Wednesday, September 10, 2008

FRINGE on FOX is Off to a Fantastic Start!

FRINGE, the new JJ Abrams Sci-Fi series on FOX, premiered last night and it looks like there's reason to love Tuesday nights in the non-American Idol part of the television season. Very fast paced and packed with Steven Spielberg-esque special visual and sound effects, this series debut did not disappoint in the least. From the first creepy shots of the passengers on Flight 627 (afflicted by a mysterious contagious disease, their skin disintegrates before our eyes) to the fantastic demolition and pyrotechnics (as good or better than anything in the theater), FOX must have given JJ a very deep pocketbook to put this pilot together.

Mostly unknown actors are very appealing. Anne Torv plays the FBI agent Olivia Dunham who is busy trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together while saving her comrade/lover who is afflicted with
melting skin syndrome. Lance Riddick plays the menacing Department of Homeland Security agent Phillip Broyles who seems to be pulling the strings on the investigation. Is he part of the solution or part of the problem? Early breakout character and big time comic relief is provided by older mad scientist Dr. Walter Bishop, played wonderfully by John Nobel. He is nuttier than a box full of hairless rats and prone to Tourette syndrome-like outbursts ("I've just pissed my pants!"). The good doctor has been locked up in an asylum for years and liberated to help solve the mystery because of his brilliance with scientific "fringe" experiments. He is also quite fond of the TV program "Spongebob Squarepants", which he pronounces "profound". Dr. Bishop is a delight, and I would watch this program for him alone. But there is so much more to love.

There are enough conspiracy theories layered into this pilot to keep the "Lost" fans of JJ Abrams very happy. Right at the top is an allusion to the crumbling infrastructure (of the entire world!) called "the pattern", which seems to be driven by an Orwellian $50 billion dollar tech company (Microsoft, anyone?) called Massive Dynamic. The COO of MD is a leather skinned professional bitch (Nina) with an awesome animated metal hand.

There were a few interesting touches that will probably drive a lot of viewers and critics nuts. What's up with the labeling of every location in giant block letters? HARVARD UNIVERSITY. BAGHDAD, IRAQ. Every new scene had its name superimposed over the top like the sign outside of a Walmart. Frankly, I would like it if that happened in real life. I wouldn't have to depend on my Garmin GPS so much to figure out where the heck I am.

Nielsen ratings for Fringe are in and it was #1 in its time period last night. Expect bigger numbers next week with a "House" season premier lead-in.

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