No joke, Fringe may be the best show on television currently. And Fringe is in danger of being killed in the same Friday Night Death Slot on FOX that killed Firefly, Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles, and Dollhouse.
Fringe is a television series created by JJ Abrams and the creators of Lost, Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci. Fringe is best described as a modern version of the X-Files with CSI and soap opera elements; a strange combination, but one that works. Fringe is set largely in Boston, and follows a group of FBI agents part of “Fringe Division” as they handle cases involving the metaphysical, transhumanism, aberrant science, parallel universes, and other “fringe elements”. The series follows Olivia Dunham (played by Anna Torv), an FBI agent who is assigned to work with Walter Bishop, elderly mad genius scientist played (played by John Noble) and Walter’s son, Peter Bishop, equally as brilliant but more street smart than science smart (played by Joshua Jackson).
When Fringe was first announced, I was not interested in it. I’m not a big fan of CSI type shows, where each week there is some new murder or mystery and the cast of characters needs to solve it, and there is very little storyline going on besides each immediate episode. Blah, blah, boring. Episodic television may be loved by the masses, but I prefer indepth storylines that take months or years to pay off. FOX’s promotion of Fringe made it appear to be more of the same, albeit with John Noble, whom I thought was great in Lord of the Rings, and Joshua Jackson, who was nothing more than a Dawson’s Creek actor (although Skulls was a pretty good movie). Friends of mine told me it was pretty good…”kinda like Lost, but different”, which is not really that great of a description, but I made the promise that I would check it out eventually. When Best Buy was running a sale on DVDs, Fringe season 1 was available for $15-20, so I decided to pick it up and give it a shot.
And after watching the pilot episode of Fringe, I was very intrigued. And by episode 4 of Fringe, which I consider the best episode of the entire first season, I was hooked.
Why do I love Fringe and consider it the best show on television currently? Biggest reason is probably that it is an area of science fiction that I’ve not been exposed to a lot, that area of weird scientific discoveries, parallel universes, hard science with a twist, etc. All of the elements discussed in the show have some basis in reality, although often twisted toward the fantastical. For example, one of the ideas presented in the show is that psychotropic drugs such as LSD can actually open up your mind to view astral projections, which explains drug trips. Whether or not astral projections are real is an intriguing subject, and one that is great to be tackled in a fictional context of a tv show. (JESUS JUKE! – “So the show is about demons, hmm? Real Christians shouldn’t watch that.“)
Fringe can definitely get out there, nearly approaching Lost levels of weirdness. By the end of season two we have two parallel universes locked in a struggle for survival, a group of characters who are tasked with watching history and certain gifted individuals, body doubles swapping universes, a group of shapeshifters working to kill and subvert “our” earth, dozens of new scientific theories and experiments that play practical roles in each episode, accounts of an ancient group of humans who built and buried massive doomsday devices…oh, and Leonard Nimoy as Bill Gates meets Steve Jobs. Truly ducking nuts.
I also love the characters in Fringe. Olivia Dunham is this tough FBI chick who often has a sweet side but isn’t afraid to kick butt; plus, there is a mystery surrounding her, and she was tested on as a child, and has show tendencies toward fringe elements such as telepathy and the ability to travel to parallel worlds. Walter Bishop as a mad scientist makes Doc Brown seem sane; he frequently says the wrong thing, loses his train of thought, is directly responsible for most of the tragedy that happens in the show (albeit he doesn’t remember any of it having been locked in an insane asylum for years with parts of his brain missing), has weird food obsessions, and is constantly tripping balls on LSD or some other drug. And then Peter Bishop is this secretive grown up child prodigy with connections to the mob and who knows what else, and he’s stuck between Olivia and Walter while developing romantic affections for Olivia; brilliant in his own way, but with a dark past that keeps haunting him. In a way, Olivia, Walter and Peter mirror Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.
Fringe is simply the best show on television right now. I wish I could describe better why that is so. It’s a combination of characters you care about and enjoy watching, mixed with ideas so out there they intrigue you, and a world effecting plot that keeps you coming back for more. In the absence of TV greats such as Battlestar Galatica and Lost, Fringe is the best thing going, forging new paths while cribbing the best from their predecessors.
Sadly, it doesn’t look like Fringe has long to live in this world. Since FOX moved it to the Friday Night Death Slot, lovingly “mocked” by FOX in the video below, Fringe’s ratings have hit new lows. Yet at the same time the quality of Fringe has just risen higher than ever. Fringe may not receive a fourth season, but we’ll be grateful for the three seasons we received. It really sucks how television networks like FOX will heavily promote the next big thing during pilots season, and then rarely advertise at all afterwards. If Fringe dies, FOX more than anything else contributed to its death. I wish TV creators and producers would realize that broadcast TV is dead; if you want to create good, compelling, well written television, you must be on cable.
Leave broadcast tv to the cretins.