Already one of the most hyped and heavily-advertised shows of the Fox fall season (even though it won't premiere for at least another three months), "Fringe" is a product of J.J. Abrams and "the writers of Transformers" if you believe the commercials. Abrams is still riding high on being the man behind "Felicity", "Alias" and "Lost" (even though he directed the reprehensibly bad Mission: Impossible III) and this new show for Fox is reminding us hard of that fact. Oh, how Fox would like to segue this pilot into a "Lost"-level success for their network, but, if the pilot is any indication, all they'll be recreating is their own history.
A biological disaster on a plane segues into a weak and somewhat incoherent tale of an FBI agent trying to cure her boyfriend of some science-fiction ailment that turns his body clear, exposing the inner workings to look "cool". She recruits Joshua Jackson of "Dawson's Creek" to get his father out of the looney bin, as he was a secret government scientist who used to work on all manner of sci-fi bullshit.
Well, as quick as you can say "X-Files", you're up to your balls in weirdness, nebulous conspiracies that exist only to make the viewers tune in to find out more, and flimsy plotting. In fact, the whole thing reeks of the early 90's Fox era, including all the old hits like "The X-Files", "VR.5" and "Strange Luck". It's like one of the huge failures of generic Friday night sci-fi Fox televison was cracked out of cyrofreeze and had modern effects slapped all over it to make it seem like more than just another rehashing of the "government dabbles in pseudoscience and keeps it secret with the help of shadowy conspiracy figures so that they can control the world" type crap, which at this point just stinks of cliche.
The plot is desperately slim, providing very little of interesting substance for its fairly two-dimensional characters. In fact, you'll be lucky if you even catch most of their names. And if you're surprised by the ending, well then I have a series of children's books you'll surely enjoy. The lead, Anna Torv, is yet another import, pulling off a not-entirely-natural American accent and character, but is more or less decent, though not one of the more charasmatic or interesting leads of the past many years. Joshua Jackson, on the other hand, is and it's good to see him again after only catching him in fare like Cursed, The Skulls, Cruel Intentions, and Urban Legend. While some of those films were enjoyable (definitely not talking about The Skulls), Jackson has been severely underused, as he's a very amusing, amiable, and charasmatic actor and this kind of lead suits him. Unfortunately, the show might not be up to the snuff that would be beneficial to Jackson's career. Most of the acting is decent, but it's not the kind of character-driven writing that will really give any of the actors anything much to do.
The visuals take a step to be cinematic and give an above-standard appearance, but in this day and age nothing about the whole thing is impressive and it's all about 5 years behind the times and badly in need of much better writing if it hopes to make it through the fall. And knowing Fox's predilictions for destroying sci-fi shows with bad ratings, not even the "Lost" buzz and the Abrams name can keep it afloat if it's just a snore-worthy "X-Files" riff that brings nothing new or interesting to the table. In fact, it could stand to step up to the bar set by "The X-Files", a show I don't even really like, as it's still not there yet. Hopefully Abrams and his team will think long and hard about these things over the coming months, otherwise it'll probably be cancelled in six months.