Wednesday, January 28, 2009


You can't help but compare Fringe to The X-Files, and now it has become very apparent that they are even going to be patterned in similar fashion. After last week's (yes I'm going to say it) mythology episode, this week was easily monster of the week.

The funny thing is that, no matter what Fringe gets right, there are a few things that it gets horribly wrong. In last week's episode we have Agent Dunham, like some new age James Bond with all her female helplessness, asking a captor for a drink of water, and then asking him to unrestrain her so that she may drink it.

I mean, seriously, this is worse than blatant. You make jokes about it before it even happens, assuming that they wouldn't write off the whole ease of her escape as "finding an idiot to unlock her and let her escape." This was what bothered me with Valkyrie, it seemed that no matter who Tom Cruise talked to, he couldn't find someone who would actually call Hitler up and say, "Man, they're planning to kill you." Where that film played off Nazis as just misunderstood heroes working under a monster, Fringe has a way of playing off your criminals as, well, idiots.

How does Dunham discover who it is that captured her? The man works with her at the FBI and he has a spot on his shoe. A SPOT! Something he didn't clean off in the morning, by coincidences that Dickens would feel bad about reading, leads her to coming up with her big breakthrough idea. Look, at least Greg House has conversations with people before he puts 2 and 2 together and it comes back as 4 instead of 22. What I'm trying to say is, in one episode, both a henchman falls for the oldest trick in the book, and an apparent mastermind neglects his own hygiene to the extent that his mask is useless.

My father watched this show and said it reminded him of Dr. Who and the bad thing is that this show isn't low budget at all, they just couldn't write any other way of escaping, any other way of figuring it all out. It's getting to be quite sad now, because this was really where The X-Files excelled, at least for someone like me. Even the mythology episodes post-Duchovny that were annoyingly all about chasing Mulder, it seemed like the people who were making the show at least knew what they were doing.

So hey, maybe I'm being judgmental, maybe this is why a show like Lost (that I haven't seen) is so acclaimed, this new form of "Hey, it looks like we don't get it either" way of making shows doesn't really do it for me, though. The main problem here is that Fringe could be a really good show, but it's not. When trying for some kind of science realism, which is an apparent shift of focus from something like The X-Files, please don't show me some kind of cheap fake thrill as a hand coming out of a computer screen, even if you are going to pass it off as a hallucination. I can't get rid of the feeling that I'm watching a B movie that's trying to be bad.

And you know the whole Scully-Mulder ambigiuty? Yeah, it's back, in a lesser way, but an even more dated way now. I'm tired of any sort of running serial that treats character relationships statically. One of the reasons I've grown to despise certain aspects of House, the main reason I really enjoyed season three of Dexter til near the end. I understand that it's hard to segment off a couple on a show and then have them break up (something that may or may not have happened on Bones which I've seen maybe an episode and a half of), but shows need to learn that any sort of staticness, predictability not played for comic appeal begins to draw on a show.

It also seems like there are enough scary things in our world to play with, rather than Fringe needing to revert to time machines (actually brilliantly done in the film Primer), huge flu viruses, and all sorts of seriously fake sounding things. The theme given by Peter Bishop in the last episode, about how all of this is real and we just don't know about it, is the kind of thing that made Burn After Reading a comedy, and just makes this show appear like it's trying too hard. Do you remember Jurrasic Park? (I need to read the book one of these days.) What was the reveal in Jurassic Park? That the DNA they used to fill in the dinos was from frogs that changed gender when necessary. Even if not of word of that was true, it made sense. The character of Walter Bishop and all these stories he has of all these great scientific things he does, well, they're running thinner each time, and I'm taking them with so many grains of salt, that I'm not even going to drink that glass of water, since it deserves to be in the Atlantic.

The goal of the show does seem to be this sort of "Look at what's going on in the world that you'll never know about," but at this it fails completely, because you can never watch it without at least a small shred of disbelief, and with the number of times I've laughed at it as of late, I'm not sure I can compare it to The Unborn, but it has the same problem. It wants to be good, it wants to work, it really does, and you have to give it that, but...

If anyone out there likes Lie to Me, is actually making an effort to watch Lie to Me, then I'm sorry, but a show like that, that basically reduces every lie ever told to being so blatant as to making an overly visible twitch or a smile necessary, is a foil to the reason something like Fringe doesn't work. It's the uncanny valley (something I actually agree with Freud about), because the show tries so hard to maintain this reality and then place it's irreality underneath, that it fails, while so many other shows aren't even going for real these days, granted, they just aren't trying hard.

But the worst part of all this is that Fringe is promising. It's actually worthy enough to DVR. (Which is a whole new endeavor in itself because of this new way of commercials that Fox has, where they're going to cut to about 5 minutes or something like that of ads per show. What no one notices is that commercials are such a reality of life for people without a DVR, that they've learned to do things during the breaks, and this is only breaking a relatively recent social construct, plus, people who have a DVR aren't going to watch commercial breaks, "because they're shorter.) Joshua Jackson only makes me think of Pacey every now and then, and has now become, comically, the man you go to when you need something done illegally. And it's the kind of show that gets to the point where you say "one more episode" after each one.

So, I don't really know what to say about it, except that I'm liking Leverage better, but perhaps, like Levi Weaver, "I’ve always been better at writing with a bit of vitriol," so have as much to say about it. I just feel that Fringe could have so much going for it, and more than enough to make a good show has been squandered.

But then again, on the topic and yet irrelevant, is Lucas Douglas seriously getting his own show? FTW.

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