How new series ‘Tell Me a Story’ twists its fairy tale theme

If “Tell Me a Story” was a children’s bedtime tale, your kid would conk out in record time.

This new 10-episode ensemble series, premiering Wednesday (Oct. 31) on CBS All Access, posits itself as a retelling of legendary fairy tales with a modern-day, psychological-thriller twist. But the first two episodes are so convoluted, long-winded and expository that the dramatic payoffs, when they finally do arrive, seem anti-climactic.

And it’s from Kevin Williamson, creator of “Scream,” “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” “Dawson’s Creek” and “The Vampire Diaries” (among others), so it’s mainly an excuse to see many attractive young people in various stages of undress and sexually suggestive situations (including a few bare bottoms and a hot-tub scene straight out of “The Bachelor”). Save for co-star Kim Cattrall, there’s a glaring lack of anyone over the age of 40.

The setup here interweaves re-imagined threads of “The Three Little Pigs,” “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Hansel and Gretel” into a muddled storyline, set in New York City. (If not for a press release telling me those are the three fairy tales used here, I would have had no idea.)

There’s a young couple, Jordan and Beth (James Wolk, Spencer Grammer) conflicted about having a baby; a substance-abusing bartender, Eddie (Paul Wesley), recruited into robbing a jewelry store; a hard-partying gay couple, Gabe (Davi Santos) and Billy (Luke Guldan), who get into serious trouble; and Kayla (Danielle Campbell), a surly high schooler from California who moves in with her widowed father, Tim (Sam Jaeger) and her funky-but-wise grandmother, Colleen (Cattrall).

When the jewelry-store robbery goes awry, it affects everyone, in varying degrees, as “Tell Me a Story” strains to tie the aforementioned characters together with a series of hard-to-swallow plot twists. (It’s a TV show, I get it, but still.) The large cast (including Billy Magnussen, Dania Ramirez and Zabryna Guevara) works well with what they’re given; Wolk, in particular, stands out, but that’s no surprise with his solid track record (“Goliath,” “Zoo,” “Mad Men”).

Only the first two episodes of “Tell Me a Story” were made available for review, so perhaps the series picks up steam in Episode 3. Or not.

Either way, it’s a tough slog.

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