Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Today I go a tad off topic and review a television show. I'm tempted to say that I'm one of those people who's so cool that I don't even own a TV. The reason I don't is because people like that, instead of being cool, are usually total douchebags. Instead, I admit to watching a healthy amount of television and that my favorite shows usually have a science fiction or fantasy theme. I'd say my current favorites are Heroes, Doctor Who, Torchwood, Battlestar Galactica and Lost. Lost is especially important on that list as one of its creators, J.J. Abrams, is also one of the creators of a show that premiered last night on Fox called Fringe.

Fringe is an X-Files style show about an FBI agent who investigates strange phenomenon that exist on the -- wait for it-- FRINGE of science. This is the type of science fiction that posits science's only purpose to be finding newer and better mutant viruses and doomsday devices.

Fringe opens on an airplane where everyone on board suddenly and grossly discovers that their skin is falling off. I suppose there's no way to have your skin fall off and not have it be gross, but we didn't have to see every second of it. After everyone on the plane turns to goo, FBI agents Olivia Dunham played by newcomer Anna Torv and John Scott played by some goob are called in to investigate. John happened to be penetrating Olivia in some motel room when they got the call which made it inconvenient when they had to show up separately at the crime scene and pretend that they hadn't just seen each other naked. Olivia meets the agent in charge of the investigation, Phillip Broyles, who hates her because she sent a buddy of his to jail. The two act like assholes to each other, setting a pattern for the show. Pretty much every character in the show is an asshole to every other character.

Olivia and John are sent off to follow up what they believe is an obscure lead but surprise happens to be the big break in the case. Unfortunately, John gets exposed to the same face melting chemicals that killed everyone on the plane just as he sees the guy who did it. Olivia decides to put the fate of the man she loves into the hands of a scientist who did some work in the exciting field of face melting research 2 decades earlier. The one flaw in this otherwise perfect plan is that the scientist, Dr. Walter Bishop, has been in a mental institution for 17 years. Olivia is told that, to visit Bishop, she must be escorted by a family member since things like subpoenas and court orders apparently don't exist in the world of Fringe. This plot point allows the show to introduce another regular character, Walter Bishop's son, Peter Bishop played by Joshua Jackson from Dawson's Creek (he was the dark haired guy, not the blond guy who looked like Helen Hunt).

Peter and Olivia immediately go into asshole mode when they meet and Peter only agrees to help her out when she threatens to tell some gangsters who are after him where he is. Walter says sure, he can help, but only if he's in his old lab at Harvard. Despite the fact that he hates her, Broyles agrees to every single one of Olivia's crazy and probably extremely expensive demands which includes getting Dr. Bishop a cow. It turns out that the cure for Skin-Melting-itis can only be developed is you happen to know the exact chemicals used. Golly, says Olivia, John was the only guy who saw the face of the guy who made the compound so I guess we'll never know but then Dr. Bishop casually mentions that he knows a procedure that will allow Olivia to enter John's dreams and see the criminal's face. Damn, that sure was handy. The method involves Olivia injecting LSD and stripping down to her sexy black underwear, something I think will end up being a solution to loads of plot conflicts in later episodes of Fringe.

After all this, plus a few plot points I'll leave as surprises for anyone who may have Tivo'd this and hasn't seen it yet, Broyles, even though he hates her, invites Olivia to come work for him in what turns out to be some super secret organization that investigates weird stuff like Face Melting Disease. Thus, the basic plot model of Fringe is set.

Man oh man, this was the height of TV silliness. I'm really annoyed since I expected more from the guy who created Lost and Alias. Of course, the show's other two creators are Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci who were writers on the Transformers movie. You all may remember that as the movie that chose to waste loads of time showing us giant robots taking time out from their mission to save all humanity from the evil Megatron to help Shia Lebeouf outwit his parents and to nail the hottest girl in school. I didn't even mention when crazy Dr. Bishop gets to utter that immortal line of dialogue, "I pissed myself." This could be one of those cases where the pilot episode blows but the series in general vastly improves after that. I may give it one more episode or I may not. It depends on how much time I have and what else is on next Tuesday.

Oh, after Bishop said, "I pissed myself," he followed it up with, "Just a little squirt." I guess I wouldn't want to miss moments like that.

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