(By Mark Gonzales) Perhaps you have seen the massive advertising campaign for CBS All Access's new horror series Tell Me A Story. The print ads show a frightening image of three scary pig faces staring at each other and the creepy invitation to… "Tell Me A Story." It's a strong campaign and one that worked on me. I wanted to see this latest offering from CBS All Access and was willing to give it the time it needed to win me over. Sadly, this series is probably the most boring thing on the steaming platform… including old episodes of Caroline In The City…
…The concept for Tell Me A Story is a potentially interesting one--classic fairytales like "Little Red Riding Hood" and "The Three Little Pigs" are reimagined in a modern context. It's an idea that has been successful before in works like Fables and, to a much lesser degree, Once Upon A Time. In the case of this series, however, the execution is incredibly weak, far from scary, and painfully uninteresting. I would have loved to see a version of this show that presented the tale of "The Three Little Pigs" in a modern, supernatural, and horrifying context. Sadly, what we get here is mundane and uninteresting versions of fairytale classics.
Created by Kevin Williamson (Scream), Tell Me A Story could have been a much more interesting series had it been a story-of-the-week type of show. I would have enjoyed seeing a new take on classic tales had I been able to see the stories in their entirety. Imagine, for a moment, Hansel and Gretel as told in modern New York City with the witch being a drug dealer and Hansel and Gretel as undercover cops. There. I just made that up and I suspect it is more interesting than what we can look forward to from this series.
As it is, we are introduced to a number of characters and forced to guess which fairytale they represent. There are, in the initial episode at least, few if any surprises in this regard although I assume one character that is presented as being fairly innocuous will turn out to be a witch stand-in. And, while I suppose I can see where things are going from here, I cannot see where the horror will come from. As it is, the series is decidedly without scares. I found myself yearning for a cat to jump out of a cupboard or something to happen to get my attention. Nothing came. There was absolutely no suggestion that this was a horror series.
While I am happy to give this series the time it needs to win me over, I need to know that we are on the same page. "Is this a horror series or is it just a series that is premiering on Halloween Night?" I asked myself every ten minutes while watching. The answer is clear to me and to anyone who watches the first episode. It is a simple drama that hopes to play on viewers interest in horror to keep it alive.
Perhaps it is the fault of the CBS All Access Marketing Department that this series is so misleading. I'm willing to give Williamson and team the benefit of the doubt and judge the show on its own merits.
On its own merits, this show still sucks.
There are three main stories here that all manage to converge and intertwine at the shows opening and we must assume that they will intertwine many more times before the end of the series. Tragically, we don't have very much reason to care about any of these stories by the end of the first episode. There are some interesting twists that might seem novel to viewers who have not seen Williamson's other well known series, Dawson's Creek, but for most of us horror fans, we will be asking a simple question throughout almost every scene, "Why should I care?"
I wish I had an answer for you. I really can't say why you should.
The thing that Williamson seems to have forgotten about the fairytales that he seeks to recreate in these stories is that there was always an element of the unknown and the supernatural to them. The three little pigs are obvious stand ins for normal humans but the Big Bad Wolf is an evil force. Similarly, the woods that Little Red Riding Hood travels through are a dark and unknown space. If she keeps to the path, she only might be safe for the darkness around the path is so populated by evil that it very well might find it's way to Grandmother's House. In this version, there is no hint of the supernatural or even, the unknown. The dangers that are presented are clear and known; pedophiles, murderers, crime bosses… etc. The metaphors of the original tales break down when we are given explicit things to fear.
I must imbue this review with something positive to say about the series as I know it does not deserve our lowest number of eyeballs. All I can say is that it looks nice. It is professionally made and it is clear that this had a budget and a crew that knew how to make a TV Show. I never found myself uninterested in the technical aspects of the series. The shots were interesting. The editing was competent. But the content itself was just so boring that I could barely pay attention for the fifty something minute runtime of the show. I actually found myself wondering if the Big Brother Live Feeds had anything to offer and had to resist the temptation to switch over to that.
It is my deepest hope that you are visiting this website to discover the films and TV Series that are worth your time and that you trust our opinions. If that is so, then you can believe that Tell Me A Story is not worth the time or the 30 dollar subscription fee that it will require for you to complete the series. Nothing is presented here that gives me the impression that this series is worth your time and you should let CBS know this with your wallet.
By Mark Gonzales