TONY'S ONLINE TIPS for Wednesday, January 28, 2009
From September 11, 2008:
Fringe made its debut this week. The creation of J. J. Abrams of Felicity, Alias, and Lost fame with his frequent collaborators Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Alias, Mission Impossible III, Star Trek), it's basically a new take on The X-Files that, from its start, is a lot further out there than its predecessor was at its beginning. I watched it with my daughter Kelly, who wanted to see it because she likes the spooky stuff, but mostly because she has had this crush on Joshua Jackson since he starred in The Mighty Ducks. Who knew that clean-cut kid with the single mom would grow up to be a con man and gambler with a mad scientist for a father?
Fringe kicks off with a planeload of melted people, a gooey horror being investigated by FBI agents Olivia Dunham (played by Anna Torv). Charlie Francis (Kirk Acevedo), and John Scott (Mark Valley). Belabored by her unfriendly boss Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) and grasping at her solitary lead, Dunham goes to Iraq to blackmail and recruit Peter Bishop (Jackson) because he can get her in to see his institutionalized father, Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble). The elder Bishop once worked on something related to this liquefying terror and lots of other "fringe science" weirdness. Despite being on the outs with her boss, Dunham apparently has a budget the size of Alaska and carte blanche use of government jets, laboratories, and a cow. I rather liked the cow.
Noble is the best thing about the show. He's amazing as a still-brilliant-but-damaged man relishing being able to contribute once again and likewise relishing being reunited with his son. Jackson gets second honors. Between them, they made this pilot episode a moving story of family and redemption, though I fear the show won't be able to maintain that element as it whizzes past the heart and into its vast conspiracy (The Pattern). To understand my dismay, you have only to note that, when it came to X-Files, I enjoyed the "monster of the week" episodes a heck of a lot more than those tedious "mythology" episodes.
Acevedo does a solid job as the third-wheel FBI agent, but Torv and the rest of the government types just aren't interesting in either their performances or their character's stories. Jasika Nicole is good as Agent Durham's assistant - imagine the budget Durham would have if her boss liked her - but she's not given nearly enough to do in this premiere episode.
The only other Fringe performance worth noting is Blair Brown's as the cool, creepy Nina Sharp. Her character is a high-ranker at Massive Dynamics, a global corporation that - for good or evil - is part of *The Pattern* and whose mysterious and unseen in the pilot CEO used to work with Walter Bishop.
Overall, I thought the pilot episode was good, even with the weaker actors and a slow middle dragging it down somewhat. There were two surprises, one I didn't see coming and one that I should have seen coming because the script set it up so nicely. It was a satisfying premiere that established the high stakes of the show's premise and will bring me back for the next episode. My continued viewing will likely depend on whether the series emphasis is on the monsters of the week or the mythology, and on whether the show focuses more on Noble and Jackson than the lackluster Torv.
The pilot of Fringe earns a perfectly respectable three out of five Tonys.
Kelly and I are still watching Fringe every week and here's my additional thoughts on the series:
Noble and Jackson are still the best actors on the show. The writers have allowed Jackson to explore his character's dark side more. He's done a terrific job with that and without diminishing how basically likeable that character is.
Torv has become more interesting in recent episodes and she's been very effective in the action sequences. Last week's episode introduced her character's sister and niece. I'm not enthusiastic about that development, but I'll withhold further judgment until I see where the show is going with it.
Jasika Nicole is fun to watch as her character semi-bonds with the mad Doc Bishop. I'd love to see her in more scenes.
Blair Brown's "Nina Sharp" hasn't been much in evidence these past few episodes and that may be for the good. The writers don't seem to know if the character is good, sort of good, sort of evil, or really evil. They need to figure that out quickly if they wish to make use of Brown's talents.
"The Pattern" is still ever-present, but the mythology doesn't overpower everything else. Indeed, most of the episodes feel like done-in-one episodes with a bit of continuity linking them to each other. That's working for me.
Fringe still stands at three out of five Tonys, but I am enjoying it more of late.
Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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