothing at all wrong with this as the premise for a supernatural saga, but at the moment, Grimm hasn’t found its voice.  (To be fair, Fringe, a show that travels some of the same territory–and is now Grimm‘s timeslot competitor–took most of its first season to lock onto its tone and content, squandering much of its initial audience in the process.)  The pilot is almost unrelievedly dark, with a tone that owes far more to Criminal Minds than to True Blood, which is an odd choice; it’s questionable how much interest the procedural audience has in a genre show like this.  A lot of the dialogue is ploddingly expositional, and the only levity–shocking, considering the Whedon background of the writers–comes from Silas Weir Mitchell as a reformed Big Bad who helps Nick’s investigation and who will hopefully stick around for a while.  There’s no romance to speak of, and Nick’s Grimm-ness is treated mostly as a cause for suffering.  (At some point, presumably the show will explain some of the seeming inconsistencies in Nick’s abilities, like why he can see some creatures’ real faces but not others, and why the creatures–who know who he is–don’t just kill him before he reaches his full powers.) Even the inevitable revelation that there’s a larger conspiracy around Nick feels routine.

It doesn’t help that at first glance, Giuntoli seems like little more than a good-looking lump of heroism, or that

only Mitchell of the supporting actors shows any kind of personality.  Director Mark Buckland, known much more for light comedies like Ed and Love Bites, overdoes the horror atmosphere–a scene set in the police station during the afternoon is lit like a post-apocalyptic setting from 28 Days Later, and the episode’s villain is so clearly crazy even when he’s supposedly passing for innocent that he might as well be wearing a button that says “Bloodthirsty Monster.”
NBC’s placement of Grimm on its schedule is downright bizarre–it’s not only against Fringe but Supernatural, making for 3 shows all aimed at the same demo on one of the lowest-rated nights of the week; even aggressive DVR use could leave Grimm as the odd show out.  (Mitch Metcalf’s Friday projections make clear what a mess the slot is: Grimm is technically in last place, but everything in the hour–which also includes CSI: NY and Shark Tank–is bunched together within a few tenths of a rating point.)  The first thing the show needs to concern itself with, though, is ramping up its entertainment value, and allowing itself a little fun; these are fairytales, after all.

Read more about TV’s new shows at THE SKED PILOT REPORT.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."