I watched the two hour pilot to the new JJ Abrams produced show, Fringe, the other day so here’s a quick review.
I told M that this was coming up and asked her if she was interested (she’s a huge Lost fan). In trying to describe the show based on the brief bit of blurb I’d read, I think I made it sound like a version of Heroes. When I tried to correct that impression after reading more, I told her it sounded a bit like X-Files (I knew she’d liked X-Files when it was on). She still wasn’t feeling any excitement about it. In the end she explained:
“Looking back I think a lot of the appeal of X-Files was David Duchovny.”
which is fair enough. But now having watched the first installment of Fringe,
- I can see that Fringe is not just “a bit like” X-Files, it really really wants to be X-Files. Fringe wants to marry X-Files and have its cute little alien babies. More importantly,
- How many people out there are going to watch for the pleasant day-dream inspiring delights of Pacey from Dawson’s Creek? Ok, ok – unfair I know. I’m sure Joshua Jackson has his fans but, and I could be way off but it never struck me that they were the kind to get drawn in to a pseudo-science pseudo-scifi thrillery thing with a, no doubt, soon to be very convoluted back story.
Now all this sounds very negative which is a shame because I don’t think it’s a bad show, I just can’t quite see it finding a huge audience, but what do I know? Anyway I’ve not really started reviewing yet, so let’s do that.
Fringe is about a CIA-FBI liason officer who gets involved in the case of a flight full of people whose flesh literally melted off their bodies. In the course of investigating this her partner (and lover) gets blasted with a dose of the chemical agents responsible, thus setting up a “solve it in 24hours before he dies” scenario. In order to reverse the effects she needs the assistance of a crazy chemist locked away in a mental institution. To get to him she needs his estranged genius drifter of a son i.e. the aforementioned Pacey/Jackson.
Thus the roles are all neatly defined. She needs to solve the crime to find the plane-poisoner and extract vital information for the cure. Mad old Dad assists with forensics and the final cure. Pacey can speak crazy/science to M.o.D and therefore acts as both handler to him and sidekick to her. In fact his role is a little thinly defined right now. There wasn’t much he did – chasing someone down an alley, a bit of particularly harsh interrogation – that someone else couldn’t have down. In a way he played the traditional female sidekick role, seemingly involved but with little to actually do. However since I don’t believe a golden dawn of radical feminism has yet arisen on Hollywood I suspect he’ll have more of a job to do in upcoming episodes.
But back to the neatness. This was a perfectly serviceable piece of television but I think the thing that stopped it being more than that was that I was too aware of the pieces of series setup slotting neatly and smoothly into place. The core team and relationships. The mysterious billionaire who seems destined to be the ongoing bad guy and his apparently benevolent organisation. The hints at what kinds of things we’ll be exploring in future. Mention of shadowy agency-within-an-agency machinations and some vague idea of a connecting threat called “The Pattern” (which I fear will end up as a holdall container for whatever mystery-of-the-week they want to write) It was all efficiently and relatively unobtrusively done. But I was still aware of it. Maybe that’s just a problem with pilots, or a problem with viewers like me who’ve seen too many pilots.
Overall, ok but nothing here to tempt me into regular viewership – 6/10.
As a Buffy fan I can hardly complain. What else is the Hellmouth but a built-in excuse for so many monster stories in one place?