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Among the New Broadcast Series We've Seen, Fox's "Fringe" Is the Best
September 9, 2008  | By David Bianculli
FRINGE-Limited-ads.jpgRight from the start, two things are wonderful about Fox's new drama series Fringe. It's the best new broadcast series among the fall shows we've seen (though many have not been provided for preview) -- and Fox also deserves credit for the manner in which Fringe is being broadcast.

The show, which premieres tonight at 8 ET, is being run with limited -- very limited -- commercial interruptions. Not just for tonight's premiere, but for at least its initial half-season order. For viewers, that's a great deal. As a result, tonight's two-hour pilot fits easily into a 90-minute slot, and this less-is-more approach may well prove to revitalize both the economics and aesthetics of broadcast TV.

Now to Fringe itself.


Newcomer Anna Torv stars as an FBI agent who ends up reuniting, then teaming with, a father and son. The father, played by John Noble, has been locked away in an institution for almost 20 years, and it's been that long since his son, played by Joshua Jackson of Dawson's Creek, has seen him. Yet as part of an investigation into a mysterious, fatal flesh-melting plague, the trio ends up working together -- and making the arrangement a continuing one.

J.J. Abrams, along with Transformers writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, is the co-creator of Fringe, and fans of Abrams' work on Alias and Lost won't be disappointed. Abrams is a hard-core, well-informed fan of TV and movies, and though the obvious template for Fringe is The X-Files, it also owes a great deal to two of Abrams' all-time favorites, the TV series The Twilight Zone and the movie Altered States.

That's borrowing from Rod Serling and Paddy Cheyefsky, respectively -- and back in the Golden Age of TV, when Serling wrote Patterns and Chayefsky wrote Marty, they were among the first to demonstrate how great, and how entertaining and memorable, TV could be. Abrams has set himself a very high bar, and it'll be fun to see whether he clears it, or even comes close.

Certainly, he and his collaborators have made some fine early choices. The pilot of Fringe begins with a flight-from-hell scene, just as Lost did -- and the supporting cast includes not only Lance Reddick of The Wire, Kirk Acevedo of Oz and Mark Valley of Boston Legal, but Blair Brown, who co-starred in Altered States -- and who has been a personal favorite ever since The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd.

Bottom line: Fringe is likely to be talked about tomorrow, and remembered the day after that. That's a good start, especially in a very stripped-down TV season.




mark said:

What is your take on the extremely poor ratings garnered by Fringe? (Glad you asked: Read today's 9/12 blog. And by the way, I don't consider those ratings poor. Read to see why. -- David B.)

Comment posted on September 11, 2008 10:53 PM

JimBo said:

The Fringe pilot was pretty good. But I wouldn't get all excited just yet. J.J. Abrams is pretty good at coming with a strong pilot. But what he really excels in is shaggy dog stories that ultimately make no sense (see Lost, and for that matter Alias). Here's hoping the Transformers guys can keep him a bit more on the straight 'n narrow (storytelling-wise). Because Fringe looks like it can be a good show -- as long as it's not too Abrams-ized.

Comment posted on September 13, 2008 2:38 PM
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