You can love him or hate him. Doesn’t matter. People watch his shows and his movies. J. J. Abrams’ newest endeavor, the very strangely movie-like Fringe, casts three people against a global threat known only as the “Pattern”. If it is weird and creepy and just plain insane, then I’m betting Fringe will be tapping into it. But is the show good? Like all items produced from a creative mind, it has its amazing side. Too bad the nasty side tends to drip and sweat all over the carpet anyway.
First, you have to understand something about episodic content. Television is produced as episodes. Meaning, one show links to the next show and so forth. Originally, television was created to sell you stuff. It still is, but mainly it is designed to deliver the fear-inducing news to make you keep voting idiots into the White House. Anyway, Fringe’s concept is sound. There are strange things happening and they all link to secret United States-sanctioned experiments. Episode 2 had a man that was grown in a test tube. He got a girl pregnant and the baby went to term in, oh, fifteen minutes. Then the baby exploded out her belly and grew to be an old man in about an hour. That is awesome. That is the type of Sci-Fi I want in my life. The problem, though, is that we will never, ever know what the damn “Pattern” is. If they reveal the “Pattern”, then there would be no reason to watch the show. Just like Lost. If they got off the island, the show would be over. But, you might be asking, how is this different than Movies or Novels?
Well, Movies and Novels tend to focus on one, solid thing we can latch on to. Even if weird shit happens, we still understand that the main narrative is about a father and a son, or a mother and her daughter, or whatever. Television shows like Fringe toss tons of narrative hooks at us, and they bounce from one to the other to keep us interested. What was up with the hot FBI chick who had an affair with her partner? What is up with the smart old man that is crazy? How about his son, with a 190 IQ? And why is the guy from The Wire even on this show? He can get any part he damn well wants? The mystery of “The Pattern” won’t be solved. Any clues they toss at us won’t make any difference and won’t matter.
Fringe is just like the X-files. Once the show has a solid run, it will burn out and fade away. There is nothing wrong with that. But, I advocate that all television shows have a finite run. The aforementioned television genius, The Wire, is brilliant because we all knew that the plot lines and narratives started at the beginning of the season would end at the end of the season. And we knew that the show only had five seasons. When television shows have a limited, pre-set run, then we can set back and enjoy the show. We know the answers are coming our way. Fringe won’t give us anything but constant, creative teases. It’s not surprising, but it isn’t filling. Think of it like a piece of good candy. Go ahead and eat it. Damn candy tastes great. But it isn’t a substitute for a steak dinner. Oh, and guys? Saying that you wrote Transformers isn’t something to brag about. Just saying.