Thursday, September 11, 2008

Review: Fringe, Episode 1.1, "Pilot"

Call me entertained.

Fringe is a new science fiction television show created by J.J. Abrams (creator of Alias and co-creator of Lost) and Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman (the writers of Transformers and the upcoming Star Trek film).

It bears a thematic resemblance to The X-Files (incidentally, this episode was broadcast on Tuesday, the day before the 15th anniversary of The X-Files' premiere), but Abrams, Orci, and Kurtzman have made their own show. One can see the touches of all three creators: Abrams brings the intrigue and an overarching mystery, while Orci and Kurtzman bring their knack for blending multiple elements (action, romance, humor) into an entertaining whole.

The premise is FBI Special Agent Olivia Dunham (Australian actress Anna Torv) investigates mysterious events with the help of brilliant but mentally ill scientist Dr. Walter Bishop (played by John Noble, best known as Denethor in The Return of the King) and his estranged son Peter (Joshua Jackson).

The first episode, directed by former West Wing and Journeyman producer/director Alex Graves, is quite entertaining and very polished for a pilot episode. Much time and money (reportedly US$10 million) was spent on the pilot episode alone, and combined with its 90-minute running time makes it feel more like a big screen film.

The first new show to debut in the 2008-09 television season lives up to the hype. It might be too slick for some, but it's well-written and well-cast, the two most important ingredients for a successful television show. The behind the scenes staff is also high quality: cinematographer Michael Bonvillain and composer Michael Giacchino worked on Alias and Lost, while production designer Carol Spier is a longtime collaborator with director David Cronenberg on films like The Fly, Naked Lunch, and Eastern Promises.

I can't wait to see where future episodes, shepherded by showrunner Jeff Pinkner (a former staff writer and producer on Alias and Lost), take the characters and the premise.

Edited to add: If you missed it, FOX will repeat this episode on Sunday, September 14th at 8pm, with new episodes to follow every Tuesday at 9pm.



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