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Once Upon a Time’s Recent Reconstructive Surgery Will Render It Nearly Unrecognizable In Season 7, But It’s Far From the First Show to Go Under the Knife

(soon to be cross-posted at Agony Booth.com)

After her memorable portrayal of the earnest and refreshingly relatable Baby Houseman in the original Dirty Dancing (not to be confused with the atrocious remake that will appear on ABC this week), actress Jennifer Grey seemed destined for a long and glorious Hollywood career. And then she went and got a nose job.

Though her talent agents undoubtedly praised her new appearance as being more in line with the American Beauty Standards of the day, Grey and her new nose no longer resembled the strong-willed teen that nobody was allowed to “put in a corner.” The surgery nearly ended her career. And though the actress does occasionally appear on TV and film (most recently as the real estate agent mother of the main character in the Amazon series Red Oaks), one can’t help but wonder what might have been had she refused Hollywood pressure to go under the knife.

Television series are a bit like Jennifer Grey’s face, I think. Over time, they are naturally going to age, and evolve as seasons pass. But if they change too much, or too quickly, from what made fans like them in the first place, those changes will undoubtedly result in the series’ demise.

This past week, in a two-hour season finale that I wasn’t able to timely recap because I was overseas, Once Upon a Time closed the storybook on its sixth season. It was an episode that could have functioned as a series finale, had the show not been picked up for a seventh season. Emma Swan, the series’ main protagonist, fulfilled the Prophecy of Saviors by sacrificing her own life to protect goodness against evil, only to have her life restored at the last minute by the ever-abused Plot Band-Aid that is “True Love’s Kiss.” Rumple, the series’ on again, off again (but mostly on again) peripheral baddie, took grand steps toward redemption by killing his own mother, the Black Fairy, who also so happened to be the Big Bad of the Season. In doing so, Rumple (1) broke the curse that his Mommy placed on the town, (2) reunited with the love of his life, the much put-upon and criminally underutilized character, Belle, and (3) got a second chance to raise his son Gideon, who was conveniently reverted from troubled 28-year old man with a perma-scowl to baby boy following the final battle.

The show even went as far as to add a series-ending-esque musical montage epilogue to the finale, which depicted each of the main characters experiencing their so-called happy ending, by returning to their respective loved ones and resuming “business as usual” in the much-abused town of Storybrooke.

Had Once Upon a Time ended with its sixth season, it would have been a respectable run for the series, by any stretch of the imagination. At 133 episodes (22 to 23 per season, which is almost unheard of in this current culture of “sexy” 9-to-10 episode truncated season runs), Once boasts 12 more episodes than the uber successful and generally beloved (except for maybe it’s series finale) Lost, another ABC series that coincidentally featured the same writing team as Once.

The series is also well over the “age limit” generally required for syndication (four seasons). This means that, after Once ends, it’s pretty much guaranteed a second life in reruns and re-airings, both in the U.S. and overseas.

Up until a few weeks ago, at least, a sixth season run seemed precisely where Once Upon a Time was headed. This seemed particularly true, in the wake of news that nearly three-quarters of the original cast (most notably, Jennifer Morrison who plays main protagonist Emma, and series stars Josh Dallas and Ginnifer Goodwin, who play Prince Charming and Snow White, respectively) would not be returning to the show for future seasons. In addition to a truncated cast, the show was also struggling HARD in the ratings department. Having garnered a respectable average of around 11 million viewers per episode in its first season, by its sixth, the show was averaging less than 3 million. To add insult to injury, ABC had recently announced plans to move the series from its six-year home on Sunday nights to the dreaded Friday night death slot.

That’s right, Emma. Drink away the pain!

And yet, despite all this, the Once Upon a Time was renewed, and its showrunners decided to continue the saga for an unlikely seventh season. With virtually none of its original cast returning, the showrunners decided to pitch the season as a reboot of sorts. The plot would now focus on Emma’s son, Henry Mills (now grown, and played, understandably, by an older, and much more attractive, actor) and his scrappy daughter.

Puberty has been REALLY kind to you, Henry!

Cast veterans Lana Parilla (who plays the Evil Queen), Collin O’Donohue (who plays Captain Hook), and Robert Carlyle (who plays Rumplestiltskin) would reportedly continue on with the series, though their role in this restructured show, at least, at this point, is uncertain.

It wouldn’t be the first time that a long running show was forced to shift gears in later seasons, as a result of cast member departures and/or flagging ratings. Medical drama ER (which lasted on air for a whopping 15 seasons), and its contemporary Hot Doc Show, Grey’s Anatomy (still going strong after an impressive 13 seasons) have both made a point of casually introducing new cast members each season by cycling through classes of medical interns. This is a clever way for a show to test out the likability of new cast members on a smaller scale, and, if they pass the ratings test, gradually increasing their roles on the series, so that they can eventually take the place of primary cast members, should they eventually decide to depart from the series. To date, only four of the original Grey’s Anatomy cast members still remain on the show.

Perhaps, no series has been more successful at cycling through cast members than the Canadian high school drama, Degrassi, which has been on air in some form since as early as 1982! Using a similar model to Greys and ER, Degrassi is known for introducing a new class of freshman students each year, and gradually shifting focus toward those students, as older characters graduate from high school, and the cast members who play them depart the show. In fact, Degrassi has been shuffling cast members for so long that some of its original cast members now play the middle-aged parents of characters who recently graduated from college, and subsequently were married to one another. And you know what that means . . . Degrassi Grandparents aren’t out of the realm of possibility in seasons to come.

Other series have been forced to make abrupt changes in their main cast lists, as a result of the sudden departures of series’ protagonists. Pitched as a family drama revolving around a father raising teenage daughters, and based on a book with the same name, 8 Simple Rules, had to switch some pretty serious gears after its first season, following the untimely death of John Ritter, who played the show’s patriarch. David Spade and James Garner were brought on for the show’s final two seasons as family members’ of the main characters.

Spin City a sitcom about the goings on in NYC local government lost its star Michael J. Fox after four seasons, as a result of the increased severity of his Parkinson’s disease. Fox was replaced by Charlie Sheen, who played a different character, naturally, for the series’ final two seasons.

Sheen went on to star alongside John Cryer on Two and a Half Men, which lasted for 12 seasons on air. Coincidentally, this time, it was Sheen’s turn to depart a successful series, as a result of his own misbehavior and issues with substance abuse, around season 8. Sheen was replaced by Ashton Kutcher, as a series co-lead. The latter’s tenure on the show lasted for four seasons, and ended only when the series was cancelled in 2015.

The aforementioned series are all shining examples of moderately to majorly successful cast member replacements. And it was these examples the showrunners’ of Once Upon a Time undoubtedly cited in the writers’ room, when they were pitching the idea of continuing their series without most of the original cast.

However, unlike all of these shows, Once has not had the opportunity to gradually introduce or test out its new leading cast members, Andrew J. West of The Walking Dead and Alison Fernandez of Jane the Virgin. (Though both characters were featured in the series finale, they had a combined screen time of less than five minutes.) And while three of the original cast members still plan to continue on with the series, in order to provide some consistency and appease loyal fans, the veterans’ chemistry with the new additions to the cast still remains a question mark, as the two new additions to the cast appeared in scenes only with one another during the finale.

Regina: “Who is the new hot guy with the little girl?” Emma: “I think that’s supposed to be our son and his kid.” Regina: “So, basically, in the last five seconds, I just learned I’m a grandparent at 40. I also inadvertently expressed attraction to my own child. So much to talk about in my next therapy session with Jiminey Cricket.”

Nonetheless, the showrunners of Once remain cautiously optimistic about the new direction in which the show is headed in its seventh season. “It’s like a new book. So, we’re starting with new stories. Although it’s going to have some of the people that we’ve loved for six years at the center of it, we are going to meet new people and new worlds,” Executive producer Adam Horowitz explained in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly.

New people. New worlds. New time slot. New cast members. In fact, the series name will be just about the only thing Once Upon a Time will retain this fall from its first six seasons. But new and different doesn’t always mean better, as Jennifer Grey’s nose will most certainly confirm. And so Once Upon a Time has headed to hiatus, leaving fans with the greatest cliffhanger of all. Will this series will be able to survive its forced reconstructive surgery, and obtain it’s long awaited Happily Ever After in Syndication Land? Only time will tell . . .

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A “Blast” from the . . . Other Past: A Recap of the FINAL Lost Season Premiere

In a recent recap for Grey’s Anatomy, I wrote that Grey’s was like an old friend to me. And, with 5 seasons under my belt, I also consider Lost among my dear friends. And yet, they are very different, these two buds of mine. You see, Grey’s Anatomy and Lost aren’t exactly hanging out together at parties. After all, Grey’s is that annoyingly pretty and popular friend you have that’s a little bit needy, more than a bit self absorbed, and always seems to be whining about her cheating boyfriend.

(“McDreamy is so going in my burn book . . .”)

Lost, on the other hand, is kind of a nerd. He likes to read comic books and obscure science fiction texts. He engages you in endless conversations about time travel and the philosophy of life. He’s constantly nodding and winking at you about inside jokes the two of you have together . . . even if you don’t really understand all of them. In short, he’s Hurley.

Tonight’s two hour season premiere of Lost did not disappoint. It introduced us to some new faces (the Other Others), and reintroduced some old ones (Boone! Yippee! Charlie and Claire! Yay! Flight Attendant Cindy and those kiddies from the tail section . . . ummm . . . OK). It answered some questions. (We know what was in Hurley’s guitar case! We know how they healed young Ben Linus! We know who the Smoke Monster is!).

It asked some others. (What’s the deal with Alt World? Where did Jack’s dad’s coffin and John Locke’s knife set go?) And, of course, it pointed and winked at us a lot, with inside jokes . . . some of which we actually understood!

(“Oh that Hurley, he’s such a jokester!”)

It would be WAY too ambitious for me to even begin to cover everything that went on in this episode. Therefore, I’m simply going to review a few key plot points, by highlighting some of the episode’s more quotable moments.

Juliet: “It Worked.”

For a few seasons now, we have known that time travel has a lot to do with the mysteries of Lost island. What we didn’t know was what theory of time travel Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof had chosen to dominate their universe. Is time linear, such that any change you make in the past, causes a ripple or butterfly effect in future?

(“Go away Ashton! They didn’t choose “The Butterfly Effect.” So there!)

Or is time fractalized, so that every potential outcome of every event in our lives is played out in full in some alternate world? Based on this episode, it appears that Lindelof and co. have opted for the latter theory. Juliet’s setting off of the hydrogen bomb during the 1970’s began a new timeline. 

In this new timeline, the island was never made electromagnetically volatile.  Therefore, Desmond was never needed to press the infamous hatch button to prevent explosions.  Subsequently, he never neglected to do so.  Hence, Oceanic Flight 815 never crashed back in 2004.

In Alt World, Hurley considered himself “the luckiest man in the world.” Boone tried to rescue his sister from her boyfriend, but “she didn’t want to be rescued.” And Desmond was a Flight 815 passenger. Quite a unique place, that Alt World.

(See? Boone isn’t really dead. He’s merely turned into Vampire Damon from The Vampire Diaries . . .)

And yet, Jack and the rest of the Losties remained on the island after the incident . . . except in the present day. Thus, at least two distinct timelines are going on concurrently.

Before Juliet died after the “bomb incident,” she muttered some things to Sawyer about going out for coffee and “touching.” She had a big goofy smile on her face when she said all this. Juliet then told Sawyer she had something very important to tell him. Unfortunately, she never got the chance to say it . . . at least while she was alive.   When “I Speak to Dead People” Guru Miles communicated with her posthumously, Juliet reportedly informed him that, “It worked.”

My take on this? Somewhere in the Alt World timeline, Juliet, who perhaps, like the rest of the Losties, never made it to the island in this timeline, meets Sawyer and hits it off with him.  Because she was about to lose her life in her current timeline, Juliet was able to catch a brief glimpse of the alternative timeline, where she continues to exist.

Charlie: “I was supposed to die.”

In Alt World, Doctor Jack Shepard is called on to help an unconscious passenger in the airplane bathroom.  It ends up being Charlie, and when Jack clears out his airway passages to help him breathe, he finds a heroine-filled balloon.  Bad Charlie! What would Claire think? 

Once conscious, Charlie is by no means grateful to the Good Doc for saving his life, and utters the above-referenced line before being placed in handcuffs.  But why did he say this? Is it possible that people in Alt World retain some memory of their other existences? Juliet’s behavior back on the island, as well as Jack’s sense of déjà vu while on the plane, would seem to suggest that this is the case.  After all, on Lost island, Charlie too knew that he was meant to die . . .

 Jack: “Nothing is irreversible.”

In Alt World, Jack lands safely in L.A. only to find that his father’s coffin has not.  While waiting in customs, he comes upon a wheelchair-bound Locke, who’s knife collection was also lost mid flight.  When Jack inquires about Locke’s paralysis, the latter smiles ruefully, and explains that his condition is irreversible.  An unusually optimistic Jack passes Locke his business card before uttering the above-referenced line.  And perhaps he is telling the truth . . .

After all, in a single episode we have already seen any number of people coming back from the dead . . . which is, after all, the ultimate irreversible.

Head of the Other-Others: “Your friend is dead.”

With Sayid quickly bleeding out, Ghost Jacob, who was recently murdered by Ben at the behest of Not-Locke, informs Hurley that he must bring Sayid to “the Temple” in order to save his life.  Hurley and the gang comply and are met with the Other-Others and Cindy, the flight attendant from the plane.  We recognize the temple as the same place where young Ben, also near death at the time, was taken and revived. Other-Others want to kill the Losties until Hurley informs them that he is following Jacob’s orders.

To prove his point, Hurley shows them the guitar case Jacob left for him.  As it turns out, the guitar case contains a giant onyx with a message for the Other-Others regarding the importance of keeping the Losties alive.  Surprisingly, as Kate says, “These Others are actually trying to protect us.”  The question is how effective are they as protectors? Sayid is taken into the Temple and held under some muddy-looking water.  However, once the Other-Others have finished doing there thing, Sayid still looks pretty dead, and the Head of the Other-Others proclaims as much.  And yet, at the episode’s conclusion, Sayid miraculously awakens. But is it the same Sayid we know and love? Only time will tell . . .

Non-Locke: “I want the one thing the real Locke didn’t. I want to go home.”

After getting Ben to kill his nemesis Jacob, turning into the Smoke Monster and killing Jacob’s body guards, and decking the never-aging Richard Alpert, Non-Locke was pretty tired from his busy day. So, he took some time to wax poetic with Ben about the fate of the world.  In doing so, he discusses the sorry fate of the real John Locke, who in present day is dead and in Alt World is still paralyzed.  Either way, being the real John Locke kind of sucks right now.  For his sake can only hope that Jack is right and “nothing is irreversible.”

And there you have it.  The Final Season of Lost has begun in earnest.  And I don’t plan on getting much sleep until it’s over . . but that is a good thing!

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