***This review was first published in October of 2018 with the premiere of Tell Me a Story on CBS All Access.***
An age-old argument is whether art imitates life or life imitates art.
While I'd argue that these days art takes its cues not from art but from society's vocal minority that exists on social media, cues have been culled from social media, dinner discussions, CNN, local news markets, and more on Tell Me a Story Season 1 Episode 1.
This is an episode of television that when (if) watched ten or 20 years from now will be very dated.
Hand to heart, I hope more than anything that's the case even if we're plowing into stories loosely based on classic fairy tales.
What I didn't share in the preview review for Tell Me a Story were the details of the retelling of Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, and Hansel and Gretel. The longer they sit with you, the more haunting they become in hindsight.
For a premiere titled "Hope," there isn't much of it spread around the characters introduced during the hour.
Jordan and his fiance, Beth, were struggling with plans for their future. He's an affable guy who can look past the horrors of everyday life to see the joy in what's right beside him, like Beth.
His naked body perks up, no sorry. That's not right, but if you didn't notice James Wolk was NUDE while Jordan waited for Beth to get the results of her pregnancy test, then you must be dead inside. He didn't do that on Mad Men, Goliath, or Zoo.
Jordan wanted a baby, even if they weren't married as planned. They were a year off of their schedule. They should have been married and had a baby on the way already.
Can we please not ruin another dinner talking about Trump?Jordan
They didn't because Beth was suffering from anxiety because of the world at large. She was focusing on the forest and not the trees. It's something we all do so much that insanity has become more common than not.
I'm not even kidding. While insane might be stretching it a bit, reporting and sharing every catastrophe ad nauseam hasn't helped our society. We're farther apart and less intimate than we were decades ago. We're more frightened; we believe we'll be kidnapped, killed, nuked, invaded -- our imaginations run wild.
Jordan: Did you see Lance and Harriet's video of little Harry pooping?
Jordan: [chuckles] That kid? He's freakin' adorable.
Beth: Please don't.
There is less time to enjoy each other, our families, and our successes, even silly things like Harriet sharing her son's excitement over pooping.
As someone who divides their time between Investigation Discovery and the Hallmark Channel, I am the epitome of being torn in two. Jordan was Hallmark to Beth's ID Network.
Their inability to communicate, Beth's abject fear of living, led Jordan to believe he was the issue. It was an unfortunate story, and of course, it wasn't going to end well. How many fairy tales ever do?
It made no sense to me that someone as frightened of life as Beth would want to go to a public rally the likes of the one they attended. What could be more unsafe than a bunch of enraged political types wearing pig masks?
Even if Beth had skipped the rally and taken Jordan directly to the jewelers, her worst nightmare would have been confirmed. Her fears would have come true and thrust the optimistic Jordan directly into the world she had been living in while he tried to clear her of her worries.
Just as shocking as Beth attending the rally was the jewelry store being open for business during that hullabaloo without security. I might like to consider myself a Jordan in life, but stupidity is out of the question. Once I read the novel In Cold Blood, the days of keeping doors unlocked were over. Be aware, people!
The three pigs were taking down the store no matter the route Beth and Jordan took. The guard wanted to be a superman, and it was all going to go wrong.
Eddie may have been an addict, but he seemed like a slacker. Our initial introduction to Eddie led me to believe he was more apt to stay on the couch than to go out of his way to plan and carry out a robbery.
Instead, he was responsible for ending the life of another couple, the man not sporting a "F*uck You" tattoo across the chest. That doesn't have much meaning after pulling off such a fiasco.
Kayla and her dad have had things pretty rough lately, too.
We don't know how Tim's wife died, but he couldn't manage to raise Kayla on his own in a way that made him comfortable. The girl is a handful. She looks years older than her age, and when she's not at home, she also tries to act that way.
Like many teens, Kayla doesn't know what it means to be an adult, but that doesn't stop her. She dresses like a tart and sneaks out of the house. She does drugs and picks up guys she doesn't know. That could be why she was torn away from her previous home to live with grandma.
Kayla thinks she's got it pretty rough. She's the new girl at school. She lost her mom. She has to make new friends and live with someone her mother didn't like. But Grandma Colleen is very cool.
Or is she? In the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, as we can surmise this one to be, Grandma was the Big Bad Wolf.
Tim didn't take Kayla to Colleen's house to be coddled and smothered in love but for some straight talk and tough love. He grew up to be what appears to be a good man. He got married, had a child, and has a career as a chef.
He believes in his mother enough to take his daughter back home to her to be raised. If she were an ogre, surely he'd keep his daughter far away.
Being unfriendly with Colleen and unsure of her because of Colleen's relationship with Kayla's late mother, you'd think Kayla would walk the straight and narrow or at least be cautious until she gets to know the lay of the land.
Oh, don't you look nice. Very sexy. I was slutty when I was your age, too.Colleen
Instead, Kayla didn't wait a day to pop on a practically non-existent dress and hit a nightclub with her new best friend.
Nick seemed a bit weird at first with the way he disappeared off of the dance floor, and Kayla had to find him at the bar after they were dancing, but it didn't stop her from going home with him or bonking his brains out.
He had an apartment without flash and fell for Kayla with the wolf tattoo quickly. She taunted him that he didn't know the meaning of a hookup, and he seemed crushed.
It was horrible that she didn't have a problem treating another human so terribly at such a young age, but what was the alternative? She couldn't tell him she was a high school student, either.
It's a terrible trope that the guy wound up being her teacher, and I would have given anything for him to have been anything but her teacher. Hell, he could have been her preacher, and it would have been less Pretty Little Liars (i.e., tired).
How angry will he be? Is he the wolf? Is Kayla the wolf? Why does she have a wolf tattoo? Maybe Nick is Little Red Riding Hood. He seems more innocent than Kayla.
Colleen flat out told Kayla she's not a nice person and that her poor relationship with Kayla's mom was all her fault because she blamed the woman for taking Tim away from her. This tale might spin on its head.
A tale that ties into the club where Kayla met Nick is that of Gabe and his sister Hannah. It's the supposed Hansel and Gretel story, although I don't see it yet other than the reference to their names.
It's also the most difficult of the three plots to swallow because there is little reason to care about Gabe. He was too easily swayed into going out with his idiot of a roommate and getting into trouble. He seemed to know the guy was untrustworthy, but let himself be lured right out the door.
Gabe has a shaky past, but even though he was doing drugs and knew better than to be where he was, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He made a bad choice and will be paying for it forever, caught or not.
Try imagining Hannah's heart falling to the pit of her stomach when she reached the apartment after responding to Gabe's call. There was no reason for her to be involved in that, but her life was changed forever at that moment, too.
Hannah asked why Gabe didn't call the police, but when she chose not to call them, she became an accomplice after the fact merely because she didn't report what she saw.
People must go through situations like that all the time, after all, there are murders every day. But no matter how I try, I cannot put myself into their shoes. The stress would knock me off my feet.
One episode and most of the people we met have been changed irrevocably.
Kayla might not be a stranger to danger, and Gabe has a rap sheet. Hannah has suffered terribly given the scars on her back, and that she's suffering again through no fault of her own is upsetting.
Jordan is in for a world of hurt, and Eddie's easy fix with his brother and friend for a financial fiasco will haunt him cause him more pain than money woes.
What do you think of the show so far? Can you believe how fast the lives of people we met went downhill? Are you in it for the long haul? Who did you feel for most intensely?
If you're here, chat with me below! Is this world getting you down? Have you ever analyzed the doom associated with fairy tales? Discuss!
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.