This is part 1 in a five-part series where I dissect the TV show Fringe. The Wife got it for Christmas and we’ve been watching one episode per day.
I gotta say: I’m pretty impressed. The acting isn’t spectacular (but it’s better than most television), the special effects aren’t the best (but the directors know how to work around it), and some of the initial cast seem to be over their head (Mark Valley, Kirk Acevedo, and Blair Brown); however, this show has a lot going for it:
1) Suspension of disbelief. I’m a big fan of this writing idea. a writer can only make the audience believe that one thing is different. That is, I can either believe that there’s a sand monster out to get Spiderman or a black costume monster; I can’t believe both. Fringe has it down so that each week the audience is allowed to believe one more thing: sometimes it’s a giant parasite, sometimes it’s that scientists can read dead peoples’ thoughts.
2) They know how to not answer things. One of the greatest things a writer can do is trick the audience into asking a bunch of questions. Whether these questions are answered or not, it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that one of the beliefs doesn’t override any other belief (for instance, if we could read the mind of a giant dead parasite, that would be stupid). This skill led to the majesty of Lost and the end of Twin Peaks.
3) Whoever cast Fringe is a genius. The problem with new TV shows is that the leads have to be way-too smart and way-too pretty. I don’t believe Josh Halloway is the smartest man on the planet in Intelligence, but I do believe that John Noble is. I don’t believe that Poppy Montgomery uses her photographic memory to solve crimes in Unforgettable, but I do believe that Anna Torv does. No one on Fringe is amazingly hot. Jasika Nicole is cute, Joshua Jackson is cute, but neither one would stop traffic in a bathing suit.
4) This is a character-driven drama, not a procedural show. At the heart of Fringe (at least for now) is the father/son relationship between Peter and Walter. If not for that, this show could easily be identified as another X-Files ripoff.
I think the only downfall of this season is the repetitiveness. How many giant monsters did they have? How many times did someone “go into the tank” to read memories someone else has forgotten? I’m sure I could look it up, but The Wife says the Season Two Premier is about to start.
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