I held off after the premiere airing of J.J. Abrams’ new Fox Sci-Fi show in the hope that episode two would remedy faults in the pilot. Last night said second episode did hit the airwaves and not only was a remedy out of sight, but I do believe I could see characters carrying around shovels, burying the show further and further.
If you’re not a TV watcher, a briefing. “FRINGE”, executive produced to mediocrity by “LOST” co-mastermind J.J. Abrams and conceived by the screenwriters of TRANSFORMERS, is about an FBI agent who winds up investigating cases of fringe science experiments threatening mankind the world over, each a part of what is elusively referred to as “The Pattern”. The agent in question, by the name of Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), enlists a man named Peter (Joshua Jackson) to remove his brilliant scientist father (John Noble) – who may or may not have been directly involved with the roots of these fringe experiments 17 years earlier – from a rubber room to solve all the mysteries.
Let’s move past the obvious. Yes, “FRINGE” is apeing “THE X-FILES”. Anyone who says otherwise is delusional. But I’m fine with wanting to be “THE X-FILES”. There is reason it is so revered. The problem with Abrams’ new outfit is its impotency at being a procedural investigation into the abnormal. “FRINGE” is to “THE X-FILES” as “CSI: MIAMI” is to “THE WIRE”: A relationship more commonly referred to by its latin origin: Noob.
So far Fox has aired roughly 130 cumulative minutes of “FRINGE”, but has not yet accomplished half of the intrigue what “MILLENNIUM”, the best of the paranormal courters looking for a share of “X-FILES” pie, did in its 42 minute pilot. Biggest hold up, for me, is that Ana Torv is not FBI Agent Olivia Dunham. Her performance is as dry if not even slightly more arid than the actual character is. The whole tough-but-naive agent was drilled in to the ground years ago. Supporting players are a mixed bag themselves. I’m a huge fan of Kirk Acevedo, who will always be OZ inmate Miguel Alvarez to me, but his screen time is limited as is fellow OZ vet Lance Reddick, who happens to be my favorite person on the show. Joshua Jackson is the typical, “This is sooo wacky, but I’ll go with it!” foil to the show’s mysteries. His mental patient father is a nice change of pace and well portrayed, but past him, Reddick as Dunham’s boss, and Acevedo in a bit part, no one on the show carries any weight.
And correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t cracking a supernatural pattern the exact plot of “THRESHOLD”? If I recall, the pilot of “THRESHOLD” even opened with the team being called in to investigate a freighter on which all passengers and crew died. “FRINGE” switched it up by going with a plane. Huge difference.
Aside from hiding the interesting characters in the background and keeping the lame ones up front, Abrams and co end up dumbing down almost all aspects of the show for the lowest common audience. Dialogue seems to exist 70% of the time to reassert what we just had explained to us visually or remind us of something that happened slightly earlier in the script. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that every episode features Joshua Jackson’s skeptic character functioning in the recite-all-the-obstacles-so-the-script-can-summarize-itself-for-everyone-too-dim-to-comprehend. That’s fine every once in a while, especially if the script is genuinely complex, but I don’t see that happening here.
Yet sadly the show is of such a mediocre quality, that I’m sure I’ll tune in every week just because I need something to tune out in the background. I’m one of those people. Though while the show does disappoint, I must give FOX a lot of credit for its bid of limited commercial interruptions. It’s probably the only thing keeping me from changing the channel.