You had me at “I also speak Farsi.”

[Note: There are NO spoilers in this post — I barely say anything about last night’s plot at all, and what I do say won’t ruin anything for you, I promise.]

Okay, so I watched Fringe last night.  And wonder of wonders!  I liked it!  That is, I recognize that it has many, many flaws, not the least of which is science that doesn’t even make an attempt at making any degree of sense whatsoever.  However, when the first two utterances out of my mouth five minutes in were, “Ewwww!” followed quickly by an exuberant and sing-song, “AWE-some!” I knew I was in for a good time.

The show reminded me quite a bit of J. J. Abrams previous chick-helmed thriller, Alias, and while it’s in no way as good as Alias was (the first episode of Alias so blew my mind I ended up watching the entire first season in a single weekend), I think that with time, the character dynamics in Fringe will be as good as the ones in Alias.

Abrams needs to be careful, though, because there were many elements of the pilot episode of Fringe that were clearly taken directly from old Alias episodes, as well as from Lost (the Massive Dynamic ad at the end, e.g.).  Not to mention those scene titles that were totally ripped off from some movie or another — Fight Club, maybe?  I’d tone that stuff down if I were him. It isn’t necessary, and really derivative stuff like that makes me nervous that I’m spending time on a show that’s going to end up being pretty uninspired when all is said and done  (however, I’ll be waiting anxiously for Greg Grunberg’s guest appearance — he shows up in every Abrams show at least once, and I see no reason to buck that trend just because he’s got a steady gig on Heroes now).

The good news is, it sounds like Abrams has no intention of making this a show like Lost, where if you miss a single episode, you might as well throw yourself in front of a bus for all the hope you have of ever catching up.  Though there will obviously be an over-arching storyline in Fringe (about “The Pattern”), Abrams has said a number of times already that each episode will also be somewhat stand-alone.  More like The X-Files back when it was brilliant, before it got too bogged down in conspiracy subplots.  This is good.

Joshua Jackson is also very, very fun in this (he’s the one who had me at “I also speak Farsi,” by the way —  that made me laugh out loud), playing a sarcastic genius named Peter Bishop with a bit of a sweet side to him.  I look forward to the sexual tension he’ll get to emote as the storyline develops — he’s really good at sexual tension.  And though I wasn’t TOO crazy about Anna Torv (the FBI agent lady, who is noooooo Jennifer Garner), she might grow on me with time.

Also, it’s always nice to see the actor I call “Mr. Emaciated” (Lance Reddick, the African American guy who plays her boss, Philip Broyles).  I loved him on Oz and The Wire and was surprised and pleased to see him in this.  He’s a very talented actor, despite the fact I am frequently so distracted by his extremely prominent cheekbones I can barely follow his dialogue (somebody super-size that man’s cheeseburger, STAT!).

And then, of course, there’s Kirk Acevedo, who never did manage to make it onto the Boyfriend of the Week site as a BoB Boyfriend (I did a series of actors from HBO’s Band of Brothers, remember?), but he’s been on the list for years, so maybe this will encourage me to finally get my act together.

Anyway, I won’t say anything about the plot from last night, in case people haven’t seen it yet (note: if you missed it last night, they are rerunning it Sunday).  But even though it was a little Kevin Bacon’s Hollow Man, I have high hopes that as the show goes forward, the plots will get a bit stronger and the science will get a bit more intriguing.  The human brain is a fascinating thing — there’s a lot of stuff about it we don’t understand yet.  The writers of this series don’t need to invent fake science (take LSD and float in a tank of water and maybe you can communicate with Coma Boy!) in order to put together interesting stories.  Really, all they need to do is start start subscribing to Discover magazine (case in point: this month’s issue has a lengthy article about a scientist who has figured out a way to let a guy with “locked-in syndrome” control a computer cursor WITH HIS THOUGHTS.  Damn!  That is rad!).

Can’t wait for the next episode.  Of course, since I’m this excited about it, that means it will surely be canceled within the next three weeks.  I apologize in advance for my kiss of death.

“Excellent.  Let’s make some LSD!”

16 Responses to “You had me at “I also speak Farsi.””

  1. Lorraine Says:

    OK, I’ll try not to give any spoilers in comments either. I was rather underwhelmed by the show but it has potential so I’ll watch for awhile. I agree about the “science”. I dislike this approach to science because it just feeds the general fear-mongering. Maybe they were trying to jam too much in the pilot but the timeline of the events was so unbelievable that it made “Lost” look like reality tv.

    I liked the female lead, Anna Torv, but Joshua Jackson seemed rather uneasy to me. But, I think he can settle in and do a great job. Great comment about Lance Reddick, he has some ridiculously low body fat ratio as we were able to see on “The Wire”. But he’s great. Meg, help me out, who is Kirk Acevedo? The other FBI guy?

    I got a great kick out of Peter Outerbridge’s small role (he was the doctor). He was recently in a Canadian series called “Regenesis” (as a doctor) which handled science much better than Fringe. I recommend it to anyone who likes good medical science.

    This may be a little spoilery, so don’t read it if you want to know nothing – it bothered me greatly that someone with a skin/tissue problem was being wheeled all over the place with no concern about infection.

  2. Jessie Says:

    I’m cautiously optimistic. At the end of Fringe, I realized that I want to know what happens, but I’ve never followed a JJ Abrams show to the end (I gave up on Alias, and I won’t be watching Lost next season). I really don’t want to be screwed over again. We’ll see, I suppose.

    I wasn’t impressed by Anna Torv. Not to be spoilery, but I was pretty happy about how her personal life ended up, because that was going to be reeeeeeally boring if it had kept up.

    But I’m pretty sure John Noble’s character has enough interest and charisma for all three of them. I like him.

  3. megwood Says:

    Kirk was the other FBI agent, yep. The short-ish guy who was helping Anna Torv’s character. So cute!


    Jessie — I definitely predicted the boyfriend wasn’t going to make it through the first episode. As soon as they swapped I-Love-Yous, I knew one or the other had to be doomed! J. J. Abrams never lets anybody actually be happily in uncomplicated-love for very long. Except maybe Bernard and Rose!

    Good point about the infection skin/tissue thing, Lorraine! But I definitely don’t see how “fringe” science (which deals with stuff most people don’t believe is possible anyway — invisibility, telekinesis, a “leprositic” chemical contaminant that turns people into breathing Body Worlds exhibits but doesn’t kill them as long as you keep an ice pad over their naughty bits?) is linked to fear-mongering.

    [Aside: You want ACTUAL pseudoscience fear-mongering, check out the recent AP articles about the Large Hadron Collider, which mention that “skeptics” believe it’s going to cause black holes that gobble up the galaxy without also pointing out that those skeptics are widely believed to be complete morons by the scientific community.]

    I did roll my eyes at the fact they found out about the storage shed, which is ultimately what solved the case for them really, after some guy phoned in a tip about two shady-looking Middle Eastern dudes hanging around with a briefcase, though. That’s just sooooo FOX! Don’t forget, if you see any Arabs, be sure to call 911!

  4. Lorraine Says:

    What did I mean by “fear mongering”? In general, people are uninformed about science so they often link something like stem cell research with cloning people. They think science can easily get out of control and wreak havoc (which it can but is not common) instead of something that is methodical. I wasn’t commenting on fringe science in general but how science itself was presented in this show. It made it seem so easy to create a disease and infect a whole plane. Then it was even easier to put together a “mad laboratory” in a single day where they could do almost anything. And of course, the scientist himself was a bit crazy.

    But I do believe that there are evil corporations doing nefarious things 🙂

  5. megwood Says:

    I see what you mean, Lorraine! That’s sort of the way of sci-fi, though (science wreaking havoc, I mean), which is why it doesn’t bother me too much. Plus, they did say the disease had actually been in the works for decades (since Vietnam, said the mad scientist). It wasn’t just whipped up by those twin dudes.

    Most scientists ARE totally crazy, though. I should know — I used to work in labs. It’s what comes from spending 8-10 hours a day repeating the same experiment over and over and over and OVER again. 🙂 Oh, the tedium!!

  6. Brie Says:

    I recorded Fringe, and watched it last night. I liked it, although I found several things distracting.
    I never judge a show by its pilot, though. I’m pretty forgiving of the usual in your face tactics to keep us interested through all of the necessary exposition.
    I thought John Noble was excellent and I love Joshua Jackson.

    I tend to flounder after a few weeks with Abrams shows though, it may be destined to be a dvd watch for me. On the other hand, Jackson is definitely an incentive for me to watch, I’ve missed him!

  7. megwood Says:

    I try not to judge shows on their pilots either — learned that lesson again the hard way when I gave up on “Life” last season after the pilot. Everybody here said I was a moron, so I tried it again a few episodes later and loved it. Such is life when you are dum like me.

  8. Trip Says:

    Can I also just say that the fight scene in the underground garage in the first episode of Alias made me come off the couch and cheer, and was the moment I knew I had to watch the damn thing all the way to the bitter no-Rambaldi Device-explanation end? There.

  9. megwood Says:

    Yes indeedy, Trip. The pilot of Alias is one of the best first episodes of ANYTHING I have ever seen. It was flawless!

  10. Lorraine Says:

    There seems to be quite a few Alias fans here so I’ll duck after I say this 🙂 I never could get into Alias. Before this show appeared there was a TV show called “La Femme Nikita” based on the French movie with the same name. This show rocked!! It starred Peta Wilson as Nikita and Roy DuPuis as Michael. The show had a great mixture of action, intrigue, and character chemistry. So, after watching Nikita, I was underwhelmed by Alias and it seemed like a poor substitute. Alias stole the whole concept and made it a bit more palatable for the masses. But if you never saw “La Femme Nikita” then Alias would seem like a great show 😉

  11. megwood Says:

    I never saw “La Femme” (though I’ve seen both films — the French and the Amer versions). Will have to look for it on DVD!

  12. Trip Says:

    The French version is far superior to the American one – I mean, come on…Bridget Fonda as a cold-blooded ruthless assassin?!

    No question, though – I was more emotionally invested in Alias.

    Any show that features a hot chick skydiving into the bushes behind a swanky party in the south of France, unzipping the jumpsuit to reveal a cocktail dress and blue techno wig, then getting caught picking the safe by the lunkhead bodyguards and beating them to within an inch of their lives with a conveniently placed mop handle ALWAYS gets my vote.

    Which happened in, like, every episode for a while there.

  13. Lorraine Says:

    I agree, definitely check out the French version of the movie “La Femme Nikita”. Your description of Alias is sounds like it could be from the tv show “La Femme Nikita”, except that Michael (the male lead) would be somehow be playing mind games somewhere in there. I think LFN was more international so you were never quite sure where they were except it seemed like Eastern Europe. I shouldn’t malign Alias. It’s just that LFN did it first and I think darker/better.

  14. Trip Says:

    I believe the TV version of LFN was filmed in the Czech Republic for its entire run…that might account for its Eastern European feel.

    Also, there really aren’t many more fun film scenes like the one in French Nikita’s “graduation” in the restaurant…

    That said, I should point out that there are differences between Alias and LFN. Nikita is a full-on assassin. Her only job was to take out targets at the most inopportune times in her life. Sydney Bristow is a spy whose missions were wide-ranging and usually had a coherent goal, when the writers weren’t getting lazy in the later seasons…

  15. Lizzie Says:

    The TV version of “La Femme Nikita” was pretty good … until I thought it got too unemotional and weird. I don’t think I ever saw the original French movie, though I though the Bridget Fonda one was okay. Wasn’t Peta Wilson, from the TV show, also in “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen?” Now there was a strange, and, I think, underrated movie!

    I really liked “Fringe,” and want to keep watching it. It was funny – my husband voiced your first reaction, Meg – “Ew!”, and I think I may have “paraphrased” your second one by chanting “Oh my God.” The ending of our tape got chopped off, but I looked up the show to get a full synopsis. I can’t figure out what they’re going to do with Mark Valley. I thought he was going to be a regular on the show, but when he … you know … maybe he’s going to appear in more of those coma sequences, being questioned by the likes of Blair Brown.

    It reminds me of a crazy British sci-fi series called … “Blackstar,” or “Red Star” – when they kept unfreezing parts of their dead captain’s brain, to ask it questions. Or maybe it was “Red Dwarf” … no, that was the one with the hologram, and the guy whose DNA was mixed up with a cat … good grief, I’m babbling – someone save me from myself!!

    Anyway, I also agree that it’s dangerous to judge a show by its pilot. If I had done that, I would have missed out on “Moonlight,” and that show (sniff) turned out great. And “Life” was certainly another one; I’m glad it’s getting another chance. Okay, I’ll stop now.

  16. Lorraine Says:

    Trip, I think LFN was filmed in Toronto, Canada? I do remember reading that they never mentioned the location of the Section to keep it purposefully ambiguous. It sure did often look and sound like they were in Eastern Europe.

    Never having really watched Alias, I appreciate you describing the difference between the 2 shows. I’m sure part of the reason that I loved LFN was because it was so unique at the time. Plus, every character was so cool and mysterious. LFN did get weird in the 5th season but very few dramas can maintain a story that long. The whole Birkoff look-alike thing was bad. But, I loved the last episode.

    I’m still not sure about “Fringe”. Right now it seems like it is trying too hard to be weird when I wish they would concentrate more on the stories.

    I may be the only one who liked “Life” from episode 1. Actually I loved it and it was definitely my favorite new show last season.

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