‘Fables' has potential to be the next ‘Lost'

Maureen Ryan
Chicago Tribune (MCT)

Has ABC found the next "Lost"?

According to a recent story in the Hollywood Reporter, the network bought the rights to the comic book "Fables" and will make a pilot in the new year.

I recently read the 11 collected volumes of the "Fables" series, which writer Bill Willingham introduced in 2002 and which is still going strong. Though it took me a little while to invest in Willingham's characters - most of whom come from the realm of fairy tales but live in contemporary New York - by the time I dived into the most recent volumes of "Fables," I was truly hooked. It is, quite simply, a marvelous yarn.

Despite my great appreciation of "Fables," or rather because of it, news of the ABC adaptation fills me with both hope and dread - hope that the next great network drama may be coming our way next year (though ABC may not make anything beyond the pilot); fear because the networks seem to be shying away from serialized storytelling. The only new show to find any traction with viewers this fall was the CBS show "The Mentalist," which features stand-alone plots. I'm betting we'll see many clones of that procedural in the new year.

But ABC should kill its adaptation of "Fables" if the show is not going to contain a strongly serialized element. If it does the show right, however, "Fables" could be the next "Lost."" Lost" and "Fables" share much in common: Both feature a large group of characters functioning in environments that contain fantastical elements. Both are about men and women (and children) trying to sustain their relationships even as they fight ominous threats from powerful and mysterious entities. And both can be addictive.

Despite its fantastical elements - "Fables" features magic, witches and the like - the saga works, thanks to Willingham's keen eye for detail, the momentum he builds over time, the series' terrific sense of humor and the way that he grounds every story with realistic emotional stakes. Given how skittish the networks are about ambitious storytelling, should ABC even attempt to bring "Fables" to life?

Yes. In the fractured media environment that the networks find themselves, they can't count on drawing viewers with mediocre fare, such as the blah, copycat shows that the networks churned out this fall.

The networks need to engage passionate fans who care so much about their favorite shows that they don't just watch them, but buy the DVDs, go online to form communities, buy T-shirts, books, posters and so forth.

Will ABC make "Fables" with such boldness that we'll all be as entranced as we have been by "Lost" at its best? I can only hope so. And as readers of "Fables" know, once in a while there really is a "happily ever after."





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