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Saturday, September 20, 2008

FRINGE is losing me fast. And I'm its core audience.


When you have a science fiction show, it's the ordinary drama aspects of the show that will kill you. I can, for the sake of argument, accept that some kind of genetic flaw creates a baby that grows to an old man in 6 hours, even though that violates the law of conservation of mass. (Where did the 8 lb. baby get the extra mass to become a 100 lb. old man?)

But I can't accept, in any television show, that a creepy guy can walk into a strip joint, make friends with a pretty woman who works there, get her to go home with him, and then convince her to go into his abandoned warehouse. Are you frakking kidding me?

At that point, the show ceases to take place in the same universe I live in.

(And even if she's hooking -- an abandoned warehouse? I don't think so.)

I'm also disturbed that the show is establishing a template where they will solve the mystery, in every third or fourth act, by some science-fiction deus ex machina. In the pilot, Agent (should be Special Agent) Dunham goes into an isolation tank, drops LSD, has a spinal hookup to a guy in a coma, and comes out with a face. In this episode, it turns out you can take the images off a dead person's retina.

I wouldn't mind the latter in the first act; I'll accept most anything as a premise. But not in the third or fourth act, where it's helping the heroes. That's going to alienate the audience. Why get involved in the mystery? In act three or four, Dr. Goofyhead is going to explain how you can use Google Maps Beta to locate the characteristic heat signature of an empathic metamorph, and hey! There she is in Harvard Square!

I think there's a lot of bad, sloppy writing in FRINGE, and there's no excuse for it. It's all visual and cool, but I can't get involved, because the show is insulting my common sense.

At least HEROES is coming back. See, I have no problem with HEROES, even though it violates most of the laws of physics -- because the characters more or less make sense. The only insults to my common sense are the science fictiony ones. You can break the laws of physics. But don't break the laws of character or story.



She wasn't a 'pretty girl who worked there,' she was a prostitute. They were all prostitutes. It was more than obvious. At least watch the show before complaining that plot elements are dumb.

By Blogger Greg Harbin, at 7:14 PM  

You stumbled onto the J.J. Abrams magic. Any plot holes are simply glossed over without being addressed. Why dwell on them?

To Gregory:

You're taking a huge leap here -- Yeah, so they were prostitutes? So, it was obvious?

It still doesn't make any sense that as soon as he walks in and locates one doing absolutely nothing, they end up going home with him without so much as a word.

How did he stand out from all the OTHER males in the establishment? Why did the prostitutes go for him? Especially when they weren't even talking to anyone else. Did he look rich? I didn't think so.

I actually thought he might have some charismatic charm "power" because this ability seemed so out of place. And actually somewhat creepy.

Although, it didn't lose me.

I think where FRINGE is losing me is -- the shows feel short. It feels like they are lacking substance. They have a great teaser -- and really that is about it.

By Blogger James, at 7:30 PM  

Prostitutes at strip clubs don't leave the premises. And they sure as hell don't go into abandoned warehouses with their johns.

And then there was the third girl, at the nightclub, who seemed instantly attracted to Creepy Guy. What's his secret? Pheremones?

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 7:30 PM  

The problem with HEROES is that, at least in season 2, it did break the laws of character AND story.

1. Peter Petrelli's arc is that he loses his memory, falls in love with a girl, accidentally dumps that girl into a dystopian future, regains his memory, and then spends the next few episodes trying desperately to eradicate that dystopian future, rather than just go back and rescue her. And let us not forget that in the final episode he even bumps into someone he KNOWS can travel through time and space, and never bothers to actually ask him for help getting her back.

2. During season 1 it's established that Nathan's wife was paralyzed because of an accident Nathan was involved in. This was made public. Everyone knew about it. At the end of that season she's healed, but they agree to keep this quiet until "the right time." In season 2, two months later, she's walking around a hospital like no big deal. No one seems to care that a paralyzed woman just got up out of her wheelchair?

3. During season 1 it was firmly established that people's powers came from their brains. That brains were a big deal. Then in season 2, people's blood could heal people. That doesn't even make sense.

I've got tons of these. During season 2 story logic just went out the window. I'm pretty sure they just gave up trying (what with the strike and all). Maybe with Fringe this is post-strike giving up.

By Blogger Nima Yousefi, at 9:28 PM  

I saw this episode last night and I have to agree. There's a difference between speculative science and wilful ignorance. With one you ask "what if" and see where it takes you. That's not the same as saying, "He drinks bad milk and it gives him two heads, now have them say something to make that sound plausible."

I'm of the core audience, too. I kept thinking Come on, cut it some slack, it's finding its way, but then I started mentally comparing it to the ALIAS pilot and the gulf was just too great.

By Blogger Stephen Gallagher, at 5:14 AM  

This is so good, it has to be in scriptwriting books:

"You can break the laws of physics. But don't break the laws of character or story."

By Blogger gezgin, at 8:53 AM  

I completely agree with you, Alex.

The episode sank to the lowest levels of -- let's torture a few "disposable because they're hookers" women as titillation and then catch the bad guy by just making some shit up.

Unfortunately, FRINGE might just pick up the "style over substance" mantel (and audience) from CSI which used the last image on a retina as the "scientific" solution to one of its cases a couple of seasons ago.

But my prediction is that it could be this season's "Studio 60" where the flashes of genius will be balanced by enough banality -- and perhaps showrunner inattention -- to sink the show.

By Blogger jimhenshaw, at 10:12 AM  

I'm not in love with the show was too "easy" on story and really didn't come up with plausible explanations.

Example: Growing without having to ingest protein or calcium leads to "instant skinny twig guy" with an insane hunger for proteins, etc.. who would snap the instant he tried to walk. If he had attacked a doctor and eaten his flesh then it would have visually explained the problem.

Oh, Alex - when Special Agents are introduced or refer to one another they simply say "Agent." They often don't say "Special Agent" unless they are introduced to a superior or outsider, and only when the occasion demands.

In the USAF we don't call Chief Master Sergeants that, we call them "Chief." Same goes for Generals - Brigadier, Major, Lieutenant - it all becomes "General."

By Blogger Cunningham, at 1:35 PM  

Personally, I think Global Dynamics (from Eureka) expos their products before their apparent demand much better. Doesn't feel like the solution pops up out of nowhere. (But, at the same time, easy to telegraph that a certain character or device will be coming up later as a solution to an unrelated problem).

How do writers for a sci-fi procedural go about balancing the predictability of introducing things early on so there's not too much deus ex machina but also trying not to blatantly pointing out that something unrelated will be the solution to the primary problem of the episode? I guess even House may do something similar with House's genius and also coming up with solutions for the A story while addressing the B or C story at the clinic.

But yeah, nothing like fridge logic pushed to the logical extreme, as we see in Fringe. I'm still interested in the characters, the drama and potential for conspiracy, though, that I'm willing to let the uber-fridge logic slide. I guess that's the advantage of a showrunner having a reputation for a certain type of story (even though I agree that comparatively, the first couple seasons of Alias pulled off the insane Sci-Fi elements very well).

By Blogger The_Lex, at 5:19 PM  

Yeah, Fringe is not awesome at all. This "Pattern" thing doesn't seem to actually have a pattern. Weird things happening is just weird things happening, unless there's a person or a physical trait to the events that do make them in common. I don't really get it. If they're trying to say that a "Pattern" exists because they're all things the crazy Dr. worked on, that's different, but they're not, and there doesn't seem to be much of a direct action to find out who would be taking the crazy Dr.'s work and setting out to do random, unpleasant things to the world. Whatever. The show's absurd.
But you know what? Saw the first two episodes of Heroes, and I think it's actually getting better. A LOT better.

By Blogger Little Miss Nomad, at 6:00 PM  

Cut it some slack...sheesh. Have any of you revisited the 2nd episode of X Files? Or Alias? Or Buffy or Angel even?

Furthermore, writers are smarter than how this show turned out --- so I'm laying money on major network/studio exec intervention to 'keep it stupid, simple...'

That is one advantage of all the above mentioned shows...being on cable nets or dumped onto Fridays and therefore just off the bosses radar, they could either stumble occasionally or be smarter and get away with it.

Let the 'Fringe' dust settle and see what emerges...

By Blogger wcdixon, at 11:50 AM  

Isn't episode 2 of X-Files 'Squeeze'? That pretty perfectly sets the tone of the show...

By Blogger Emma, at 12:48 PM  

'Squeeze' was episode #3 actually...but agree it set tone for series very well.

By Blogger wcdixon, at 3:50 PM  

It's actually pretty difficult to compare eras. The degree of power and tinkering by networks now simply did not have an analogue in the timeframe of early XFiles (1993 or so)

And I call bullshit on the prostitute/no prostitute argument. Nobody cares. You want to hate the show, great. But don't suggest that the problem was that they didn't lay enough pipe about shit up top. That's silly.

The Science on the XFiles is ridiculous. Not to mention Mulder dropping his gun every show and Scully explaining the plot at the 20 minute mark.

I'm up for a little deconstruction as much as the next guy but you armchair quarterbacks are verging into comic book guy territory here.

By Blogger DMc, at 11:28 PM  

I can't believe any of you actually made it past the pilot. I haven't groaned so much since my last prostate exam, which strangely was about the same excruciating duration...

By Blogger Patrick, at 7:27 AM  

Episode 3: SPOILERS...

Umm, why create a totally arbitrary time, make fun of how arbitrary it is, and then totally break your own rules on said timeline?

In the pilot -- Walter says you can only access the info in people's brains 6 hours after death. Joshua Jackson points out how arbitrary this is... but it helps swallow that pill.

In episode 3 -- they FINALLY get a link into John Scott's brain and they are downloading the contents 72 HOURS after his death?!?!?!

Why set up arbitrary rules if you're going to break them 2 episodes later?

By Blogger James, at 6:42 AM  

I probably shouldn't get into plot point discussion, but. . .

I don't believe there's any contradiction to John Scott's brain being linked and downloaded 72 hours later.

The 6 hours is the deadline to reanimate the corpse. I don't remember hearing anything about how long they can keep the corpse animated.

By Blogger The_Lex, at 2:24 PM  

Hate to argue but --

Walter: "I used this to extract information from a corpse once. You can do that if they've been dead up to six hours."

Peter: "Yeah, cause after six hours they're REALLY dead."

That implies that after 6 hours you can't extract information from a corpse. That's Episode 1. Episode 3 they are DLing info from his brain 72 hours later.

Why make arbitrary rules just to break them?

By Blogger James, at 7:50 AM  

Oh, no! Not ambiguous language that can be interpreted in more than one way. And even worse, the people who wrote the lines interpreted it differently than you. Oh, no!

That's part of the fun of writing. Word play.

No where did I remember Walter, Peter or any character say anything about having to extract all the information before the six hours is up. These lines, at the very least, say the information download has to start six hours after death.

By Blogger The_Lex, at 8:30 AM  


See? Full comic book guy mode.

Worrrrst Eppppisode Everrrrr.

Seriously, guys, at that particularl level of nitpick none of you would ever get to the end of a beatsheat in a story room. Head shake time. Wipe away the fanboy fairy dust and step away from the Nitpicker's guide.

By Blogger DMc, at 5:51 PM  

My excuse is that I have an uber slow computer at my insurance day job that requires hitting the space bar 5 times to work, so my mind wanders and needs stimulation.

By Blogger The_Lex, at 5:59 PM  

The Lex--

Guy, that's fine if you want to totally ignore what I posted. It's fine if you want to live in a fairy land.

My point was, the show established a rule -- that does not have ANY real world equivalents or limitations. They could have picked 6 hours. They could have picked 106. It doesn't matter. They're making it up.

The point was -- they changed it 2 episodes later.

Regardless of how many different ways it can be interpreted, the show isn't being truthful to their own mythology.

It's as simple as that.

By Blogger James, at 6:44 PM  

Yup. that's what 12, 15 million viewers care about.


By Blogger DMc, at 10:56 PM  

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