There's just something about fairy tales. Because we're all pretty much universally exposed to them in our childhood (at least in the Western world), they can be used as shorthand around which to construct stories with more modern meaning. Once Upon a Time
is a great example of this.
I'd never heard of this series when my sister-in-law exposed me to it on a family visit, but immediately after seeing the first episode I signed up for Netflix to see more. It's great
escapism. The idea of ordinary people being amnesiac fairy tale heroes, and a tough, streetwise woman needing to get back in touch with her inner innocence to save them? Yes, there's plenty of cliché here, but clichés are only clichés because they're used so often, and they're only used so often because they always work
Some of the acting is a little wooden from time to time (especially in the case of Henry, but you have to forgive child actors their inexperience), but most of it is excellent. An added bonus is that, since the fairy tale and "real world" personas of the characters are usually so different, it means the actors can really sink their teeth into their roles, playing their characters in dramatically different ways. Especially worthy of note are Robert Carlyle, whose Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold has had an arc that allowed Carlyle to explore an incredible emotional range, and Ginnifer Goodson's Snow White/Mary Margaret Blanchard, who is an action-adventure heroine in the fairy-tale world and a meek, mild-mannered schoolteacher in the "real" one.
It's not all wine and roses, however. Some of the soap opera plot developments over the first season, especially Mary Margaret and David's will-they-or-won't-they romance, felt a little protracted, like they had to draw things out to fill episode count. This was especially noticeable on watching all the episodes together to catch up. However, things do seem to pick up in the second season. Also, some of the CGI and greenscreen effects are rather blatant, though it's about an order of magnitude better than The Tenth Kingdom
's effects and really rather impressive for a TV series budget. And the constant use of Disney names and interpretations sometimes seems a little cheesy.
But on the whole, unless it takes a considerable turn for the worse, I'll be staying with this show until it ends.