Robert Greenblatt helped develop “The X-Files” at Fox, which originally scheduled the show at 9 p.m. Fridays. So it’s easy to see the attraction with the exec now running NBC Entertainment of taking a flyer on another horror concept, “Grimm,” in the same slot. By happenstance, this NBC series arrives the same week as ABC’s considerably more interesting “Once Upon a Time,” another fairy-tale themed project. Yet given the various timeslots where NBC is bedeviled by Nielsen gremlins, aggressively programming Fridays looks like a luxury the network can ill afford.
The central character, Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli), is a detective who’s planning to propose to his girlfriend (Bitsie Tulloch). Soon enough, though, his bliss is interrupted by visions, as he begins seeing people’s faces morph into monsters — a legacy of being descended from the Brothers Grimm, cursed with the task of thwarting the mythical creatures actually walking among us.
“The misfortune of our family is already passing to you,” Nick’s aunt (Kate Burton) tells him, by way of obliquely explaining the strange spells Nick is suddenly experiencing.
The first threat is a predator with an appetite for young women wearing red-hooded sweatshirts (get it?), which is modestly clever and creepy. Still, as with any show of this variety, there’s the haunting problem of exhausting viable monsters and spiraling into silliness (otherwise known as “The Night Stalker” syndrome), as well as doubts as to whether the backstory mythology provides enough of a foundation to support an ongoing storyline.
Even before this season’s double dose, the “Fairy tales are real” idea has certainly been around the block a few times — played for laughs, for example, in “Special Unit 2.” Among “Grimm’s” more immediate challenges are Giuntoli’s initial blandness as its lead, along with questions regarding how long his confused partner (“Lincoln Heights'” Russell Hornsby) can continue showing up at crime scenes without ascertaining something’s weird in the state of Oregon.
As veterans of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel,” producers David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf are familiar with reluctant heroes protecting people from things that go bump in the night. A more practical concern is whether there’s enough audience for “Grimm” on Fridays — a night where all but CBS’ older-skewing dramas have struggled to achieve any kind of critical mass — and the mission is exacerbated by Fox’s “Fringe” targeting the same audience.
Taking those factors into account, even if this macabre hour can locate its narrative groove and doesn’t run out of palatable foes by, oh, episode six, the outlook still looks pretty, er, grim.