Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"Fringe" Fest!

Four summers ago, there was a highly buzzed about show from JJ Abrams entitled "Lost" that I stumbled across on the Internet months before its official premiere. I watched it, I loved it, and I showed it to everyone I could convince to watch it on my computer. Little did I know that show would go on to basically consume most of my thoughts and writings for the next four years as my passion for it spawned the Blog you are reading today.

This summer, there is a highly buzzed about show from JJ Abrams entitled "Fringe" that I stumbled across on the Internet a few weeks ago. There's a reason I'm drawing these parallels from the start, which I'll get to shortly - but the big question is - will this become another show that will be obsession and Blog-worthy?

The short answer: maybe.


Without spoiling anything for the two hour pilot (yet), I'll say that it's a very solid two hours of television. I was highly entertained. After a predictable first hour or so, the second half of the episode had some twists I didn't see coming, and laid the ground work for what will surely be the season / series long mysteries and mythology of the show… which definitely intrigued me. On the other hand, there were definitely some issues that kept it from going from good to great. For starters, the writing just wasn't that great. There is plenty of cringe-worthy dialogue and scenes that felt like exposition to the audience more than believable dialogue between characters on the show. There are also some characters that suffer from Nikki and Paulo syndrome - suddenly appearing and being accepted as part of the "group" without ever being introduced or explained who they are. At the end of the two hour episode, I still didn't know the name of one character in particular who was seen being buddy-buddy with two other main characters in most of their scenes. Maybe it's intentional or maybe it's an early cut of the pilot that still needs some editing, but it bothered me.

Then there are the parallels between this show and JJ Abrams' other series that jumped right out at me. I'm beginning to wonder if over the course of one series, JJ comes up with a fun idea… and then uses his next series to explore it further. Alias introduced the character of Milo Rambaldi, an eccentric 15th century scientist who was a cross between Leonardo Da Vinci and Nostradamus - seemingly able to predict the future and maybe even finding the secret to eternal life. On Fringe, we have Dr. Walter Bishop, a 1970's scientist who was doing wacky experiments far ahead of his time. Lost introduced all of us to the concept of "pseudo science", which was promised to explain everything "mysterious" and "supernatural" on the show using science - or things just outside the realm of today's science. Well, guess what the title "Fringe" refers to? In a scene in the series pilot episode, a character explains about "pseudo science… or fringe science". There are a few other major parallels that would delve into spoilerish territory, so I'll wait until after the episode airs to get into more detail.

Is there anything wrong with this? Of course not - if anything, I'm excited for Lost to take the concept of "eternal life" teased in Alias a step further (remember I'm still a big fan of that being the ultimate "power" and "magic" of the Island) because I wasn't fully satisfied with what we got from Alias before it ended. Hopefully, this won't mean I'll be saying the same thing about Lost's "pseudo science" when the series ends - that I'm relying on "Fringe" to explain it better and further. Just in the pilot episode of Fringe, they referenced two of the big Lost mysteries we've all been wondering how pseudo science would explain, and hinted that there were dozens of other that would at least be investigated in the future. Maybe it's that the subject matter doesn’t feel as "fresh" or "exciting" as it could have been, or maybe it's that if this show came from anyone else, I would be screaming "it's a rip off of Lost and Alias!"… but I must admit that in watching it, I found myself noting the similarities and parallels pretty often.

As for the cast, it's pretty solid. The main players are the aforementioned Walter Bishop (John Noble), Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick), and Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv). The female lead (and overall "main character") is Dunham, who has a Kate-esque quality to her. Tough exterior, willing to do anything to get the job done even if it means bending the rules, but at heart just wants to be loved. I think she'll grow on me. I also love Joshua "Pacey Whitter" Jackson as much as the next teenage girl, but he wasn't given a lot to do in the first two hours of the show, even though at the end they referenced him as though he did much more. His character seemed relegated to spouting out one-liners and providing the voice of cynicism. But he seems to have an interesting backstory, and has a lot of potential, so he could grow into a great character. Lance "Freakmaster Matthew Abaddon" Reddick plays a character similar to Terry O' Quinn's character on Alias, for those familiar with the show - which should be all you need to know. John Noble plays Bishop a little too "crazy" at some points given his obvious intelligence, but he's at least a unique character to the JJ Abrams universe.


Having said all this, do I recommend the show? Absolutely. It's probably going to be the best new show of the fall. Is the pilot episode as good as Lost's? No. But is any other show's pilot episode as good as Lost's? Not many come to mind. So maybe that's an unrealistic standard to hold it to. I have a feeling this show is going to be more episodic than Alias or Lost, which runs the risk of falling into a rut - but knowing the people involved, I have faith. Will it be something worth analyzing and obsessing about on the Internet? We'll see. As I've said before, the Blog-worthiness of a show isn't so much dependent on the quality of the show as much as the open questions, mysteries, and need for discussion - which is why many shows that I love don't get Blogged about. How much could I really say about the typical episode of Chuck or Pushing Daisies aside from reviewing how much I liked it or disliked it? Not much. The potential is definitely here with Fringe to have some underlying mysteries and mythology that could lend itself to a weekly Blog or two. We'll see.

So there you have it, a whole lot of words about Fringe without spoiling you for the first episode. With Emmy nominations coming out this week, and Comic-Con right around the corner, the doldrums of summer non-Blogging are almost over!