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Alice might want to pack an extra bag before going down the rabbit hole this fall.
ABC’s Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is going to be more than 13 episodes. In fact, it’s not really a limited series at all.
Here’s the scoop. Depending on what you’ve previously read, some of this may sound familiar and some will be new. The model that’s being formed behind the scenes for Wonderland is really unique and there’s been some understandable confusion out there as the plan has come together.
When Wonderland was announced as a limited series in May, it received 13 episodes — the standard order for a new drama. But ABC is about to add some additional episodes to that order (we can’t tell you how many, but the total is not 13 episodes and it’s not 22).
Now with a typical new series pickup, producers hope and pray their ratings in the fall are big enough to get an additional “back 9” order so they end up with a full 22-epsiode season. But Wonderland creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis have a different vision for this show: a self-contained epic romance that’s planned in advance from start to finish — no filler! That means there will be no additional episodes ordered for the season beyond the first order, so the showrunners can break down the entire story before the first episode ever airs. That’s why there are more episodes being ordered now-ish, because the writers have figured out how many hours they need.
“We really want to tell the story without having to worry about how to stretch it for five years,” Kitsis tells EW. “The upfront order will be it for the season.” Horowitz adds, “This is not meant to be a 22-episode season. Whatever it ends up being, we’ll have told a complete story, with a beginning, middle and end.”
Wonderland will focus on the romance and adventure of two characters, Alice (Sophie Lowe) and a genie named Cyrus (Peter Gadiot), making it easy for casual fans to dive in. By comparison, the Once Upon flagship was always designed to tell a complex multi-year tale. “The DNA of this show is different and consciously so,” Horowitz says. “The idea is you can just come on in and enjoy the ride.” Kitsis adds, “If you’ve seen Once, you’ll be rewarded; if you haven’t, you won’t miss a beat.”
So that means Wonderland will only be one season, right?
Wrong! Or rather: Quite possibly and hopefully wrong!
Wonderland has been called an “anthology” series and “limited” series. Neither is precisely correct. It’s only “limited” in terms of the first season telling a close-ended story in less than 22 episodes, not because ABC and the showrunners wouldn’t do more seasons (ABC executives may be willing to get a little creative with Wonderland, but they’re not Mad Hatters — a hit is a hit). ABC will renew the show for another close-ended adventure if the show is a success.
But unlike an anthology series — such as American Horror Story, which tells an entirely new story each season with new characters — Wonderland is expected to continue using most of the same characters. “If the audience responds and people love these characters, the plan would be to bring it back next year and tell a whole new story,” Horowitz says.
Put another way: Wonderland is sort of like a fairytale version of 24 — a heavily serialized drama with stand-alone seasons using the same core cast (only with fewer rogue nukes, presumably).
For more Wonderland news and surprises, check out their Comic-Con panel next month in San Diego. And if you’re not attending, EW.com will bring you all the scoop.