Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Fringe, "Pilot": Hazmat suit up!

Now, I've already written about the "Fringe" pilot on two separate occasions, and so at this point all I have left is to repeat my basic points -- good but not great, Jackson and Noble's interplay is the selling point, Anna Torv is iffy, would have liked the first case to deal with fringier science -- and then open the floor up to you. As I like to say, what did everybody else think?


Stef said...

I dunno. I watched it, but didn't love it. You're right that Pacey and his dad (it'll take me a while to get their "Fringe" names) had good chemistry, but I thought the lead actress was pretty terrible. Although in some scenes she had a striking resemblance to Cate Blanchett... but that didn't make me think she was suddenly as strong an actress as Cate. I will probably watch again, but it needs to up the "fringe" level and give the lead a little more personality to be a keeper.

BF said...

Any inside scoop as to who's going to be cast as Charles widmore... er ... William Bell?

Alan Sepinwall said...

One thing I haven't mentioned yet: I love the oversized, 3-D location chyrons, especially when they start to appear at weird angles (like when they're shot from underneath in Iraq), or when they start to get too big for the screen.

Also, while I like Jackson quite a bit, the running gag about him calling Olivia "sweetheart" didn't work because the words sounded false coming out of his mouth.

Mapeel said...

I thought the big motion picture feel was interesting--e.g., all those snow scenes.

Torv is Blanchett meets Tilda Swinton for the small screen.

And her drugged journey into the isolation chamber seems like Abrams's homage to Chayefsy/Altered States for the new generation, with Blair Brown thrown in for good measure!

Unknown said...

I'm with you, mostly. Unexciting, but promising, enjoy the absent-mindedness of the prof, look forward to lots of "Pattern" gobbledygook. I thought Torv did some nice things in the early scenes with her boyfriend/co-worker.

The giant LOCATION CGI characters were hilarious, not in a good way. DYNAMIC FAKE LOCATION. GIANT PARODY DISTRACTION.


Unknown said...

Also in need of giant letters: COW. And over its head, in a CGI balloon, "MOO."

Anonymous said...

I've loved the giant 3D title cards ever since I first saw them in Panic Room.

memphish said...

I hated those 3D signs. They screamed look at our pathetic special effects budget and worse our pathetic level of creativity.

I found it very meh. Will I watch it until there is something else on TV to watch? Yes. So it has 3 weeks to convince me. At this point I'm underwhelmed. If this is the best new show on TV I anticipate a lot of cancellations.

Anonymous said...

I really want to like Anna Torv. She does not make it easy.

Those signs... It was actually disorienting when we saw the one in Baghdad from underneath. It was like, "Are they trying to remind us we're watching a TV show?" Definitely something different. Kind of made me think of Grant Morrison's Animal Man run, for my fellow nerds.

Also, John Noble is almost as awesome as Lance Reddick.

Anonymous said...

Good, not great. Count me among those who found the title cards annoying. I think they're distracting, look cheesey, and are going to be problematic in the future since they require the establishing shot to feature a long intro.

I'll tune in again, but I tend to be a bigger fan of serialized shows. So unless they start delving into Massive Dynamics and the Pattern more I can see myself eventually losing interest.

Anonymous said...

Just watched it, and I'm on the more optimistic side of the general consensus. Yeah, it needs to improve, but it's got a hell of a lot more potential than people are giving it credit for. It's being held up to Lost's standard, which isn't fair - it's not trying to be Lost, even though Fox is desperately hoping it is.

The writing was decent, but would slip into clunky at times. I think "the pattern" could have been developed a bit better, and not come off as such a cliche - but that remains to be seen. I really like the idea of the FBI not so much creating a special division for fringe science, but instead scrambling to adapt to it, instead of becoming "obsolete."

The directorial style was daring, and deserves some praise. I particularly liked the mind-melding sequence - it's the kind of modern, trippy style the directors of "Constantine" or "Resident Evil" try to do and fail miserably at. I also liked the use of location titles. It's fun, imaginative, eerie. There were some scenes that showed potential of going far beyond X-files, but the mood kept getting ruined by unnecessary action scenes.

Anonymous said...

I did appreciate these related facts: that Noble's character is, literally, a Mad Scientist; and that the show uses the trope that all of Mad Science is one intellectual field. In reality you'd have Mad Chemistry, Mad Physics, and so on.

Oh, and one of Massive Dynamics' slogans cracked me up: "What do we do? What don't we do." It's actually funnier without the italics on "don't" that you might expect.

Anonymous said...

More annoying than the title cards was Lance Reddick's pronounciation of "liaiSON."

Reggie Donovan said...

I worry it's going to turn into paranormal House - a solid procedural ... that's so formulaic you can set your watch to it.

What I described wouldn't really be bad, but it would be kind of a letdown. It's not really fair that the three shows that it's going to keep getting compared to are Lost, Alias, and The X-Files, but what can you do.

Anonymous said...

Flight 627.
Reverse the number and it's 726. Add 1 to the 7, subtract 1 from the 2 and the 6.

Flight 815.

Toby O'B said...

I saw this on the "big screen" at the Paley Centre last week, so maybe it made more of an impression on me than most of the other commenters. The fringe science was kind of boring first time out, but the plot twist at the end did catch me off-guard.

I liked the joke about the "B" seen underneath when the plane was landing in Baghdad, but after awhile the block letters were annoying. By the time "SOUTH BOSTON" was floating in that back yard, I was muttering "enough already" (lower case letters)

Jean may be the breakout star in this show! I liked the butterscotch pudding line and I hope we see more of Dr. Noble's absent-mindedness/madness and not have him eventually toned down as the series progresses.

Kudos on casting John Noble in the role of Dr. Walter Noble. Not only a very good actor, but he looks like he's spent the last 17 years under harsh conditions, like a sanitarium.

It was a smart idea I think to establish that their team will be at a disadvantage, nearly 20 years behind Massive Dynamics in fringe science.

And Mark Valley should still be on our TV screens as Eddie Arlette!

Anonymous said...

I liked it enough to tune in again next week. Would have liked it more if Mark Valley was a regular--Joshua Jackson doesn't do anything for me. Hooray for Kirk Acevedo and Lance Reddick, though!

-M said...

I eerily felt the exact same way about everything...except the annoying letters (which, thank you, I learned a new word today - chyrons). The show also had one of my biggest pet peeves - which is when successful career women stop mid-assignment to have a "love" talk. Honestly. We don't do this.

Anonymous said...

This was a pretty crappy procedural. Yet another show with a sci-fi twist in which the writers have no understanding or concept of constitutional criminal procedure; I don't expect them to be experts, but they should know a little. Mark Valley's character breaks into a storage facility without a warrant on a case with this many bodies? The FBI protagonist can't find the bad guy even though the bad corporation has reported him to the Justice Department? (Would the fact that the suspect corporation reported a possible theft of weaponized secrets have come up much earlier in the corporation?) Now, of course, I am sure that the FBI will draft the convicted psychotic felon and his shady son into their ranks for the remainder of the series rather than from recruiting trained investigators from within. Pretty dumb; I expect better from Abrams, and he is the only reason I watched it. This is taking us back to the days of the X-Files knock-offs from the mid-1990s; this is the X-Files if the Sci-Fi network had gotten a hold of it. Yawn.

K J Gillenwater said...

I really like Anna Torv. A lot. I didn't see problems with her acting skills. I also liked Joshua Jackson...I never watched him as Pacey so there's no memories/feelings there for me. He seemed like a very sympathetic guy. I liked him right off the bat and the bit o' chemistry between him and Torv, of which she seemed completely unaware.

I'm one that doesn't pick up on plot points sometimes...so that last bit with the recording and the twin brother...I didn't quite understand what John's relationship was to this whole story. Can someone please explain that to dumb old me? All I got was he was involved and possibly "bad." I hate it when that happens!

I knew Mark Valley was going to go somehow. But I was very shocked by the twist. Liked the invisible skin, though I'm not quite sure I understood what it was all about and how that related to dead people on an airplane. Anyone care to explain that to me, too???

Like the crazy old guy. Like Torv. Like Jackson. Want to know more about the pattern. Pretty good.

Bobman said...

As far as production, acting, pacing, I thought it was really good.

The story was OK, but there were really a few things that I just couldn't let go. I mean I know it's a show about paranormal stuff, and I can take that stuff with a grain of salt. But not when you have a criminally insane man, who is so "dangerous" that the court has ordered that no one but family may visit him, and he's allowed to just check out like it's a hotel cuz his son took him? Huh? And they got that lab at Harvard up and running, in like a few hours, with modern computers and everything, after it had sat dormant for 30 years? I hate things like that, especially knowing Abrams attention to detail.

Also, not to flog the x files comparison, but I'm a bit nervous that the whole show is all based on the one plot line; my favorite X-Files eps were the ones that were completely standalone (which I know is counter intuitive as most people are sick of procedurals) and I thought the show fell apart when it relied too much on continuity.

Two other things :
- all the talk about this show, I had no idea it was set in Boston. Being from the area, I liked that.
- not sure how I feel about the odd chyron placement. All in all I find it distracting and a silly novelty. It's OK when a light-hearted show like Middleman take you out of the action for some external comedic commentary, but a show like Fringe, that really tries to bring you into its world, isn't well-served by the distraction. I was legitimately confused for a few seconds on a couple of those.

Despite those reservations, I still like it and look forward to more. Just wish it wasn't on such a crowded Monday night.

Anonymous said...

The only thing missing from this stinker was Tim Minear. Hopefully he will get involved somehow so the show will most definitely get cancelled.

Robert said...

Not that I know at all what purpose it would serve at this point, but I thought that the text with the locations was much like some of the scrolling text seen on the walls at Massive Dynamic's office.

Add the bumper at the end and I'd say the show itself is cleverly a product of Massive Dynamic.

If only the rest of the show were so clever.

Dan said...

Did anyone else notice that most of the cars had their logos removed? During the car chase scene at the end, The Bad agents Explorer was without the Ford logo and Olivia's car was also sans logo. Thought that was a bit strange. Guess they didn't pay for product placement.

Anonymous said...

I thought Joshua Jackson was impersonating George Clooney. I really liked the show.

Anonymous said...

I always worry I've enjoyed too many shows that I can't enjoy ones like this. I kept saying "Oh there's a bit of Buffy, and Angel, and X Files, and Numb3rs..." It was cool, I'm not in anxious need to watch more, but I don't want to support studios axing shows before at least 6-7 episodes so I try to keep watching for a bit.

The chirons? Yeah they were cool and interesting at first, but for how large they were, they were kinda hard to read and stayed too long.

And my big peeve is always smart characters doing stupid things- he HAD to have that basement lab? There wasn't possibly ANY other lab that was MORE modernized with better assistants in the field? We have a lot to swallow with the "fringe science" here, don't make it harder.

Anonymous said...

The show also had one of my biggest pet peeves - which is when successful career women stop mid-assignment to have a "love" talk. Honestly. We don't do this.

Forget comparing it to Lost. I was having Felicity flashbacks.

I thought it was pretty bad, and more boring than not. It was all over the place (and I don't just mean the female lead getting around Boston even faster than Jack Bauer gets around LA), and can't seem to decide what it wants to be. Scary sci-fi, icky procedural, standard cop show? And I didn't see much chemistry among any of the actors.

My favorite parts were the 3-D location chyrons, and the cow, neither of which is enough to keep my watching.

Anonymous said...

Toby said...

And Mark Valley should still be on our TV screens as Eddie Arlette!


Anonymous said...

Count me among the minority - I enjoyed the show. I like it because of it's similarity to shows like The X Files. I'm patient enough to give it a chance. I didn't really start enjoying XF until 3/4 of the way through the first season. And with Abrams at the helm I have hope.

chop said...

I kind of liked it, but not as much as i expected to. I thought the premise was really interesting and some parts of the pilot were good, but I couldn't stand Joshua Jackson. This is my first exposure to him, and his constant spouting off of supposedly witty one-liners was irritating and ridiculous. I can't really say I find any of the actors that good with the exception of Lance Reddick and (maybe) Noble.

Unknown said...

Honestly, I probably wouldn't go watch this again, except for Joshua Jackson's character standing there making every smartassed, "Can't you SEE THAT THIS IS A REALLY STUPID IDEA? What are you, NUTS?" remark that I was thinking during the "yeah, I'll just go on LSD "naked" in a pool to contact my dying boyfriend in a dream" sequence. I have to give points for that.

Really, this show isn't even TRYING to make sense. ("Yeah, because after six hours they're REALLY DEAD.") And if you're going to do a show that stupid, well, I appreciate that someone is pointing out the stupid. I may watch it for the smartass remarks alone. Because god knows, otherwise it's gonna be silly. The large lettering was fake and weird (and they kept it up longer than they should have). I don't know how I feel about Poor Man's Cate Blanchett there. Maybe the character was written better than the acting.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Ratings are in, and they are quite disappointing: Averaged only about 9 million viewers and either tied or barely edged "Wipeout" in the 18-49 demo.

Anonymous said...

Isn't 9 million what Sarah Connor premiered to last year? And we see how much that's already dropped. 90210 also dropped about 30% last night. Looks like we're going to have another season without a breakout hit.

Mo Ryan said...

bobman, I agree with your critiques 100 percent.

Hope it gets a chance to improve, but with ratings like that... we'll see.

Anonymous said...

The large lettering was fake and weird (and they kept it up longer than they should have).

I kind of liked it. Especially the one that seemed to gleam, like light was hitting it at different angles. Might as well make the show as weird and otherwordly as possible, especially if they go down the procedural path.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know who directed the episode? The direction was the best part.

Unknown said...

Kristin, so that last bit with the recording and the twin brother...I didn't quite understand what John's relationship was to this whole story

It's his voice in the recording, talking to the bad guy. They also show a flashback clip of his end of the conversation, as he's getting out of his car at the airport. (This shows amazing recall by whatshername.)

It's not clear what his exact involvement is, other than that he's clearly involved. And he asked her to think about why guy-in-charge asked her to go to the storage facility, which seemed like a lousy lead at the time.

Unknown said...

either tied or barely edged "Wipeout"

Speaking of which, someone should note that Hole in the Wall makes Wipeout look like Masterpiece Theater. What a miserable -- and dull! -- entry in the People Hurting Themselves genre.

K J Gillenwater said...


Thanks...I did realize it was John's voice on the recording, but I didn't quite catch what the conversation was about...?

Maybe there was no real explanation of John's involvement or why he killed the dude in the hospital...we just need to know that he did and he's involved.

And, yes, I caught that conversation at the end after the car wreck. Someone sent John to the storage facility on purpose.

Maybe I'm not such a dummy after all???

a said...

Well, I like the 3-D cards. I can see how overuse would make them annoying.

Please don't try to make Peter and Olivia a conflicted couple. Jackson and Torv have null-to-infinity chemistry.

Still, I'll give a long leash to a show with the line "Excellent! Now let's make some LSD."

leor said...

ok, i didn't mind the show, but didn't love it either, so i'm going to reserve full judgement for a couple of weeks.

meanwhile, two things that really annoyed me:
1) the massive dynamics interior scenes, which just screamed "evil" and ridiculous (the ceilings in that executive's office were higher than most high rises!)
2) anyone else find it odd that Agent Scott survives, after being right in the middle of a pretty big explosion (and with no burns, after all is said and done...even has all his hair still intact!), but dies in a relatively minor flipping car accident?

Dan said...

Maybe the 9 million who watched this Pilot will get their friends to tune in next week? Ever thought of that? God, it always irks me how Americans put SO much stock in ratings, like the networks. I can understand the latter being worried about them (it's all about money for them, of course) but audiences? If you LIKED Fringe, then get your friends/family to watch it next week. I think it's FAR too early to write the show off. This was the exposition-heavy Pilot! And it was actually very good; slick, enjoyable, amusing, freaky, great actors, mysterious, fast-paced.

Blimey, The X-Files Pilot was very poor compared to this. I think it's going to be great, once we get into it and things develop, change, improve.

Karen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alan Sepinwall said...

Maybe the 9 million who watched this Pilot will get their friends to tune in next week?

If the ratings are significantly higher next week, it'll be because it's airing after House.

Those opening numbers don't signal the show is doomed, not by any means, but Fox was no doubt expecting much better bang for its buck, considering the expense of the pilot and of promoting it.

Karen said...

I watched it. I thought it was dreadful. Stupid...but worst of all, BORING. And predictable: with all those portentous pauses before lines, I was generally able to supply what the actor was going to say a beat before he or she said it.

Alan, you're right; the play between the two Bishops was the most fun. And Torv was just a HUGE mistake as the lead; she doesn't seem to know how to convey emotion any other way than by knitting her brows.

The chyrons made me laugh, just because they seemed like a desperate attempt to come up with something as cool as the "Heroes" title cards.

Then they didn't really pull out the big guns--the "pattern"--until the 75-minute mark. Seriously? Isn't that what journalists call "burying the lede"?

I can't even imagine wanting to watch it again. I felt bad for Joshua Jackson--he deserves a better venue.

Anonymous said...

Dan: "Maybe the 9 million who watched this Pilot will get their friends to tune in next week? Ever thought of that?"

Yes, because that happens frequently.

leor said...

dan, i know where you're coming from regarding people being obsessed with the ratings, and i agree that people should just watch the show if they like it...BUT, with the way networks are these days, it's hard for a lot of people to start devoting their time and emotion to a show that could be doomed.

also, the comparison to the x-files early ratings doesn't apply, because at the time, FOX was still a fledgling network, and couldn't afford to be as trigger happy as it is now.

Anonymous said...

Knowing that this was supposed to be scifi, the most surprising part to me was the twin revelation- I had spent a good amount of time assuming clone.

I definitely see the X-Files comparison, with this show being the weak end of the comparison by far- this coming from someone who didn't enjoy the x-files at all.
The more apt comparison for me is SciFi's Eureka, though maybe I'm drawing that because of Massive Global Dynamics. Eureka isn't a brilliant show by any means, but it does have characters appropriately realistic for their universe. Maybe it's a difference of knowing what to expect- a summer show on SciFi with a little bit of camp compared to a JJ Abrams primetime Fox Fall season starter.

Anonymous said...

found torv incredibly irritating to watch. a very weak character to be driving this ensemble, or even to stand up to it as the straight-man.

given what abrams has done in television, one can only be disappointed. leaving aside the more direct comparisons, if you can make a cloverfield for twenty-five million, surely you can do a better fox pilot for ten.

also, why is everyone calling them chyrons? the chyron machine you might find in a OB truck or linear edit suite is for 2D text (think captions and sports scores). the fringe titles are clearly 3D and feel more like composited graphic inserts than "chyrons." you're all short-shrifting the money spent on this intrusive and not overly-exciting production gimmick.

Miranda said...

I find the ginormous 3-D title cards obnoxious, especially when they appear to be blocking the road, etc. It's a gimmick.

I wasn't overly impressed with the pilot. I'll give it a few more weeks, but if it doesn't get good pretty fast, I'm out. I'm not really a fan of J.J. Abrams (though I watched "Alias" and watch "Lost"), but I expect better from him.