Tell Me A Story is a CBS on Demand show I heard about somewhere recently. Its hype says it “takes the world’s most beloved fairy tales and reimagines them as a dark and twisted psychological thriller. Set in modern-day New York City, the first season of this serialized drama interweaves The Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, and Hansel and Gretel into an epic and subversive tale of love, loss, greed, revenge, and murder.”
Wow! EPIC! SUBVERSIVE! SERIALIZED DRAMA!
Since I am a sucker for fairy tales, I went ahead and downloaded the CBS app expressly to watch this program. (Nota bene here, folks. CBS on Demand is not really free. They comp you the first month, then it’s either $5.99 or $9.99, depending on how you feel about commercials.)
Here’s the bottom line… Tell Me a Story is an epic and subversive serialized disappointment of a drama… EXCEPT that the show’s rich white people’s apartment is freaking STUNNING. So stunning, in fact, that I watched two episodes just so I could get some interior design pointers.
If you’re looking for an epic and subversive serialized drama that places fairy tales in a modern day setting, I recommend Once Upon a Time, Grimm, or even Supernatural’s Bedtime Stories. If you’re looking to see exactly how to pair Tiffany all-purpose, hand-blown wine glasses with Pottery Barn tableware, keep watching!
SPOILERS AHEAD — SPOILERS AHEAD — SPOILERS AHEAD
So it’s like this. You got four separate stories here (which is weird because they only mention the three fairy tales). The opening credits are dark and violent with epic and subversive undertones.
We immediately know this show is going to be epic and subversive because it opens on a shirtless inked up guy with the F-bomb tattooed on his stomach. (The F-BOMB! On CBS! EPIC! SUBVERSIVE!) Clearly, we’re going Jack the Giant Killer here, what with all the ink and the attitude and the unspoken slovenly criminality because everyone knows criminals are slobs.
Nope. I’m wrong. Way wrong. Tattoo dude is one of three jewel robbers who are supposed to be the Three Little Pigs. It’s okay that I tell you upfront because you see the pig masks they will be using when they rob a jewelry store. It’s like, the second scene. The tattoo guy holds it up and looks at it, and all that’s missing is an arrow sign pointing down, saying THREE LITTLE PIGS.
I will admit that I never in my entire life thought the three little pigs were criminals. But then, this show is epic and subversive, so there’s that. Also, inked up dude lives in a hovel with a leaky roof. I guess that’s the straw house? I don’t know.
Moving on. Next, we’re in Manhattan, and a variety of vignettes are in play. First, we spot a club kid stumbling onto the sidewalk in the early morning light before hopping onto the Christopher Street subway. I was impressed with how good he looked for clubbing all night. It’s like he’s an actor playing a club kid who had partied all night.
Then we see a woman riding a bicycle in traffic without a helmet. I’m thinking, New York has a strict municipal code; don’t they have a helmet requirement? I go and look it up. Turns out children under 14 and delivery cyclists must wear a helmet. See NYC Bike Laws. Also, on a side note, bikes in Manhattan must have a bell or other audible signal. I did not know this. I rewind back to the woman riding the bike. Is there a bell? I don’t know. Whatever.
After the girl who may or may not be violating NYC municipal regulations on bicycles, there’s this other guy who jogs across the street without looking and nearly gets wiped out by a taxi. He’s upset about this. He gives the taxi driver a dirty look. Is he the white rabbit? No, that’s Alice in Wonderland. I feel like this is supposed to mean something, but I don’t know what. All this epic subversiveness is befuddling me. I go to the kitchen and cut myself a piece of leftover pecan pie.
Then there’s a girl unpacking in a bedroom the size of a regular bedroom. Wait, who has a room that big all to themselves in Manhattan? I’m confused, so I put whipped cream on my pecan pie. People who have bedrooms that big in Manhattan do not unpack themselves.
Some guy comes in who I think at first is the jogging guy, but isn’t. The girl and the guy who isn’t the jogging guy fight. They’re father and daughter who’ve moved to NYC from California and the father (not the jogging guy) dumped her pot because he was afraid of imperial troops boarding the moving van as they are wont to do, what with crossing of state lines and all that. I’m thinking, wow, a parent fighting with a teen about pot. This is truly a serialized epic and subversive drama. I wonder if it’s too late in the day for a cup of coffee.
Then the girl drops an f-bomb–whoa, CBS is throwing the epic subversiveness all over the place–and then Samantha from Sex and the City shows up. She’s the girl’s grandmother who says things like, “Don’t you look cute? I was a slut when I was your age, too.”
Aw. What a smart mouth you have, Samantha.
Then Samantha holds out a bright red RAIN SLICKER because–spoiler alert–the girl’s Little Red Riding Hood. The girl’s all, no, I’M TROUBLED, but I’m all YES, PLEASE. MAY I HAVE THAT RAIN SLICKER?
Okay, at this point, I was pretty near to turning this off, because there’s only so much epic subversiveness I can take at any given time when we transition to jogging guy and jogging guy’s apartment. I lean forward. There’s subway tile on the back splash and an interesting use of stainless steel as shelving. I decide to continue watching. So jogging dude is married and girlfriend/wife is dressing for whatever she does and we see there’s a pregnancy test, but I’m all, omigod, check out that slate tile in the bathroom. I get out my design notebook and write PRICE SLATE TILE.
Then they get dressed, and she’s all whoopsie about the pregnancy thing, and there’s TALKING and EMOTING, but I’m looking at the light fixture over the table. Is that West Elm? I start Googling.
He’s all, is it so bad to have a baby, and she’s, like, TRUMP, and I’m scrolling through IKEA’s catalog looking for the plates that are on the back wall. Then other stuff happens, I don’t know, but eventually there’s a dinner party and everyone’s over the top political (EPIC! SUBVERSIVE!), but I’m looking at those WHITE WINE GLASSES.
Are they Tiffany? They look like all-purpose white wine glass in handmade, mouth-blown crystal glass. I say I would like a set for Christmas. My S.O. reminds me that I hate white wine. Then the guests leave and the woman says she can’t have a baby, because IT’S THE APOCALYPSE.
For a moment, I’m confused. Is this American Horror Story? Then I realize it’s not because this show sucks, but the room design is so flawless that I’m still watching.
Other stuff happens. Potty mouth Red Riding Hood goes clubbing and has an eyebrow raising encounter with an older man.
When the older man finds out, he’s all NO-OOO, but Red tells him, using age appropriate words and mannerisms, that she “researched it, and the age of consent in New York is 17.”
I’m all, wait, isn’t he the wolf? Why isn’t he the wolf? Is she the wolf? Who’s the wolf here? Is there a wolf here? Have the writers read a fairy tale before? The pigs rob a jewelry store. A couple of people get killed. The club kid and the bicyclist are Hansel and Gretel.
I go back to reading the IKEA catalog.
6 thoughts on “Tell Me A Story… or not.”
I think that about covers it!!
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That apartment was amazing. It had one of those kitchens that had shelves but not cabinets. How do people live without cabinets, and where can I go to learn how to be one of those people who live without cabinets? I looked all over for images of it, but had no luck.
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I love the idea of those but you can’t shove stuff on a shelf the way you can overload a cupboard – where do you hide the chocolate from the family??? It’ll never work
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Excellent review, Liz, I couldn’t stop laughing. You’re a riot! Not that I had ever considered getting CBS On Demand because I already pay enough for fucking cable, but if I start to waver in my resolve, I’ll remember this review. If Star Trek: Discovery didn’t convince me to buy it, though, really, nothing will.
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Hey Denny! Thanks! I was so disappointed in that show. With Once Upon A Time and Grimm being off the air, I was hoping this was going to be the new go-to alternative fairy tale show. It’s not. I think maybe the writers ideas aren’t coming through like they thought they would. I mean, it’s okay if you like urban dramas, but I didn’t see anything that made it sinister or whatever hyperbolic adjectives they were using. It certainly isn’t a fairy tale. Good thing we get a free month, huh? Next time, I’ll read the reviews first. I’m not the only one who panned it. https://www.indiewire.com/2018/10/cbs-tell-me-a-story-review-tv-series-bad-fairy-tale-1202016573/
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