i Need Media
Monsters, Inc.: The good badness of Grimm
By Matthew Singer 04/19/2012
We are in the midst of a fairy-tale renaissance. Who the hell knows why? My guess is, it has something to do with the end of the Harry Potter series and the impending conclusion of Twilight, which — regardless of your opinion of them — are both contemporary fables. When a major cash cow disappears these days, the entertainment industry scrambles to come up with something new that’ll remind consumers of that dearly departed franchise. And in lieu of any new ideas, they’ll just remake something old. That’s why we’ve already gotten a young adult retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, and why we’ll be seeing two movies based on Snow White this year, and why there’s even a goddamn tween-drama reimagining of Jack and the Beanstalk coming down the pike.
Television isn’t immune, either: There’s ABC’s Once Upon a Time, which extends the mythology of Snow White into modern times; and, over on NBC, there’s Grimm. Being an adult male, all these things have barely registered a blip on my radar. As someone who tries to keep up with even the pop-culture I’m not all that interested in, I’m aware of the existence of a fairy-tale boom, but I have not directly engaged with it myself . . . with the exception of Grimm.
Full disclosure: I only started watching Grimm because I was asked to do recaps for another publication. But I’ve developed an odd appreciation for the show. It’s certainly not great, but based on the synopsis — a cop in Portland, Ore., discovers he is a descendent of the Brothers Grimm, who weren’t storytellers but essentially supernatural policemen documenting battles with creatures only they and their progeny could see — I thought it would only last a few episodes. Instead, it just got picked up for a second season. And I’m actually kind of stoked about it.
I’ve tried to figure out why the show works. It’s not easy. The best description you could give Grimm is saying, it’s like CSI meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer, except with most of the good stuff taken out. Although a few of the bit players — particularly Silas Weir Mitchell — are legitimately entertaining, star David Giuntoli has all the charisma of a wet cardboard box. And despite its goofy premise, the show takes itself pretty seriously.
But that lack of self-awareness might be the key to Grimm’s appeal: It’s batshit crazy and doesn’t know it. For one thing, all the creatures have ridiculous, faux-German species names like fuchsbau and lausenschlange, which Giuntoli is forced to, ahem, grimly repeat to himself for entire episodes. In recent weeks, the show has gone epically nutty, casually revealing that Hitler was actually a disguised blutbad — that’s a wolf-demon for nonfans — and visiting a crackhouse for strung-out lizard-men referred to as skalengaks. If the show had a better sense of humor about all this, I don’t think it’d be as fun to watch. If a show can’t be good, it might as well commit to being bad. And, strangely enough, that’s what makes Grimm surprisingly good.
I Need Media is a biweekly media column. Matthew Singer watches everything from PBS documentaries to Community to Showtime’s Gigolos, but mostly he’s just filling the void until Breaking Bad starts again. Follow him on Twitter at @mpsinger.