One of the problems with being an editor is that the part of my mind that picks stories apart rarely shuts down completely. Occasionally, if there’s interesting visual input or strong acting in a movie, tv show, or play, I get absorbed and the analytical engine goes into idle (this does not mean that I won’t be picking the thing apart half an hour after it’s over).
But usually, especially if I’m only half-watching (because I’m reading, working on a puzzle, doing needlework, or gaming), I find that I get stuck on flaws and inconsistencies and plain old silliness.
Sometimes this puts me at odds with reviewers. Case in point, J.J. Abrams’ new series, Fringe. From the publicity and pre-broadcast reviews, this is supposedly the best new series on broadcast tv this season.
It’s my personal policy not to make a judgment on a series based on the pilot or first episode alone; often the initial outing is padded to fill additional time or so stuffed with commercials that you can’t get a sense of the pace and style of the real thing.
But now I’ve seen two episodes, and in my opinion, if this is the best new show of the Fall, the rest of the season is going to be pretty lousy. (Which might be true anyway, oy. [Caveat: I don’t have cable.])
Much of Fringe feels familiar, especially the protagonists, who come across as pretty off-the-shelf. There’s the federal agent who’ll play fast and loose with rules and regulations when she feels that’s the only way to get to the truth. There’s the hot-tempered outsider who doesn’t trust the government or any authority, the guy whose cynical attitude conceals a heart of gold. The third main character screams “plot device”—a half-mad scientist whose messed-up memory will undoubtedly provide numerous rabbits out of hats in the course of the season.
The flesh-melting “disease” in the first episode was a cool concept, and I liked the bit where the heroine had to perform a drug-induced mind-meld with her unconscious lover and FBI partner via a sensory-deprivation tank. Blair Brown’s artificial arm was a nice bit of CGI.
But . . . how come the super-secret government agency had to arrange for the mad scientist’s son to have legal custody of him to get the old man out of the mental institution? Surely the govt. could have concocted some sort of legal mumbo-jumbo to lay claim to the guy, or done a black op and just made him “disappear?”
And in the second episode, why did the rapidly-aging serial killer have to kill to get pituitary hormone? There are synthetics. And why were all his victims pretty young women? If he’s just after hormones, anyone would do . . . .
Little things like that keep me from enjoying myself.
I might watch a few more episodes—Joshua Jackson’s kind of cute—but only until something better comes along or I give into the temptation to watch that week’s House immediately after it finishes recording (I don’t watch tv between 8 and 9 because that’s family/homework time).