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Once Upon a Time on the Bubble and Eyeing a 'Reset': Keep or Cut?

TVLine logo TVLine 3/20/2017 Matt Webb Mitovich
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By mid-May, the broadcast networks must make some tough calls as to which series will return for the 2017-18 TV season, and which… won’t.

As that deadline draws near, TVLine is singling out a few “bubble” shows and sizing up their prospects — based in large part on creative strides (and stumbles) and future potential, but also with a requisite nod to the cold, hard numbers that attract TV’s single-minded grim reaper.

RELATED2017 Renewal Scorecard: What’s Coming Back? What’s Getting Cancelled? What’s on the Bubble?

Next up is a fairytale drama in need of a bit of magic.

THE SHOW | ABC’s Once Upon a Time

THE CASE FOR KEEPING | We held back on this Keep or Cut, knowing that changes were brewing for the ABC series. But now that it’s out there that any possible Season 7 would include a “reset” of sorts — adding a young male lead (played by Walking Dead alum Andrew J. West) and perhaps retaining a little more than half of the current series regulars — it’s time to get down to brass tacks.

The fact is, Once Upon a Time at this stage sort of demands a reset, either in the form of a fresh POV or a tweaked narrative engine, if it is to continue. Now that Emma’s “walls” are down, years after she came to accept the existence of magic and fairy tale VIPs living in Maine, her story seems about told. That said, holding onto Jennifer Morrison (one of the actors currently being wooed to renew their contract) is a must, in the name of continuity/”handing off the baton.” It’d also be great to keep around the yin to Emma’s yang, in Regina, while the current engagement storyline, if it comes to fruition, would seem to secure Hook’s standing. Losing both Snow and David — the familial touchstones that ground their daughter’s odyssey — would be a blow, for sure, but maybe their purpose can just as well be serviced by the occasional visit; ditto Rumplestiltskin.

THE CASE FOR CUTTING | Midway through writing this Keep or Cut, Nielsen issued the numbers for Episode 13 and they were not lucky, marking new series lows. As such, the pressure put on any rejiggered cast/narrative would be high; short of adding a “name” to the ensemble for Season 7, it’s hard to imagine an appreciable ratings rebound. As for Once‘s core storytelling DNA, we can think of precious few major-ish princesses or princes, witches or warlocks, left to lift from literature and add to the mix. So unless the plan is to stage some “reunion tours” for, like, Frozen‘s Elsa, or to bring to the fore heretofore peripheral characters such as Merida, Maleficent or Dr. Whale (should iZombie not get renewed), Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard may be bare.

Vote below, and then state your own case for keeping or cutting Once.

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