Customer Review

309 of 337 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Starts slowly but builds up to a brilliant second half with enormous potential, May 12, 2009
This review is from: Fringe: Season 1 (+ BD-Live) [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I have dual suggestions for anyone thinking of trying FRINGE. First, definitely watch it. Second, be very, very patient. The show eventually gets very, very good, but it takes a very long time to get there. I have a theory as to why that is. FOX has a tendency to micro manage many of its shows. DOLLHOUSE is an example. After Joss Whedon brought them his initial pilot, they nixed it and asked for a new one, and then dictated that the first several episodes be standalone episodes. And guess what. In the sixth episode DOLLHOUSE became one of the best shows on TV, with multiple delicious plot twists. The weakest part of the series? The first five stand alone episodes. I have not heard similar things about FRINGE, but given that the first half of the season tends to be almost all stand alone episodes and that they are far and away the weakest part of the show, I suspect more FOX interference. FRINGE has been compared to THE X-FILES in many ways, but one way that they are dissimilar is that THE X-FILES standalone episodes were far superior to FRINGE's standalone episodes. So the viewer has to be patient for the payoff for watching the show to come to fruition. But the payoff does finally come. About halfway through the series a "mythology" arc emerges in a most satisfying way, resulting in a string of deeply satisfying and exciting episodes in the second half of the season. At the end of the first year, it hasn't yet quite become a great show, but it shows all the potential of becoming one. But perhaps only if FOX will get out of the way and let them get on with the story.

The show also suffered from internal problems, the main one being casting. I came to like Anna Torv in the lead role of Agent Olivia Dunham, but she remained in many ways the show's weak link. Many fans noted that her American accent (Torv is Australian) often faded and especially early in the show her Aussie accent would briefly creep in. She isn't a bad actress, but neither is she - comparing the show once again to THE X-FILES - Gillian Anderson, who was by any accounting a brilliant actress. When I watch FRINGE, I often wonder just what the show would be like with a stronger actress in the lead role. I also have not yet become sold on Joshua Jackson as Peter Bishop, but this may be far more of a problem with the writers fully integrating him into the show. (Though the season ends with a great, great twist involving Peter that explains a lot of the background on Walter's story.) Other than being Walter's son, his role in the greater scheme of things hasn't really become clear, though perhaps the writers envision a more crucial role in Season Two. Lance Reddick is a powerful physical presence, but is another actor who has perhaps been under utilized at this point.

Which leaves John Noble as Walter Bishop. Is there a more delightful supporting character on TV? He steals just about every scene he is in as the delightfully idiosyncratic and marvelously insane genius Walter Bishop. Walter is both a wonderfully written character and brilliantly portrayed by Noble. Sci-fi series do not as a rule get much recognition by the Emmys, but I would love to see Noble get a nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama. Many of the great moments of the show's first season revolve around Walter. And there are so many fine Walter moments that some go unnoticed. Among my favorites was in the show's penultimate episode where the crew is assembled in Walter's Harvard lab and someone says they need to turn the lights out. Walter gleefully tells them all to hold on and he claps his hands, demonstrating that he has "the Clapper" installed in the lab. But what makes the scene so funny is a very subtle bit of business. Walter has been passing out cookies and has one of his own. To be able to clap, he has set his own cookie down on the derrière of the corpse he has been examining and that is laying immediately in front of him. So while Walter is clapping his cookie is on this dead guy's rear end. Typical Walter. Not least because of Walter's penchant for blending the investigation of the most grotesque phenomena with food. Icky disfigured corpse? Nothing like that to get Walter to think about food!

The best thing about FRINGE is that it got better as it went along. This is a great sign for Season Two. I blame FOX for the slow first half of the season. Maybe I'm wrong in doing that, but we know for a fact that FOX messed up the first half of DOLLHOUSE, and they've been known to interfere with the development of other shows. The fact is this: executive producers and their writers know more about how to do a great show than network executives do. Maybe they feel that they need to earn their salaries by "crafting" the new series, but generally what they do is mess things up. You hire someone like J. J. Abrams or Joss Whedon to do a series, just get out of the way and let them do what they inevitably do better than you do.

So definitely watch this show. Be patient. It starts off OK, but about halfway through the season it will really start to kick tail. I think there is some core weakness in the cast, but not to the degree that it cripples the show. Best of all, this show really feels like it is going somewhere special. Make sure you are along for the ride.
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Comments

Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 19 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 31, 2009 2:03:25 PM PDT
shelbelw says:
You've really captured everything with this review. I couldn't have said it better. Nice job!

In reply to an earlier post on May 31, 2009 9:28:26 PM PDT
Robert Moore says:
Thank you :)

And aren't you really looking forward to Season Two? I'm really excited to see where they pick up after that last image.

Posted on Jul 29, 2009 8:57:20 AM PDT
Tony T says:
Many thanks for a great review. I have just finished viewing the X-Files from beginning to end and it became part of my daily life! So I am now looking for a replacement and intend to try this after reading your comments and yes I will not expect too much to begin with. Thanks again.

Posted on Feb 25, 2010 4:33:21 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 25, 2010 4:34:20 PM PST
Valentina says:
Good review but who really gives that much that her Aussie accent crept in? She's so bloody good in the part (no I'm not english but my husband is) and the show is so much fun that I don't care if her American accent is or isn't perfect. Frankly, I didn't even notice..

Posted on Mar 1, 2010 6:27:10 AM PST
Wonderful review! I'm gonna buy it but there's something I need to know and I want to ask for your help: Does it have Spanish subtitles? The DVD does but it looks that the BD doesn't. I know that the package says it doesn't have but sometimes they made mistakes. So please, could you tell me if the show in BD has spanish subtitles? I'd really appreciate it. Thanks you.

Posted on Apr 9, 2010 5:16:54 AM PDT
Doc Landis says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 17, 2010 2:57:44 PM PDT
Ray Wilson says:
I thought it was an excellent review. Far more useful than Doc Landis's comment. Why anyone would work so hard to hurt someone else's feelings is a mystery. You must be a very sad human being.

In reply to an earlier post on May 8, 2010 12:22:47 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 10, 2012 2:01:54 PM PST
"so while you might think you are a stand-in for the NYT review staff, you probably put more to sleep than you garnered fans of this great television series"

That's funny! Reading your response made me think that you belong in New York Times as well. Preferrably in the obit' section under the heading: "Internet D-bag Gone, but not Missed."

In reply to an earlier post on May 20, 2010 4:20:25 PM PDT
Akela says:
Doc, shouldn't you be at school?

Posted on May 20, 2010 4:23:58 PM PDT
Akela says:
Thank you for reviving my hopes: Dollhouse has been sitting on the floor under some chair for months by now. I watched the first 4 episodes and simply could not believe that it was done by Joss Whedon. And thanks for an excellent review on Fringe (haven't seen that small scene with the cookie yet - very much looking forward to it).
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Robert Moore
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Location: Chicago, IL USA

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