We're 5 episodes into Fox's Fringe, a show about the outer reaches of science—imaginable if not particularly feasible advances in areas like telekinesis, telepathy, reanimation, invisibility—and a global conspiracy to develop and test these advances, often with murderous results. Only it sounds more interesting than it is.
Here are five reasons that I'm taking a break from Fringe:
1. Anna Torv as Agent Olivia Dunham has all the charisma of a wounded bird.
In each episode, Fringe's main character looks like she's about to
break apart into a million pieces. She might be the most brilliant
investigator in the history of the FBI. But doesn't have the verve to
carry the show.
2. Joshua Jackson as Peter Bishop has all the charisma of a petulant teenager.
His job on the show so far is to begrudgingly assist his father Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) and to act grumpy.
3. Each show comes wrapped up in a tidy bow.
Unlike with Lost, where questions lead to more questions, most of the
intriguing details of Fringe are wrapped up by the end of each episode. Olivia
sees her dead boyfriend reappearing. It's quickly explained away as a
side-effect from her time inside his brain. A few mysteries are teased
out—what are the motives behind the catastrophes? What is Massive
Dynamics hoping to accomplish? Is Olivia's reanimated boyfriend a bad
guy? But the plot doesn't seem to be moving forward.
4. The giant suspension bridge of disbelief is starting to crumble.
Look, my favorite show on TV is about a group of humans flying across
the galaxy chased by Cylons. I'm more than willing to suspend my belief for the cause of science-fiction. The outlandish problems that come
across the Fringe team's desk don't scare me away. But it's the
even more outlandish solutions that Walter comes up with, usually in a
few hours' time and with a neat little twist that would change the course
of human science if it weren't simply being employed to solve crimes.
Dr. Bishop's inventions are the show's deus ex machina, and it always feels a bit like cheating by the screenwriters.
5. I already watch too damn much TV.
There are too many good shows I'm trying to keep up with—and that's not even counting getting caught up on Mad Men and Pushing Daisies. At least for now, I'm bowing out.
But... here are two reasons I might someday come back to Fringe:
1. John Noble is fantastic.
Even when his crime-solving science projects get a little silly, Dr.
Walter Bishop is among the best new characters on TV this year. He's
both grandfatherly and dangerous; he shows flashes of great anger and
then humble remorse. And he's self-absorbed but with a sense of
curiosity and playfulness. I'll miss him.
2. J.J. Abrams may just be holding his cards close to the chest.
At its best, Lost was the most intriguing show on TV in a long time. With Fringe,
there are at least hints of more interesting twists in store for the
investigators. If you decide to keep watching and it gets better,
please do let me know.