Film (with rating): Fringe: The Complete First Season
Studio: Warner Home Video
Summary: When three unlikely colleagues-a beautiful and determined FBI agent (Anna Torv), a brilliant and certifiably crazy scientist (John Noble) and his roguish son (Joshua Jackson)- team up to investigate a series of peculiar deaths and disasters, they suspect that someone is using the world as a giant laboratory.
Review: I’ve been following this series since it first aired last fall on Fox. From the start, I loved the mix of slight comedy and massive creepiness combined with likeable characters and a mysterious, yet engaging, plot. Joshua Jackson (hello, Pacey! Nice to see you’re in a decent series for once) is the most well-known actor in the bunch, but Australian Anna Torv is excellent as well.
Yet it’s John Noble–and his quirky performance as the off-kilter, formerly institutionalized Dr. Walter Bishop–who makes each episode a keeper. His one-liners (sometimes unintentional) break the tension of a scene, and Jackson’s dry wit finish the job. But even with this comedic relief, “Fringe” does not go overboard and create slapstick banter or a watering-down of the issue at hand. Bishop’s acting chops see to that. The dialogue feels realistic, not forced, and never overshadows the general dark, ominous tone of the show. The writing is just fantastic. Perhaps that’s why it was nominated for a 2009 Writers Guild Award for best new series.
At first, I thought “Fringe” would be too “X Files”-ish for my taste, too surreal and way too sci-fi. But I quickly learned that while the series has those elements, it’s much more of a mystery/drama/horror/forensics show, with an enjoyable creepy factor thrown in for good measure. I should have clued in when I saw J.J. Abrams of “Lost” fame was at the helm. This series isn’t as mind-bending as is “Lost,” but it’s just as smart and engaging. In addition, the special effects and visual quality of “Fringe” are amazing, especially for television standards.
If you haven’t yet seen the series, now is a perfect time to check out all 20 of the first-season episodes. The second season begins this month, so it’s time to get hooked, and figure out what type of crazy apparatus Walter will plug his head into next.
Extra highlight: The “Behind the Real Science of ‘Fringe'” featurette, as well as the Gene the Cow montage, just for kicks.
What to serve for dinner: Since all the characters definitely don’t have time to stay home and cook a wholesome meal, do what they would do and order some food to be delivered. Try something totally off-beat, but stay away from beef, in respect of Gene. Perhaps some tea-smoked duck like that served at Fu-Shing’s in Pasadena. Or stick with a tried-and-true staple, vegetable chow mein.
What to talk about over dinner: Do you believe things in “Fringe” could ever happen? Are happening? Could someone run massive scientific experiments on the population? Will science ever invent a realistic robotic hand? Who is your favorite character? What was your favorite episode? What about the season finale? How would an alternate reality like that be? Do you think Peter and Olivia will get together? How can Walter be so loveably crazy and annoying and brilliant, all at once? What is the deal with Olivia’s ex? Own up–did you ever watch “Dawson’s Creek?” What do you think is in store for us when “Lost” starts up again next year (yes, folks, it won’t be back until 2010)?