Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

Fringe: A Show You Should Be Watching January 21, 2011

Filed under: Fringe,Television — Emily @ 4:32 pm
Tags: , , ,

A young woman loses herself in her job as she tries to escape the ghosts of her past. A father learns to depend on the son he has been estranged from for years, as the son struggles to forgive his father for a life altering act committed years ago. Meanwhile, mysterious events are taking place all over the world, and a team of scientists and investigators use unconventional methods to solve crimes, save lives, and sometimes even save the world!

This is a very basic synopsis of the excellent scifi show Fringe, which returns tonight after its winter break. If you have never watched before, do yourself a favor and start catching up! Fringe is currently in its third season, and it just gets better and better. It’s the only show I consistently watch the night it airs, and it’s also the best scifi show currently on tv. Here are my thoughts on why you should be watching Fringe, too.

  • It’s a worthy successor to The X-FilesWhen The X-Files ended, I doubted that any other scifi show would captivate me as much as it had. Then along came this tale of FBI agent Olivia Dunham, who finds herself working for a division that investigates strange, seemingly inexplicable cases. She works alongside Dr. Walter Bishop, a brilliant scientist who uses unconventional investigative methods and spent several years in a mental institution. Tagging along as a “supervisor” for his father is Peter Bishop, and he and Walter are still working through all sorts of family baggage. This trio is joined by a few other team members, and together they investigate the strange, unimaginable, and sometimes horrific events tied to the Pattern. Instead of Mulder and Scully, we have Olivia, Peter, and Walter. Instead of aliens and government conspiracies, we have shape shifters and other world conspiracies. But both shows have a satisfying blend of character development and mysterious cases/freaks of the week.
  • Olivia – Olivia is an interesting and likable heroine. She loves her job and is committed to doing her best. She genuinely cares about the people she works with and the victims she encounters in her investigations. The writers have been slow to reveal details about her past, which makes her a somewhat enigmatic figure when it comes to her emotions, her mindset, and her relationships, or lack thereof.
  • Peter and Walter’s father/son relationship – This pair is one of the most entertaining on tv. John Noble and Joshua Jackson have great chemistry as the bickering father and son who obviously care for each other, even though they don’t always see eye to eye. Peter exhibits great patience with his socially dysfunctional and mentally unstable father, and Walter has proven how much he loves his son, even though some of his actions have been questionable. Some of the funniest, as well as the most heartwarming, moments on the show happen when these two are involved. And I should mention here that I totally have a crush on Joshua Jackson in this role. I was never a huge fan of Pacey when he was on Dawson’s Creek, but Peter is so charming, funny, and handsome that it’s hard not to love him. I even named my second child Peter, not completely because of this show – but it was definitely what gave me the initial idea for the name.
  • The Observers – Ohhhh, weird bald guys, wearing suits and hats, who show up at important or significant events in history. Count me in. The verdict is still out on who these guys are, what their ultimate goal is, and where they come from. But part of the fun of watching Fringe is noticing their appearances. It’s usually very subtle – they may be standing at a bus stop in the background, may walk past other characters, etc., but when they do show up it’s usually a signal that something important is about to happen.
  • The alternate universe – I don’t want to say much about this development, since it didn’t surface until late in the second season. Let me just say that it opened up a whole new world of possibilities for the show, and has resulted in a highly entertaining and exciting season three.
  • Rich mythology – The Observers and the alternate universe are only part of the intricate mythology of this show. The X-Files had a rich mythology, but the writers never resolved much of it. Fringe has done a more satisfying job of answering some questions, so that viewers aren’t as frustrated by the new questions those answers create, or the questions that are left unanswered. The first season didn’t supply much information – it was more about the case of the week, as well as getting to know the characters. But as season two progressed, we learned more about the other world, and after several episodes that only hinted at the secret of Peter’s past, the shocking truth was finally revealed, and that secret has led to all sorts of complications. So, yes, there are many complex details to figure out, but the show can also be enjoyed on an episode by episode basis.
  • The musical episode – When a show comes up with an unusual episode, I am sold. Buffy the Vampire Slayer succeeded with “Once More, with Feeling,” its musical episode, Angel impressed me with its “puppet” episode, and last season Fringe satisfied me with its version of a musical episode. It was part story time, part old school private eye, part musical – and I loved it! Agent Broyles played piano and sang a smooth jazz number, Olivia sang a beautiful ballad, and Walter even conjured up some singing corpses. It was weird, but it worked. This episode proved that you never know what you are going to see when you turn on Fringe.
  • The details – One of my favorite aspects of season three has been the amount of detail provided about the alternate universe. JFK was never assassinated, avocados are an endangered fruit, writing instruments have been replaced by electronic devices, etc. These sometimes subtle, sometimes large details give this other world a distinctive look and feel. If you are interested in reading about more of these details, check out this page on Fringepedia about the parallel universe.
  • Genuine chills and thrills – The CSI intros, infamous for being gross and shocking, have nothing on Fringe. A woman giving birth to a baby who ages 80 years and dies within a few minutes? Sure. A mad scientist who collects the donated organs of a deceased ballerina to put her back together again as a marionette dancer? Why not. A victim whose facial orifices close over, leaving him a faceless corpse? Well there you have it. The incidents, the investigations, and the discoveries never cease to shock, perplex, or surprise. Needless to say, the writing team is very creative and imaginative. The one hour episode flies by every week – so much is happening, and it is so entertaining.

I had a hard time writing this post. I really wanted to convey how much I love this show and why, but I didn’t want to give away too many details in the process. Much of the fun of watching Fringe is in the not knowing, not having all the information, not completely understanding what’s happening. I hope I’ve piqued your interest enough that you will give the show a try. Set your DVR for Friday nights at 8 p.m. central time! Let me know what you think after you check it out.

 

Fringe Takes Cows, Water Tanks, and Viewers to New Places September 10, 2008

Filed under: Television — Emily @ 8:36 am
Tags: , , , ,

Opening scene of nervous passengers on a plane? Check. Creepy music? Check. Unexplained phenomena? Check.

Wait, was I watching Lost? Not at all. Fringe is just the latest creation from the mind of J.J. Abrams. Some may call it recycling, but if it works on one show, why not transfer it to another?

That being said, Fringe is no Lost. While the pilot episode had me intrigued and willing to tune in next week, it didn’t amaze me the way the Lost pilot did four years ago. Read on for my assessment of the pilot.

(I’ve tried to keep things spoiler free, so if you’re trying to decide whether or not to watch the show, it should be safe to continue reading.)

Things to Love

  • The X-Files vibe – There has been a large hole in the television landscape since Mulder and Scully ran off into the sunset. Lost only partially fills this hole, but Fringe has the potential to follow proudly in the footsteps of my favorite sci-fi show. The X-Files dealt more with other worldly mysteries, so Fringe’s investigations into the outer limits of science and technology is somewhat different. However, the tone is still the same: unsettling, fascinating, sometimes gory and horrific. (Does anyone remember that X-Files episode about the human-sized parasite that lived in the sewers and attacked people? Yikes!)
  • The Opening Scene – This aspect of the show really did borrow heavily from Lost, but with a very different end result. These airplane passengers didn’t have it so good as the Losties who crash landed on a mysterious island. Instead, a supposed insulin injection pen and one very nervous passenger set off a lightning fast epidemic that was both frightening and disgusting (the special effects were very realistic).
  • Pacey is back! – Oh, I’m sorry. I mean Joshua Jackson. It’s just that I’ve only known him as Pacey Witter, best friend to Dawson and boyfriend to Joey, on Dawson’s Creek. Pacey would feel right at home on this show, aside from the strange happenings. In fact, Jackson’s character, Peter Bishop, could be an all grown up Pacey, with his fast, smooth talking ways. The only difference is Peter has a genius IQ, whereas Pacey was always a little intellectually-challenged. Anyway, I like Peter Bishop, and Jackson is great for the part. (Does anyone else think that Jackson is like a 20-something version of George Clooney?)
  • The Mad Scientist – That would be Dr. Walter Bishop, played convincingly by John Noble. Fans of 24 may remember him best as Anatoly Markov, the Russian president in Season 6. Here he is great as the sometimes brilliantly lucid, sometimes mad as a hatter, father of Peter Bishop who has been institutionalized for over 15 years. It will be interesting to learn more about why he was institutionalized, but for now his main purpose is to assist Olivia Dunham in her investigations. He also provides a certain amount of comic relief – his strange requests included ginger ale and a cow. I liked the moment where he and his new lab assistant, Astrid, were sitting with the cow, eating Chinese food. I like that he has a basement lab, too. Seems appropriate.
  • The Surprises – I suspected that things were “too good to be true” for Olivia and her secret FBI lover John, so I wasn’t surprised when he was injured and exposed to unknown toxic substances. But I was surprised by several things about this storyline after that, most notably his appearance and things not being what they seemed. There were other unexpected moments as well. The chase of the suspect was almost Matrix-esque, with all the leaping over buildings and such.
  • The Creative Moments – I like the way certain scenes were filmed. When Olivia was injured in the blast at the storage facility, the screen went white, and we experienced what she experienced, as she went in and out of consciousness, to flashes of light and muddled voices. Also interesting and different was the scene in which Olivia “makes contact” with John from her drug-induced consciousness awakening in the water tank.

The Verdict Is Still Out

  • Anna Torv as Olivia Dunham – She seems to be rather new on the tv scene, and since I am familiar with most of the other actors on the show, she is starting off with a disadvantage. I like her and her character okay, but need to see more to form a better opinion.
  • The Love Connection – I don’t think this is the kind of show that needs to create a romantic angle to its lead characters. I’m talking about the long, lingering looks between Olivia and Peter. First of all, Olivia has just had her love life shattered by a series of unsettling revelations. Second of all, they have some important work to do! I don’t think there’s time for the distraction of an office romance.
  • The Conspiracy – I was always able to overlook the problems with the X-Files conspiracy theories, because the show itself was so intriguing. Fringe has the potential to do the same, but it may also be capable of creating a conspiracy that makes sense, since its grounded in the pseudo-realities of science and technology. The trail of clues seems to begin at Massive Dynamic, with creepy mechanical arm lady, Nina Sharp. Massive Dynamic is another similarity to Lost (the Dharma Initiative) even down to the ad that followed the show. I’m willing to run with it, for now.

So, all in all, Fringe is a show with an intriguing premise and the potential to keep viewers mesmerized. What did those of you who watched the pilot think of it?

 

Fall 2008 Preview: Fox Gets a Head Start August 29, 2008

So did Fox sign like a 100-year contract with Major League Baseball to broadcast the play-offs and World Series every fall? It certainly seems that way. For as long as I can remember, the new fall tv season has been either delayed or interrupted by baseball on Fox. The network’s old strategy was to delay the start of its shows until after the World Series. Back in the late 90s, I would complain about having to wait until practically November to watch the X-Files every year. For the past couple of years, however, Fox has taken the better approach of jumping out ahead of the other networks to give its shows some time to settle in and develop a following before being so rudely interrupted.

That being said, let’s take a look at what Fox has prepared to tide over its viewing public until American Idol takes center stage in January. As with most of the networks, there aren’t as many new shows as usual because of the writer’s strike. That makes it easier to sift through the newbies. I’ll also mention anything noteworthy about returning shows.

  • Prison Break – This show returns on Labor Day, for more crazy antics from Michael, Lincoln, and the gang. In my opinion, this show should have wrapped up nice and neat at the end of season two (rather than turning into a tangled, mangled mess of subplots), but there are still a lot of fans, so I am glad that they can still tune in to see their favorite characters.
  • House – I am interested to see what the tone of this show will be when the season begins. How will they follow the depressing events of last season’s finale? ——- SPOILER ALERT ——- On House, the season ender was a manipulative tear jerker/ethereal dream sequence, as House slipped in and out of consciousness trying to remember something important about the bus accident he was involved in. Turns out he was on the bus with Wilson’s girlfriend, Amber, and eventually the team determines that because of a medication she was taking that caused an unfortunate reaction to her crash injuries, she only has hours to live. There’s nothing they can do. So the season ended on a real downer, with a parade of characters coming into Amber’s room to say their farewells. I didn’t even like her character, but what a horrible way to get rid of her. Sure, it will provide some tension between Wilson and House this season (since Wilson blames House for Amber being on that bus in the first place), but it seems like it was just done for shock value. I am tired of shows having to one-up each other at the end of the season. Speaking of shock value…
  • Bones – This is the second best show that Fox has to offer, and it also had a controversial season finale – in fact, it caused more of an uproar than House did. This is one of the few shows that I only watch when nothing else is on, rather than being sure to watch every episode. (This is also how I watch How I Met Your Mother.) Since I only dabble in the show, I may have missed some clues or backstory about the Gormogon plot, but here’s my take on what happened: ——— SPOILER ALERT ——— Booth and Brennan and the team uncover some evidence that leads them to believe that Gormogon (a serial killer who eats his victims) or his apprentice works at the Jeffersonian. As the pieces of the puzzle come together, Zack is injured in an explosion that leaves his hands basically useless. That’s a bummer. But it gets worse. It turns out that he planned that explosion to create a distraction so that Gormogon could steal something from the Jeffersonian. Zack is the apprentice! So, with a tear in his eye, Zack explains to the team that Gormogon had a logical view of the world, which is why he went along with his plan. I’m sorry, but that seems like quite a stretch. Sweet, geeky Zack as an accomplice for a cannibalistic serial killer – because it was logical? I can understand why some people have decided to stop watching the show, but I didn’t watch it for Zack. Mainly, I enjoy the chemistry and interaction between Booth and Brennan. So, I’ll still tune in from time to time, and will be sure to watch the season premiere to see the fallout from the finale’s crazy events.
  • The Moment of Truth – Ridiculous. This is the worst show on television. It shows the worst of human nature. No inspiring moments here. Move along.
  • Hole in the Wall – Which brings me to the first of Fox’s new shows. From what I can tell, this is a game show that requires people (mostly obese people) to manipulate their bodies into certain shapes to fit through a cut out in a giant screen. If they fail to do so, they will fall into a vat of water, and they will be further humiliated by goofy music and a laughing, taunting studio audience. Seriously? This is a real show? It sounds more like a bad idea for a team building exercise at a corporate event. I hate shows that are designed to make fun of people, even when the contestants know what they are getting into. We shouldn’t take pleasure in watching other people fall flat on their face, flop around, or otherwise embarrass themselves on national television. I hope that this show will be a massive failure. Is there still some class left in the American viewing public?
  • Fringe – Finally, I arrive at the one of the few bright spots among the newbies this season. This is actually the new show that I am most looking forward to. It has an interesting premise (its official website describes it as a show that “will thrill, terrify and explore the blurring line between the possible and the impossible.”). Sounds like a sci-fi thriller right up my alley. Plus, it has an interesting cast. I am happy to welcome Joshua Jackson back to television in a more grown-up role than the one he is best known for – Pacey on Dawson’s Creek. He’s joined by several names I don’t recognize, but based on the previews, the actors look well-suited to their roles. And finally, it has J.J. Abrams name attached to it, and I like almost everything that he has done. We can all find out if this show is worth adding to our “must-see” lists when it premieres on September 9.
  • There are several shows that I didn’t mention. And that is because I don’t watch any of them. They all have their place in the television landscape, and I’ll just leave it at that.