Once upon a time, there was a television show called Once Upon a Time. And once upon a time, Once Upon a Time got very high ratings. The ratings for Once Upon a Time for the second half of 2012 were very high among the coveted 18 – 49 age group. And it typically matched head-to-head with Sunday Night Football, before the end of the NFL season. (Football always dwarfs everything in the ratings on television.)
Why is Once Upon a Time doing so well? I think it’s because viewers are sick of reality. (Something the networks seem very slow to grasp. Maybe they don’t want to face the truth because it is much cheaper for them to produce more and more reality shows than to come up with something original that has an actual storyline where the plot really interests the audience.) But I digress. I really do think viewers are fed up with reality. It’s much more fun to fantasize about fairy tales.
Anything can happen in a fairy tale. As soon as we hear the words “Once upon a time”, we expect to be taken away into a faraway land. We expect to be entertained. And we expect a happy ending. (Although, I must note, there are a heck of a whole lot of fairy tales where the original ending is anything but happy.)
Once upon a time, there was someone living a life they wished they could change for the better. They wanted more. They dreamed of this new life, but had no imaginable way to accomplish it. Then one day, everything changed.
Once upon a time, there was a magical wizard or fairy godmother who entered their life to make all their dreams come true.
Once upon a time, there would be a happily ever after. Their dreams would come true!
That’s what television viewers today want and crave. They want something to hope for. Today’s world with its rich growing richer, banks being bailed out while normal people suffer, mortgage foreclosures running rampant, fiscal cliff scares, tragic mass shootings, and on and on really isn’t much of a fun place. I think people have had enough of this bleak reality.
A fairy tale world allows people the chance to forget about their own particular circumstances, whatever they may be. And there is relatively no cost. Watching Once Upon a Time on your television set is almost free. As long as you have a television set, an antenna good enough to get reception, and you can avoid being sucked into buying all the things the commercials want you to buy, you can watch Once Upon a Time. Or Grimm. Or you can go to the library and check out a collection of Grimm’s Fairy Tales for free as long as you don’t have any fines on your card. Even better, libraries today allow you to check out e-books with your kindle, nook, or other e-reader in many places. If you belong to Kindle Prime, you can check out e-books for free there, too. Escaping into a fairy tale fantasy land won’t cost you anything except your time. A fairy tale world allows people the chance to escape to another, more mystical world where anything can happen and dreams do come true.
I think we all realize that fairy tales are not real, but in television we’ve had reality for quite awhile now. Real is not always fun. We’ve had enough of real, for now. Now, as viewers, we’re ready to go back to the fantasy and fairy tales that fill us with hope for the future.
Once upon a time, we needed a break from reality in order to fantasize about all those happily ever after endings!