Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hating Fringe

I was completely underwhelmed by J. J. Abrams's latest show, Fringe. There were some nice camera shots. I like Lance Reddick, and Joshua Jackson's the way to go, if you're into mining talent from Dawson's Creek.

I just couldn't get into it, I kept thinking about other shows. During the first scene, on the plane, I wondered when Lost would be back. The father/son geniuses-turned-investigators feels ripped from Numb3rs, and seemed like a signal that this show will be mostly episodic (read: disposable). Then there was the main thrust: heroine who is tortured by the loss of her love early in the show, driven to work within an oppressive conspiratorial bureaucracy to uncover more information, because that very bureaucracy may or may not have been responsible for these events, depending on what season it is. Let's just call this "the Alias riff." Then there's the obvious draw for most of us: Fringe is supposed to feed our nostalgia about X-Files. It was like watching Abrams's greatest hits album, except he didn't have enough hits, so he slipped in a couple of covers.

Pulling from other shows isn't bad, especially if it means X-Files is somehow reincarnated on mainstream TV. But here's where I'm most worried. It looks like there will be a big gap between X-Files and Fringe, to Fringe's detriment.

X-Files got its stories from our urban legends. Fringe, from an intro that mentions "mini black holes," gets its stories by lying about science. Fringe isn't inspired by conspiracy theory, but instead preys upon the common public's ignorance of new scientific discoveries. It probably seems odd to say that the X-Files's world of trash monsters is more plausible than the Fringe world where mini black holes transport kids into the future and around the globe. But no one left an episode of X-Files thinking, "Hmm, maybe swamp thing is real!" Meanwhile, Fringe seems to be begging for folks to start asking, "Why are we firing up the LHC when it might turn us all into slugs?"

And maybe X-Files had the occasional moment of junk science, but you saw those episodes in the context of a show about vampires and chupacabras. In contrast, Fringe is giving everyone a weekly subscription to Modern Jackass.

Maybe I was just turned off in the show because I find it incredibly irritating when smart protagonists act like complete tools, then get rewarded for it.* If you need to catch a criminal, here's a tip: don't do LSD in an attempt to synchronize your brain waves with a man in a coma. I'm filing everyone who liked the show under "people who think this course of action is reasonable, in certain extreme circumstances," which is remarkably similar to the file I use for "people I recommend be institutionalized for the safety of others."

Soon enough I'll have the complete irrationality of the characters on Heroes to whine about, at which point I can probably forget all about this show. Can't hardly wait.

*Unless you do it right, like in The Tale of the Shifty Lad.

UPDATE: Apparently this post is like beating a heavily drugged horse. Apparently most people don't care to filter through good and bad storytelling, they just want to watch people play games.