In theory and logline, “Tell Me a Story” is about the intertwining lives of New Yorkers that resemble some of the most famous fairy tales of yore. The new girl in town is an unwitting Red Riding Hood with a wolf tattooed on her thigh, surrounded by predatory men. A brother and sister, long estranged from and somehow still dependent upon each other, find themselves running from forces bigger than them in a twist on Hansel and Gretel. Three men in pig masks attempt a robbery that goes horribly wrong, ending in accidental death and a vengeful man hunting them, threatening to huff and puff and blow their lives to the ground. As per the series’ marketing and self-consciously “edgy” tone, “Tell Me a Story” wants to make sure you know that you’ve never seen these fairy tales play out like this before. And yes: all their lives have something to do with each other’s, whether or not they know it (yet).
In actuality, that doesn’t quite bear out. The new CBS All Access drama from thriller connoisseur Kevin Williamson ends up indulging more cliches than not. Red Riding Hood, aka Kayla (Danielle Campbell), accidentally on purpose ends up in an illicit relationship with her teacher (Billy Magnusson) while playing out “Gossip Girl” sideplots with her new rich friends. Eddie (Paul Wesley), one of the three little pigs, struggles with his conscience and addiction in a series of tight tank tops as grieving husband Jordan (James Wolk) tries to prove his guilt. Hansel and Gretel, aka Gabe (Davi Santos) and Hannah (Dania Ramirez), come with more interesting backstories of abandonment and sacrifice, but they quickly get swallowed up in the story of them skipping town.