By: Kevin Kelly, Special TCA Correspondent
When your show opens with a mysterious plane on the verge of crashing, skin melting off passengers’ faces, not to mention a mystery that has you racing to the internet for clues — it’s safe to say you’re not watching your standard CBS procedural. In fact, odds are good that the show you’re watching involves none other than [TV Addict Favorite] J.J. Abrams, who was on hand at this morning’s Television Critics Press Tour alongside his entire creative team [and via satellite] stars Josh Jackson, Anna Torv and John Noble to talk about FOX’s highly anticipated new series FRINGE. Or as I like to call it, X-FILES with a bigger budget.
But shhhhh, let’s just keep that between us okay!
Turns out that J.J. Abrams, alongside co-executive producers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman visibly bristle whenever a member of the press compares the show to that other show about paranormal phenomena. Which makes for a heck of an akward question and answer period. Because (a) the comparison was made on more than one occasion and (b) one can’t help but compare the two shows to each other since they both feature male and female leads who just so happened to be FBI agents that coincidentally made their bread and butter by investigating the paranormal.
FRINGE, according to Abrams was inspired by ALTERED STATES, WESTWORLD, and even COMA. The creative team embraces David Cronenberg wholeheartedly and wanted a show that was similar to the X-FILES and NIGHT STALKER, but with an emphasis on brainy characters investigating strange occurrences. Again, nothing like the X-FILES.
J.J. revealed that he’s trying to split his time between post-production on STAR TREK, while continuing to be involved with FRINGE. He co-wrote the pilot, and plans to stay as involved as he can with the writing and the story arcs and even plans on directing one of the episodes. Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that J.J. also hoped to direct an episode of LOST for oh, the past two seasons. And that if Trekkies had their way, Abrams would most likely be locked inside the STAR TREK editing bay — at phaser-point — until the movie was completely finished. I mean it’s bad enough Paramount already had to push the movie’s release from Christmas ’08 to Summer ’09. Trekkies aren’t known for their patience. Well, maybe those unemotional Vulcans… But I digress.
Not surprisingly, FRINGE will include everything fans have come to expect from a J.J. Abrams Adventure. Mysterious hieroglyphs, strange watermarks and unexplained phenomena such as green glowing frogs. In addition, Abrams promised, as only Abrams could, that everything will be revealed in due time. In other words, viewers should ensure Tylenol is at the ready. As I have a feeling we’re in for several seasons of question after question after question. Only to be followed by one disappointing answer and did we mention, more questions.
So many questions in fact that it was decided that forty-three minutes was not enough time each week to pack everything the creative team wanted to into each and every episode. So FOX gave Abrams fifty minutes. Which means we can finally put to rest one big mystery. With the ability to convince greedy network executives to shave seven minutes of commercial time off a very expensive show, J.J. Abrams is officially the most powerful man in Hollywood.