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Odd Symmetry in ‘Once Upon’-‘Revenge’ Pairing

There’s a fine line in serialized storytelling between keeping the audience off-balance and appearing to, pardon the expression, simply make shit up as you go along.

OnceuponABC has moved “Revenge” to Sundays, placing it alongside “Once Upon a Time,” to become the linchpin of its lineup. This seems appropriate, since both programs give every impression of falling into the latter category.

Like a lot of critics, I was initially intrigued by “Once Upon a Time,” the fairy-tales-come-true drama, before becoming increasingly frustrated as the season progressed. A first-year finale that promised to blow up the show brought me back, only to watch a second-season opener Sept. 30 that did virtually nothing to clarify what’s happening or address the coyness that’s been irritating me.

RevengeAfter not completely buying into the pilot, I sort of grudgingly stuck with “Revenge” because so many people professed to love it, leaving me wondering what I was missing. Yet in that case, too, the wild soapiness struck me more as massive improv than any sort of meticulous plotting, and this season’s premiere careened somewhere beyond camp into “The Karate Kid 2” territory.

In that respect, ABC’s scheduling is logical, since those willing to suspend disbelief long enough to accept one — and stop worrying about coherence — are prime candidates to extend the same latitude and courtesy to the other.

Part of me still wants these shows to work — not because they deserve to survive, necessarily, but rather because it’s nice to see broadcasters rewarded for taking a creative risk occasionally. Not every network drama should have to begin with a chalk outline, though lord knows that’s worked pretty well for CBS.

That said, ABC’s developing a bad habit of ordering up attention-generating dramas that can stir excitement, without crafting a clear blueprint for what happens after they come off the assembly line.

Call it “Flash Forward” syndrome. Only in these cases, it’s just going to be my TV that blacks out.

 

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