A companion to “Once Upon a Time,” “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” (Thursday, 7 p.m., ABC) reinterprets Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” Alice (Sophie Lowe) faces a panel of doctors in Victorian England who don’t believe her stories of an invisible cat and a hookah-smoking caterpillar. They consider her insane and propose a treatment that will bring her back to drab reality. Just in the nick of time, the White Rabbit (voice of John Lithgow) and the Knave of Hearts (Michael Socha) appear, offering to spirit her off to Wonderland. How can anyone say no to a rabbit in trousers and a derby?
“Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” is worthy of the “wonder” in its title. Lowe possesses one of the most fascinating faces of the new TV season, with big, sensitive eyes to take in all the strange sights. The cinematography has a hallucinogenic quality appropriate to subplots involving genies and evil queens.
If it’s between drab reality and “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland,” I’ll take the latter.
Friday, 8:30 p.m. (PBS)
“Henry V” is the final installment of “The Hollow Crown: Shakespeare’s History Plays” on “Great Performances.” It shows the idle Prince Hal of “Henry IV” maturing into King Henry V, who’s singularly equipped to fight a war with France. The production doesn’t try anything too fancy, all the better to showcase the Bard’s verse. The British cast members speak it slowly, no doubt with unschooled American viewers in mind. But there’s nothing wrong with introducing a mass audience to the joys of iambic pentameter. Plus, these actors are fabulous at any speed.
The French court sneers at Henry (Tom Hiddleston), calling him a “vain, giddy, shallow, humorous youth.” But he doesn’t look too giddy while practicing his archery. With a steady hand and steely gaze, he hits a bull’s eye.
Not a good sign for France.
“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
Tuesday, 7 p.m. (ABC)
Marvel’s first TV series portrays an elite group of law-enforcement agents (Clark Gregg, Brett Dalton, Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet) who investigate supernatural phenomena: You know, evil geniuses, superhuman freaks, etc. But producer Joss Whedon and company fall short of the best Marvel productions. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” gets the humor/drama blend all wrong; the forced jokiness makes it impossible to take the solemn plot points seriously. And psychological nuance is nowhere to be found.
“The Tomorrow People”
Wednesday, 8 p.m. (CW)
In this new drama, an angst-ridden teen named Stephen (Robbie Amell) learns he has extraordinary abilities, including telepathy. He discovers a subculture of similar young folks who consider themselves better than homo sapiens — calling themselves homo superiors. This good-looking bunch live in an abandoned subway station, hiding out from a group of sadistic scientists dedicated to their extermination.
“The Tomorrow People” is not a series superior. Stephen is a generic lonely hunk with special powers. The bland heroes are hard to root for, and the silly villains are hard to root against. We homo sapiens may lack telepathy, but luckily we’ve mastered the ability to change the channel. CV
Dean Robbins is a syndicated TV columnist from Madison, Wis. See more of his work at www.thedailypage.com.