Dark, angst-filled and not all that fun, "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland" (8 tonight, WTAE) is a dull spinoff from ABC's Sunday night mainstay "Once Upon a Time."
In this iteration, the focus is on Alice (Sophie Lowe) and her adventures in a CGI-created Wonderland where she's accompanied by the Knave of Hearts (Michael Socha, "Being Human") while trying to find her genie love interest Cyrus (Peter Gaidot), who may be dead after a fall into the Boiling Sea thanks to the evil Red Queen (Emma Rigby) and Jafar (Naveen Andrews, "Lost"). (How an "Aladdin" character invaded Wonderland is never addressed.)
Ultimately, the story doesn't really matter because the characters are paper thin, and efforts to make Alice more than a damsel in distress -- she's a skull-crushing, tree climber -- don't really add much depth.
The premiere features a series of set pieces, including a tumble into a marshmallow swamp, that probably read like fun adventures on paper but look like cheap special effects on screen.
Creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz ("Once Upon a Time") and Zack Estrin ("The River") try to give the show more dimensions by sending Alice back and forth between Wonderland and a Victorian era British asylum but this only adds to the show's confusion. It's too dark for kids but not smart enough for adults, making it more Blunderland than Wonderland.
Sophie Lowe stars as Alice in "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland." -->tvradio
A version of this review first appeared in Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook. First Published October 9, 2013 8:00 PM