Fringe (FOX)

September 9, 2008 by  
Filed under Entertainment

FOX, Tuesdays @ 8:00pm CT

Encore of Pilot Broadcast: Sunday, September 14th, 7:00pm CT

Put “Lost”, “Alias”, and “X-Files” in a blender, and this is pretty much what you get, with less endearing main characters and a fairly thin plot for an hour and a half long pilot.

The first five minutes were pretty mesmerizing. It felt very similar to when I watched the first episode of “Lost”; just completely gripped by the action. And guess what? This also begins on an airplane.

A mysterious skin disease infects and disintegrates an entire commercial airliner in Germany, and no one is left alive. The FBI is brought in, and pretty soon, they’re tracking an elusive man who may have had something to do with it. At first considered a terrorist plot, it seems this goes deeper. The main character, Olivia, finds that a doctor who used to conduct controversial experiments back in the 70’s (everything happened back in the 70’s!), may also have some insight into this since he was involved with what is known as “fringe science”. For those who don’t know, “fringe science” is anything involving paranormal, mind control, otherwise known as science fiction. The only problem is that he’s in a mental institution, and can only be visited by immediate family. His only living kindred is his son, who is in Iraq wheeling and dealing, and he’s not exactly interested in helping dear old dad out.

He comes around, and the three of them try and figure out what exactly is going on with this strange skin reaction that seems to make it completely transparent and induces some graphic results. The main interest for Olivia also involves her boyfriend, also with the FBI, who has been infected after coming into close encounters with the elusive man they’d been chasing to get answers, and he has a short time to live.

As the plot develops further, there are more layers to the story, as the man is eventually caught, and killed by Olivia’s boyfriend John for some unknown reason, and that leaves more questions than answers as it seems he has double crossed them? Well, of course the end of the show doesn’t really answer anything–I mean, it’s science fiction right?

The problem I had with this pilot, unlike “Lost” or “The X-Files”, was that it didn’t establish the characters nor a plot convincingly enough to keep me interested in seeing it again. While there were some very interesting moments, it all seemed borrowed–no, that’s too kind a word to use for J.J. Abrams now–stolen, from those shows previously mentioned. And, since he blatantly said he was using elements from “The Twilight Zone” and “Altered States”, I’ll say he stole from them too. And the thing is, it wasn’t even cleverly stolen.

All of the characters are very familiar and very predictable. The “insane” doctor has moments of brilliance followed by moments of random, rambling incoherence that I suppose is used as some sort of comic device. To me it falls flat, and is very patronizing, like it was focus grouped to middle aged housewives who laugh at animated cleaning products in commercials and still thinks anything involving a dog instantly makes it cute and buyable.

Besides the first five minutes of the pilot, “Fringe” settles into your average, garden variety “science fiction” show, and I use thequotations for a purpose: that it’s not really science fiction. It’s just what a couple of post Film student grads found on Wikipedia, thought it was cool, and decided to scribe a 2 hour show about it. Instead, in this case, it’s three writers who all have pretty reputable backgrounds in the TV/film industry, and decided to cash in on TV’s latest craze to create shows that look science fictiony, have a hot chick as a lead, have inexplicable-but-cool things happen, and hope that people’s attention spans won’t catch up to how boring, inane, and lackadaisical it is.

JJ–you’re no Rod Serling. And at this point, I’d say you’re not even Chris Carter. “Fringe” is hardly that. It’s as run of the mill as you can get.

My rating: 😕