Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Consider The "Fringe" Benefits

Fringe underway! Fringe underwhelms! Fringe underperforms!

Enough already. Fringe just started.

So much is being made of how the pilot for the new Fox series Fringe wasn't very original. Or that it didn't blow the competition out of the water ratings-wise. Or that it isn't Lost. Or that it ripped off Lost because the teaser was set on a airliner. Or that the two leads (Anna Torv and Joshua Jackson) seemed a little wooden.

Get over it, people...it's the friggin pilot for crying out loud! Go back and watch the pilots of Buffy or The X Files or Alias even if you want to witness some less than stellar plotlines or actors still finding the comfort zone of their characters.

In fact, I did just that.

Little green men, alien abductions, and government conspiracy proliferated the beginning of The X Files TV series...in fact, it almost became a little repetitive. And David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson weren't embarrassing but definitely struggled to find the voices of Mulder and Scully. And then 'Squeeze' aired...a dark unnerving story about a hibernating man-boy creature who awoke every 30 years to extract and eat livers from five random targets. And the kicker was this...he could squuuuueeeeze through any small opening to get at his victims.

Cool. And creepy. I was hooked.

But my point is this...the first X Files I watched was entitled 'Fire', episode 11 of Season One. I just happened upon it...didn't love it, but enjoyed it enough to continue watching. Then Fox reran the pilot and the first couple of eps that I'd missed, and it was then that I saw 'Squeeze' (ep 3). So this was like halfway through Season One, and nobody else I knew was watching.

But that's because 'The X Files' didn't really hit its stride and start to approach what might be considered a hit until the end of the second season. Think about that...40+ shows to get your formula working and stories cooking and your actors and crew firing on all cylinders? Seems unthinkable now.

I feel sorry for TV producers and showrunners today (even if they are JJ Abrams). Though the networks so desperately want another X Files or Buffy or Alias, they won't allow audiences the time to find or discover them for themselves as it were. There is such relenting pressure to deliver 'a hit' right out of the gate...but as we've recently seen with Back To You or Bionic Woman or even already with 90210, expecting hit ot touting something a hit before it airs is usually a surefire way to strip it of all its potential 'hitness'.

House was solid out of the gate, but grew into a hit. Same can be said for Criminal Minds. In genre turf similar to Fringe, both Supernatural and Smallville were allowed to play in the sand for a bit before settling into their groove. And people still found them. And stuck with them.

Don't get me wrong, I had some complaints about Fringe...I didn't quite buy Joshua Jackson's 'sweetheart' take on the character of Peter - he's no Mulder/Duchovny. And the 3D titles establishing location were a cool at first, but they quickly became a tiresome and intrusive gimmick, taking me out of the story and reminding me I was only watching a TV show (with a big budget).

Another common complaint was that the pace of the pilot was sluggish, but I'd actually prefer if it all slows down even more. Because that creates tension. Tension and suspense is good. Ick factor is also good. We could use a show on air now that makes us wanna look away from the screen and go "ewwwww"...and in a scripted show, as opposed to a Wipeout or being part of a Survivor challenge. Not mention it's really hard (and expensive) to make an bang up action 'rock video-like' TV series every week. When are networks going to get this through their heads...? fasta pace lotsa action all-the-time does not keep people (much less 'the kids') watching the tee-vee. Good drama and intriguing engaging characters combined with suspense, tension, and some cool twists, punctuated with some running and jumping....that's what keeps 'em coming back for more.

But overall, I liked the Fringe pilot a lot. It unfolded well, had some good twists, and most importantly, effectively set up the characters and the world of the show. From that, I really like the arena and the potential for stories in the series. I'm looking forward to episode 3.

Here's hoping the networks' 'out of the gate' expectations for the series weren't too high, so they, and we, can eventually reap the benefits of Fringe.

Fringe airs Tuesdays (tonight) after House on Fox.

(and unlike other 'fancy' blogs...Fox didn't send me any Fringe screeners to convince me to bat for their team)


DMc said...

Hey, Suck it there, Regina. I don't get FOX screeners either.

Where's those Superchannel screeners, hmm?

wcdixon said...

Ha! When I actually get some myself, I'll be happy to forward them on to yours truly.

Juniper said...

Thanks for the post, Will.

I watched the second episode last night and there were a few times I either turned down my t.v.'s volume or fast forwarded (yes I recorded it) because it was too tense or creepy!


Can't wait for the Border to begin!

Anonymous said...

I too disliked the 3d graphics, the first one I saw I was like what? Is this for real? Either way its no reason to hate the show. If you want one more plus I think that old guy plays his character well. A little eccentric but fitting given the circumstance. I hope they start leading shows away from his past and make him do more regular CSI type stuff.

I also find it funny how there was a cow in the lab that is perfectly clean, in fact so clean you can milk a cow and go straight into lab work without any worry of contamination. TV is great.

deborah Nathan said...

Love Fringe. It's just FUN - something we could do with on Canadian network TV but I think that is a vain hope.

Love the CSI on crack, John Noble's character, the creepy, icky science, terrific teasers, the 3-d graphic chyrons - all of it. Can't wait to hear more about The Pattern.

Out with the grim and earnest, and the pornography passing as serious drama and in with the wild fun.

wcdixon said...

Yes Deb, I agree. It's nice to be able to grab onto your chair arms and just hang on. And with teasers that make you go: "What the Fuuuuuuuuuuuu...?!"


jimhenshaw said...

I really liked the pilot, but I gotta say if Episode three is as short of original ideas and flat out bad as Episode two, I'm gone.