McNamara’s Picks: ‘Once Upon a Time’ spinoff, ‘Walking Dead’ and more

“Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.” ABC’s spinoff of “Once Upon a Time” comes out of the box more fully realized than its parent ship, if only because the tale of the curious and curiouser Alice and her famous fall down the rabbit hole is so well known. This Alice (Sophie Lowe), however, is full grown and suffering the consequences of interdimension travel. When we meet her, she has been institutionalized for mysterious disappearances and subsequent ravings. What she really suffers from, however, is a broken heart. While searching for proof that Wonderland exists, she fell in love with a genie who was then torn from her by the evil Red Queen. But when the White Rabbit (John Lithgow) sends the Knave of Hearts (Michael Socha) with news that her beloved lives, Alice cranks into Victorian-on-the-edge action.

With a Steampunk look reminiscent of Tim Burton’s version of the tale, “Wonderland” makes full use of modern technology, and the Disney fairy tale library, to bring Alice’s new adventures to marvelous life. Lowe is terrific as is Socha, and the two have great chemistry, which no matter the setting is always half the battle. If things don’t veer too quickly into a Fun Fair Parade of various Disney characters, this could be the show the whole family can enjoy, with bonus points for allowing the princess to save the prince for once. ABC, Thursdays, 8 p.m.

FALL TV 2013: Watch the trailers

“The Walking Dead.” If it’s not one thing, it’s another in a world turned inside out by a zombie apocalypse. Last season, against all odds, Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Daryl (Norman Reedus) and all the gang defeated the Governor (Mathew Morrissey) and the more murderous members of the Woodbury settlement (though the Governor got away). But does that mean they are now free to live in peace, cultivating Rick’s victory garden and communing with Woodbury refugees in their groovy prison-turned-gated community? No, of course not. The minute Rick is lulled into believing he can lay down the albatross of leadership, beat his pistol into a plowshare and concentrate on keeping his son from becoming a full-blown sociopath, things take a turn for the worse. The zombie hordes seem drawn to the fence like it was made of brains, Michonne (Danai Gurira) gets hurt and people start getting sick. Real sick.


On the upside, Daryl is now an official hero, which is fun; Carol (Melissa McBride) has taken on some new and disturbing but kind of awesome duties and Hershel (Scott Wilson) becomes more Gandalf-like with every passing day. The Season 4 opener doesn’t pack as big a punch as previous premieres but the point is clear -- there is no real sanctuary in a world where the dead still walk, and no return to normal in sight. AMC, Sundays, 9 p.m. 

FULL COVERAGE: Fall TV preview 2013

“Reign.” The premiere of the CW’s spin on the life of Mary Queen of Scots is the nutso TV event of the year. “Gossip Girl” meets “The Tudors” in this gorgeously ridiculous revise (History? What a drag! Can we at least smother it in soundtrack?) in which the French court is run like a coed dorm, with hot sex of every type occurring upstairs, downstairs and in my lady’s chamber, while Mary (Adelaide Kane) attempts to survive assassination, heartbreak and life without a smartphone. I think it was the sight of 16th century Catholic women attending a ball in tank-topped gowns that made me a believer, or perhaps it was the intimation that Mary has the second sight (Really? Because someone needs to tell her that Elizabeth is not someone you want to tangle with.)

It’s tough to imagine “Reign” showing up in classrooms like episodes of “John Adams” (though the kids would no doubt like it better), but that’s not the point. Every season needs a show that’s just utterly insane, and this year it’s “Reign.” And who knows? Maybe this time around it will be Elizabeth who loses her head. CW, Thursdays, 9 p.m. 


PHOTOS: Hollywood Backlot moments

“Burton and Taylor.” Lifetime’s ghastly “Liz & Dick” made it easy for the Brits to step in and show us how it’s done, which the BBC has done, enlisting Dominic West and Helena Bonham Carter to play the famous couple, seen here as they reunite to star in a Broadway production of “Private Lives” (so, yay, no scenes from “Cleopatra” or issues with the pope). The two continue to defy the confines of cinematic storytelling, but this smaller slice proves the “less is more” adage, as well as the superior talents (surprise, surprise) of West and Carter. BBC America, Wednesdays, 9 p.m.

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