Saturday, February 07, 2009


The Story

Fringe is a tv-show so steeped in pseudo-science and half-baked scientific concepts, that it's remarkable that I would grow so fond of it. If the X-Files were made in the 21st century, this is what it would probably look like.

The story goes of an FBI agent (Anna Torv) Olivia Dunham, who is hired into a secret branch of the FBI studying paranormal crimes. She recruits unwilling associate Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), to look after his father Walter Bishop (the great John Noble), a brilliant scientist who engaged in questionable research on human subjects but was eventually put away in a mental institute for 17 years on manslaughter charges.

The usual suspects are all there: evil corporation with questionable allegiances that has infiltrated the government, unwilling sidekicks, over-bearing, annoying and gung-ho bureaucrats who always get in the way, and a tough-guy boss who, at the end of the day, just wants to be hugged (the black Yul Brinner, Lance Reddick, playing Agent Phillip Boyles, Olivia Dunham's boss).

The Writing

Fringe is generally well-written. The pseudo-science explaining sequences where otherwise intelligent characters ask stupid questions for the benefit of the audience are a bit jarring, though. Peter Bishop, an engineer, really needs an FBI agent to explain to him what the Caesar cipher is? I don't think so!

But I appreciate why these sequences are there. People need to know.

The sweet spots of most writing, of course, is in everything that goes unwritten. The growing attraction between Olivia Dunham and Peter Bishop is, of course, very cliche, and like the Great Wall of China, could be seen from space.

The spin on the huge cliche that this show is so far, though, is John Noble (Walter Bishop). The character is a lunatic, nothing less, but an adorable one, and played by none other than John Noble.

The Actors

Did I mention I liked John Noble? John Noble could make Youtube comments sound like Shakespeare.

Peter Jackson, when he hired John Noble as Denethor, the mad Steward of Gondor in the Lord of the Rings, quantified why exactly he liked the man as an actor. Mr. Noble's background is in theatre, which is why we have been denied his presence on the silver screen until now. When he was auditioning for Denethor in the Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens immediately saw his insight into dialogue. He put inflections and emphasis in all the right places when saying his lines, and he was an immediate hire.

John Noble carries this show. Without him, Fringe would be just another pseudo science fiction television show. John Noble is the twist, and although he has the least screen time, second, perhaps, only to Kirk Acevedo (the muted Charles Francis, Olivia Dunham's loyal confidante, also the Man Who Forgot How To Smile, and an actor who I am very fond of because of his lovely portrayal of Joe Toye in Band of Brothers), he's the main attraction of this show, and the only reason why I will be coming back to it.

I don't know if this is a trend, but it's a trend that I'm very glad American tv producers are adopting. Senior, tent-pole actors in TV shows geared toward younger audiences. Battlestar Galactica had Edward James Olmos, and Dexter has James Remar.

Anna Torv, the actress playing the main character Olivia Dunham, is attractive without letting her good looks compromise her character's gravitas. The character has a soft, sympathetic streak to her, but is unrelenting in her pursuit, and unwavering in her ideals.

Let's put it this way: Olivia Dunham is the kind of girl that will fight her way out of an industrial complex after being kidnapped, drugged and operated on, but then cry about it for a bit.


Fringe is produced by JJ Abrams, the writer of the Bruce Willis extravaganza that was Armageddon, and producer of several other TV shows, most of which I haven't watched (Lost, Alias, and the upcoming Star Trek). I don't entirely trust Mr. Abrams, to be honest. Lost sounds like one of those TV shows producers just try to milk. Much like when I audibly groaned when I heard Prison Break went into a third season. Season 1 was excellent, but, hey. Prison Break is produced by Brett Rattner, the man who single-handedly desecrated X-Men.

But Fringe is a good show. It is excellent "filler" (TV shows which are entertaining, and possibly even touching, but ultimately hollow).

Within that category, Fringe is as good as it gets.


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I write essays in my spare time on things that are important to me. The ones that I feel are any good, or make any sense, I put them up here. :)