By the end of FRINGE’s pilot — airing tonight at 9 p.m. ET on FOX — you’ll be asking, “What the hell went wrong?” Sadly, you’ll be talking about the show itself as opposed to the central mystery involving the decomposed bodies found aboard a doomed flight.
While the opening sequence is exciting, anyone who’s seen the ads — and who hasn’t? — knows the fate of Flight 627 and those on board. Unfortunately, while the grounding of LOST’s Oceanic Flight 815 set into motion a series of unforgettable and gripping events, FRINGE’s doomed airliner goes from intriguing to predictable upon landing.
While the plot zips along at a breakneck pace, one quickly realizes that’s due to an fervent hope that viewers won’t notice that the road they’re traversing was cobbled together with characters and scenes stolen from a million better offerings.
Every character fits into a nice, neat little box. Worse, assuming we’re not smart enough to figure out who’s been assigned to which stereotype, the script leads us by the nose. Just before meeting Joshua Jackson’s obnoxious alter ego, we’re told he “sounds like a pain in the ass.” And he is! Our heroine, Olivia, has personal issues with her prickly boss (is there any other kind?), and the scientist is, of course, of the mad variety. The action even unfolds on sets recognizable from every science fiction project ever, from the laboratory which has conveniently remained basically intact despite having been abandoned years earlier to the generic Massive Dynamics, an all-encompassing corporation comprised of huge empty spaces (no doubt meant to represent an emptiness where their heart should be) and sterile walls. Even the storyline is paint-by-numbers, with someone realizing late in the game that the prerequisite car chase was missing and needed to be squeezed in.
The only thing missing is a hooker with a heart of gold… but hey, maybe they’re saving that for episode two. Maybe the hooker can work with our gal Olivia, because in the pilot, it starts to seem as if it’s her, the mad scientist and his son against the world.
What works works well. The special effects are top notch, as is the acting. But by the time Olivia is sharing the modern (if less believable) version of a Vulcan mind meld with her near-dead lover, the whole mess is more likely to inspire eye rolling then excitement among viewers.