In a tepid fall TV season, both minimized and diluted by the writers’ strike, there’s just as much excitement in getting to see old shows again (Pushing Daisies! Heroes!) as in checking out new ones. Some new shows aren’t screened for critics, and few of the ones that are leave solid first impressions.
Fringe, though, is a healthy early standout. J.J. Abrams, whose credits include Felicity and Lost, is one of the creators of this new Fox series, which premieres tonight at 8 ET. The others are Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, Transformers writers who have worked with Abrams before.
This time, they’ve come up with a show that boldly goes where others have gone before – borrowing obviously but inventively from The X-Files and Kolchak: The Night Stalker, The Twilight Zone and Altered States, even Scanners and Lost. Oh, and since Fringe is designed as a sort of paranormal procedural, it’s got some CSI: Crime Scene Investigation in there, too, along with some evil-corporation riffs from Angel, and so on.
But Fringe is fun. Abrams and company borrow from all these things out of affection, not lack of inspiration, and have assembled a cast that, except for newcomer Anna Torv as the FBI agent at the story’s center, is both familiar and gifted. Joshua Jackson, John Noble, Blair Brown, Lance Reddick, Kirk Acevedo – they all pull you along effortlessly through the winding narrative, which ends up uniting an uneasy trio of investigators of “fringe science.” Stuff on the edge. The basic territory of Michael Crichton, another clear influence.
Most of all, though, keep track of Torv. Just as Lost introduced so many likeable but unfamiliar actors, Fringe should make a star of this relatively unknown Australian actress. She’s the Fringe equivalent of Evangeline Lilly from Lost – which for her, as well as for Fringe, is high praise indeed.
Watch a clip from Fringe below:
What did other critics say about Fringe?
“It’s a territory ripe for exploration as real world science and technology begin to take off into all sorts of trajectories. The show then wisely operates in that "fringe" or pseudo area where the dots haven’t quite gotten connected, meaning it can pull off its various crazy concepts without having to fully explain them - but at the same time gives them enough rules so that they aren’t easy outs or cure alls.”
“Taking its name from "fringe science" phenomena like mind control, invisibility and reanimation, Fringe, which debuts September 9th, does a nifty job of setting up a conspiracy mythology in the best X-Files tradition, while throwing in one "WTF?!?" reveal after another, ala Lost.”
“The show is dripping with the type of imagination that should whet the appetite of any sci-fi fan. But the poor development of the action, as evidenced in the pilot, turns what should be an awesome fantasy series into a surprisingly ordinary and only mildly entertaining procedural.”
“This is a hugely ambitious project and smacks of Kevin Reilly’s positive influence over FOX: it’s intelligent, controversial, and populist at the same time, filled with memorably abrasive characters, gruesome horror, and tongue-in-cheek humor. It’s House meets The X-Files with The Twilight Zone and some of the British series Eleventh Hour thrown into the mix.”
“This spine chilling thriller deserves a look and could develop into a real zinger depending on where they go with this open-ended concept.”
“Casting really is the strongest suit here. The pilot script and story is very compelling. It’s not "Lost"-level instantly addicting, but it leaves you very curious about what’s gonna happen next week.”
“Fringemay have an audience initially because of J.J. Abrams huge fan base — but its going to take a lot more to get this clumsily linear show to get it’s footing in it’s Tuesday night 9PM timeslot.”
Compiled by Lucy Hemmings