Pam asks if I’ve seen this yet, and I really didn’t want to answer.
Because I want very much to like Fringe more than I do. It has an intriguing premise. It has a sterling pedigree. It has the Steward of Gondor. It has Lieutenant Daniels.
We rushed to watch the pilot, after which I was very “meh”. Apparently the world was very “meh”, because J.J. Abrams was all over the place saying “subsequent episodes are better.” We watched the next episode and it was better. But not better enough to make Fringe appointment TV, which is why the latest episode is still languishing on our TiVo. It IS green-dotted, at least, which in my world means that it is much more important than Get It Sold, Flip That House and other paint-dry stuff.
I didn’t get the instant hook with this show that I got with Lost, but I AM willing to give it much more time and many more episodes. The premise is fun and the standalone episodes have more than a bit of the X-Files’ shivery DNA. What could improve it? Well….I’ll tell you.
*Dark doesn’t have to be drab. You can have a “dark” show without relying on a relentlessly washed-out colour palette. In fact, much of Lost is dark, what with bodies in pits, ghosts in moving cabins, haunted pirate ships, estranged fathers stealing organs and exploding people. But it still uses a sun-drenched tropical palette. In fact I’ll go so far as to point out that the episodes people openly hated (with Sawyer and Kate in cages and That Damn Jack in the whale jail) had a more drab colour palette. People don’t mention it because it doesn’t often occur to them, but I think this does matter when talking about TV. The style currently employed by Fringe isn’t visually appealing and that does matter when asking people to spend 47 minutes in your world. (I humbly point also to the bright sunniness of Baltimore which The Wire exploited in its best moments.)
*What brightness is leeched out of the set design and cinematography is perhaps unwisely slammed into Joshua Jackson and John Noble’s characters. They’re supposedly geniuses. That’s a problem because they seem like charicatures of “genius”. John Noble’s character is best when he’s being eccentric but not a dullard. More scenes of him “remembering his where his car is” and fewer of him being unable to use a toilet. And please know that some of Joshua Jackson’s smartassery is over-the-top and not fun.
*The lead character doesn’t seem like someone who was able to find the FBI’s Indianapolis branch office, let alone become a special agent in the FBI. She needs to be made tougher and less naive.
*Take a cue from those who know. Harry Potter, The Wire, Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica and Lost all have a predetermined ending which allowed for a strong story structure. I find that I require that in shows where there is a Vast Conspiracy or an Overarching Unknown or a Grand Plan. Otherwise they meander, stringing their once-loyal audiences along and ultimately losing credibility.
This show has good bones and I want it to be around for a few years. I’d like it much better if they’d take some of my advice.