Jon Bernthal Jon Bernthal

Is the TV audience ready to embrace a second fantasy series this fall based on fairy-tale legends? ABC's whimsical Once Upon a Time got off to a strong start last Sunday, but NBC's Grimm — launching tonight (9/8c) — faces much tougher odds. You might almost say it's cursed. First, it's on NBC, which struggles nearly every night but Football Sunday. Second, it's on Fridays, a notoriously tough night to draw a crowd. (The upside: Expectations are low.) Third, it's in direct competition with Fox's Fringe and the CW's Supernatural, two already established cult shows with loyal (if small) and heavily invested fan bases, and this feels an awful lot like a third wheel.

If only Grimm didn't also feel like we've seen it before, only executed with more verve and humor back in the glory days of Buffy and Angel. This is your basic supernatural procedural, featuring an earnest young detective (the bland David Giuntoli, who could pass for Brandon Routh's stand-in) who learns he's descended from a long line of "Grimms," hunters of mythological creatures that only he and his kind (including Kate Burton as his severe Aunt Marie, who appears to be dying from too much exposition) are able to perceive under the skin of those who walk among us. His first case is a variation on "Little Red Riding Hood" (here, a jogger in the woods), and he gets unexpected help from a reformed Big Bad Wolf (Prison Break's amusing Silas Weir Mitchell, easily the best thing about Grimm), who tells our hero to lighten up. Which wouldn't hurt the show, either. I'm trying to keep an open mind about Grimm, but given its late premiere date, I'm a little concerned that NBC didn't give us more than the muddled pilot to sample. Not that I'm exactly dying to hear the next story, and I'm usually a sucker for a spookily fractured fairy tale.

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