Friday, September 12, 2008

White Noise - Fringe

Viewed: From the Couch on Tuesday nights

Well, this afternoon was supposed to be the day of a nice and timely Burn After Reading review. I'm really starting to give up hope on these early free screenings. I gotta work on a press pass... Needless to say, it didn't work out. Oddly enough I have qualms about waiting in line longer than the actual length of the movie. So when I show up an hour early and find that there's a solid chance the line is already long enough to call into question whether I'll even get a seat, it was time to head home and put an end to a what had been a long day to begin with.
So instead I'll share some thoughts about Fringe. A new show that will be re-airing it's pilot episode on Fox this weekend. If you have a TV and live in the US, I'm sure you already know about it. Yeah, it's supposed to be the new X-Files and it has Lt. Daniels from The Wire (Lance Reddick) playing another hard ass and that guy from Dawson's Creek (Joshua Jackson) and the requisite hot chick. This is all true of course, it does have a touch of the X-Files about it (the name refers to the category of fringe science) and Reddick is playing another take no shit cop. But it is easily one of the better things I've seen on basic, non-cable television in a while.

It starts out in a classic X-Files kinda way. An uneasy guy on a plane gives himself an injection and suddenly everyone has got a bad case of melty face. Start the investigation. The show definitely has its procedural elements but it does it in it's own charmingly eccentric way due to the charmingly eccentric mad scientist that ends up holding the answers to the antidote and the way to put a face to the bad guy. The later involves a cocktail of LSD and Ketamine and a dip in the ol' sensory deprivation tank. Thankfully no one turned into a werewolf a la William Hurt.

There's leaps in logic to be had here, but it never jumps too far into the realm of make believe where can't think that there's some perverse alternate reality that invisible skin could take place in. Sure, a healthy coat of suspension of disbelief should be applied before watching, but this is all part of the fun. Who doesn't want to see the hero solve the crime by going on a LSD trip? I might have a little bit of a bias since the action takes place in and around the Cambridge/Boston area. Unlike that horrid show Crossing Jordan they actually filmed their exterior shots on location. And as ridiculously implausible as it is, it was fun to have the gang working out of a dusty laboratory in the belly of Harvard University. It's all shot in a unobtrusive yet stylish way. There's none of that CSI techno bullshit but there is this admittedly gimmicky yet cool thing they do with titles that hang in the air like they're part of the scene, the camera moving around or through the letters... I smiled every time.

The mad scientist is played by John Noble with just the right amount of crazy so that it doesn't become too distracting. He has many quotable lines throughout the pilot and his rapport with his son, the Joshua Jackson role, is amusing. Unfortunately Joshua Jackson is given the worst cliched lines of the show. It's like the writers simply spun the wheel on the Incredulous Comic Relief Line Generator 3000. Oh well, I'm sure they'll figure out what to do with him as the show progresses. Lance Reddick is of course badass supreme. If you want mysterious gravitas look no further. For the first half hour of the show he has a highly amusing way of calling our main hero of the show "Liaison". If you know the actor you know the fun he could have with that word. And our hero, played by Anna Torv is indeed a babe but she also proves to be a good centerpiece, the straight man if you will, for the weirdness that surrounds her. She isn't able to hide her native Austrailian tongue as well as Dominic West did playing McNulty, but she manages well enough.

I'm looking forward to the future episodes of this one with a good bit of eager readiness. The episode ends with a line that had me in giddy laughter. A mysterious woman standing over a dead guy asks her lackey how long he's been dead... "Four hours." She thinks it over for a second, "Question him." Reliable TV renaissance man J.J. Abrams counts Cronenberg as an influence on the show (which of course brings a big smile to my face) and has said that the next two episodes are marked improvements over the pilot, which, if true, could be one of the strongest shots from the starting gate a television show like this has had in many seasons.

No comments: