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Wednesday, September 10, 2008
TV Round-Up: "Fringe"
Pilot
I wanted to like "Fringe" a lot more than I did. From a standpoint of setting up a series and creating some interesting characters, I'd say the show did fairly well, though it did take a couple of paths that were a bit predictable. The biggest being the revelation that Mark Valley would somehow be part of the conspiracy. I feel as though this was somehow tacked on in the end to motivate Olivia to become part of the group investigating these fringe happenings more than that it grew realistically out of the plot. I figured she'd take the job so she could continue her romance with the guy and not have it be against the rules any longer since they'd be in different departments. How much more interesting would it have been to have him be some kind of double agent and we slowly find out over the course of the season? In a lot of ways, his death felt like the same motivation we had for Sydney being involved in taking down SD-6 in the pilot of "Alias."

And may that's why I didn't like "Fringe" as much as I want to--because there were so many echoes of other J.J. Abrams shows in here that, at times, the pilot felt like a greatest hits of some Abrams other projects. Another big one is that you have charactes who have "daddy issues" in the show. I'm not saying the Walter and Peter Bishop dynamic can't and won't grow, but it still felt a lot like what we had with Sydney and her dad on "Alias."

Finally, the whole reasoning to keep Peter and Walter as part of the team seemed to be a bit hasty, especially Peter's agreeing. We did see some of Peter's desire to help the team in the show, but we don't really have any concrete motivation for it yet. He went from being blackmailed into helping to suddenly deciding he should help because...umm...well, he talked to dad off-screen and they really reconnected. You know, the pilot ran 83 minutes sans commercials. Why not go for 84 and put that scene in there so it feels like Peter really is motivated to want to help for other reasons than we're just trying to set up the dynamic of this series?

Because the central trio dynamic is what is going to make or break this series. The comparisons to "The X-Files" are extremely apt and I'd argue that what made that show great wasn't just the wacky cases, but the dynamic between Mulder and Scully. We got hints of that here between Peter, Walter and Olivia, but it could take an episode or two to see how the dynamic really works within the show itself. I do have to wonder if Walter is going to be the believer and expert in all the wacky, paranormal things going on and we'll have some kind of skeptic vibe from Olivia and Peter. In this episode, we saw Olivia was more ready to believe, but how much of that was her desire to believe and how much of it was a desire to save her boyfriend?

That said, I can see "Fringe" quickly evolving into a formula. But then again, so could "The X-Files" and we see how well that all worked (at least the first five or so years).

For now, I think "Fringe" is good but not great. I wanted it to be a home-run like the pilot for "Lost" but unlike that pilot, I wasn't grabbed and immediately hooked or at least curious enough to want to tune in. ("Lost" really took off with the first Locke flashback, so I am willing to give "Fringe" at least that long to get things up and running). Or part of it could be that you've got an edgy, paranormal driven show with a potential conspiracy storyline setting up on FOX and I'm just not sure if I can get into it yet or not. This is FOX and it could be cancelled within three epsiodes...or it could run for nine seasons. Hopefully it will be somewhere in between...

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/10/2008 01:00:00 PM | |
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