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OK but not the greatest show ever broadcast
The problem that any new science fiction series faces is that of finding a new story to tell - time travel, alien invaders, alternative universes all have been done before in some shape of other. In print and television and on to the big screen, it's all be covered, from H.G. Wells to Dr. Who to Star Trek and Babylon 5 and the X Files. The clever bit is in finding a new angle on the same old concepts. Does Fringe manage to do this? In my own view, not really - there is no clear "wow!" factor that stands out for me.
Season 1 - any new programme has to use the first season to establish a base line for its characters. plots and background. I found that trying to cram in a lot of supposedly high end science into a 40 minute episode along with the necessary character development and relationships was too much. For me, the first season would have worked better if there had been just a couple of plots arked across a number of episodes, rather than jamming in too much in a superficial manner, but that is not how networks see things alas.
Seasons 2 and 3 - There is not much that is memorable about these for me. so they must have been "all right" without being special. At least in these, there was time to do more background filling for the characters.
Season 4 - This started with a couple of good episodes, with both universes trying to co-operate together and the frictions that this caused, then it nosedived for about 20 programmes. Towards the end of Season 3, the Observers note about restoring the time line or the like, but there is no indication at the beginning of this season that it is a different time line to the one at the end of season 3, nor that many years have passed (though the characters do not appear to have aged....). I found this a tedious season by and large because it did not seem to fit in with what had gone before but instead appeared to go off on its own tangent.
Season 5 - more of the same for me as with season 4. The whole concept of war with the Observers, the old Fringe team being brought out of amber to fight and win the war bears little resemblance to the concepts set out in the first two or three series. It's rather like a combination of the X Files and V, with neither being that well produced. By the middle of season 5, no longer did I have any empathy for or interest in the fate of the characters, but rather just wanted the thing to end. Then, though, the last three episodes turned out to be really pretty good, but all the same by this stage I was not engaged with the characters or plot sufficiently to worry about their fate.
So what else can be said? Well, given that the time line in series 3 onwards is different from the series 1 and 2, then it would have been more believable if some major character changes had taken place. Let's say, for instance, that Nina Sharp were in charge of Fringe, and Broyles a senator with Astrid running Massive Dynamic - to have the same characters in the same roles and say "oh, it's a different time line" did not work for me, even allowing for the relationship between Nina and Olivia.
On a more trivial note, there is the season 3 episode in which Olivia manages to immerse herself in the tank on "the other side" and return briefly to "this side" just long enough to get a message to Peter - as the show is a "respectable" one, Olivia comes out of the tank in New York with soaking wet hair both otherwise completely dry, instead of looking like a contestant in the Miss Parallel Universe wet t-shirt contest In the fifth series, episode 5, Walter enters an apartment that has been blocked off for twenty years, and the first thing that is seen as he goes into the room is a lamp burning brightly on a table - that is some energy efficient bulb for sure!
Do I have anything good to say about the series? Yes, in that it's not bad, but neither is it great. The plausibility of one scientist having been involved in so many ground breaking and secret research projects is beyond belief. What did work well for me were the episodes in which both sets of characters mixed with each other, causing both friction and mistrust but also in the end some mutual admiration. I liked especially the episodes in which the two Astrids met up. Fringe certainly has been better than some science fiction stuff that I have seen (Odyssey 5 comes to mind as a particularly bad example alas) but not a patch on others (Babylon 5 for instance). Overall impression? Very much "take it or leave it" with no real feeling of attachment to the characters.
In Plain Sight (2008)
I had not seen this on TV so took a chance on the DVDs and how impressed I have been. An absolute treat.
There is a strong sub-plot to supplement the main one in each episode, with Mary's work and home life issues in constant conflict and turmoil, a scenario which is handled well be the writers. Mary McCormack, who I saw first in the West Wing, plays her part beautifully and the show is enhanced by excellent scripts with some wonderful one liners (particularly in the later episodes when the team have admin support from the feisty Eleanor Prince). Granted that at times the language may be a little "choice" but accept that and enjoy the story, the characters and the whole covert world of witness protection.
Odyssey 5: Kitten (2002)
There are, I know, many who find Odyssey 5 to be brilliant and one of the best sci-fi series of recent times. I, though, am not one of these, so take my comments on board with that in mind.
All series have at least one episode which may be considered to be the "runt of the litter," that is to say not up to the same standard or pedigree as the others. In the case of Kitten, this episode really should have been still born. Yes, it has a place in the overall storyline of the series, but how anyone could wangle 45 minutes of dross out of this beats me all ends up. The whole thing could have been covered in a fraction of the time and I would not have wasted those precious moments battling the urge to fast forward or even turn off this episode. I have set myself the goal of watching the remaining episodes to see if the series improves, but with no real expectation of this. Of the episodes that I have seen thus far, Kitten has to rate as the most appalling of the lot by a long, long way.
Odyssey 5 (2002)
An interesting idea for a show
I have seen now around half of the programmes made and broadcast and watch without any great attachment.
The plot is by no means unique, but what does work well is the way in which the characters interact with themselves and those around them with the knowledge of what will happen unless things are changed.
That being said - the creator and main writer Manny Coto, seems to have been frustrated by the lack of "adult" or "grown up" content of Babylon 5 and makes up for this by having four letter words littering the script - cut out these, and no doubt the length of each episode would be reduced by some margin too. I find no need for this in telling a tale - it adds nothing to the viewing experience and if anything, from a personal point of view, turns me off the characters. The cast is an interesting mix of talents and work well together.
Other reviews put this series in the same bracket as the early X Files - personally, I do not think that this is the case. Of the two, I would vote for the X Files (the first couple of series only it must be said) over this any time. They are not the same, which does make a comparison fair.
The concept of the series is good, the cast do a good job as well but the reliance on profanity in place of dialogue takes away rather than adds to this series.
updated on June 4th. 2013
Now that I have seen all the episodes, I am able to give a broader review of this series. To be fair to the creator and writers. the last few episodes did contain a number of interesting scientific concepts and these episodes, though still relying on profanity and vulgarity in place of script, were better than the previous ones (though this is a relative concept). That being said, I came away having no strong feelings of sympathy for or empathy towards any of the characters and had there been another series then I would not have been queueing up to see it.
Boardwalk Empire (2010)
What an excellent series
A show not for those offended by language, violence or sex (in that order) but with an excellent cast, strong story line and an instant engagement. I took a chance on this and wow! am I glad.
I am waiting with eager anticipation the arrival of the next DVD with the third part of the first series on it to see how things go. Here is a show which from the outset has a plot and characters who stand out and also which is set at an unusual period in American history, so can explore the issues of prohibition in both a local and wider criminal context.
I trust that series 2 onwards continue in the same vein and maintain the standards set by the first season.
The Event (2010)
How utterly tedious
I have suffered my way through the first two episodes of this series, which seemed to have a good premise behind it, but I found the first episode so utterly dreary (with time frames shifting around randomly or so it appeared and no plot per se, along with no real characters). Episode 2 was a little better in that a story at least began to unfold, but I found this just as unrewarding as the first - I read that others have found this an excellent series; each to their own, and this is purely my personal experience of this series. I will watch the remaining two episodes on the DVD and come to a more definitive conclusion then, but first impressions are far from positive for this series.