Starring: Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble, Lance Reddick, Kirk Acevedo, Mark Valley, Blair Brown, Jasika Nicole
Created By: J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman
Premieres: Tuesday, September 9, 2008 at 8:00 PM ET on Fox
Back in July CB Head Honcho Josh Tyler and CB writer of hilarity and quality Ed Perkis had the opportunity to watch J.J. Abrams’ newest television creation, Fringe, at Comic Con. Their reaction was not flattering for Abrams’ chances at garnering a new hit. A little time has gone by, I’ve sat and watched the show as it was meant to be seen: alone in a dark apartment with food and candy strewn about.
The new Fox series created by Abrams, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (who had great success with Alias and are indeed the ones behind the upcoming Star Trek film) is a pure exercise in potential and major errors in judgment. The opening scene, horrific and vile in its own right, calls to mind explicitly the pilot episode of Lost. It is intentional, and is possibly the biggest mistake I’ve seen made by a creative team launching a new show.
Fringe is nothing like Lost, and it shouldn’t even be compared. Therein lies the first of many problems Fringe has. This is Abrams’ first procedural drama and immediately we are forced to compare the show to something it isn’t remotely related to. If you want to give Fringe any sort of chance you must go in thinking of it as part of the Fox family of procedurals: House and Bones. Fringe doesn’t try and allow you to do that, and that’s a shame because with some work I could see myself learning to love the show as I’ve recently done with the oft maligned Bones.
The pilot episode introduces us to the team, none of whom are as compelling as the crew on House or as charming as Booth and Brennan on Bones. FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) is a part of an investigation into some toxin that made people’s faces melt on a flight from Germany to Boston. Her secret boyfriend Agent John Scott (Mark Valley) is affected by the same toxin during a chase of the random bad guy. He lies dying in bed as Agent Dunham searches for a way to find a cure.
A few moments using the FBI database, which looks surprisingly simplistic, she discovers Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), a scientist who has experience in fringe science. He also has experience in being crazy. For some reason the courts have deemed that only kin can visit Dr. Bishop, so Dunham heads off to find Bishop’s son. Peter (Joshua Jackson) is in Iraq and it only takes Dunham 15 seconds to convince him to return to America and help her meet his nutty father.
The three of them work together to discover what’s going on, and as the episode goes on the crazy crap comes out to play. There’s a scene where Dunham has to strip down, have a magnetic probe stuck in her head, and submerge herself in water within an enclosed capsule. This helps her to read the mind of her comatose boyfriend and discover who the bad guy is. This is the fringe science of the show’s title. It doesn’t quite work only because of the actors. Torv is horribly cheesy and underwhelming as the lead. For his part Joshua Jackson has some potential to grow into Peter and make him interesting. It happened for David Boreanaz on Bones once he let go of the idea of playing Angel as a slightly happier guy. I can see Jackson pulling it out for this show if given a full season. It’s Noble though who steals the show. He’s at times quirky and unpredictable, and yet so earnest and full of passion for the science he does.
The idea for Fringe is fantastic, and I hope that the elements surrounding the fringe science can be ironed out. I’d like to see where all of this goes, but not if I have to watch wooden acting and blasé exposition. X-Files, another show Fringe is easily compared to, worked because of the dynamic relationship between Moulder and Scully. That doesn’t exist here. Fringe is a great concept in need of a supportive structure to make it engaging.