Fringe has a tricky balancing act to maintain. The show wants to pull in the same rabid, Easter Egg-obsessed audience that made Lost a hit, but it also wants to win over the much larger crowd that loves procedural dramas like CSI. The show risks alienating both types of viewers if it leans too far in either direction. As someone who is more a fan of serial mysteries than procedural dramas, I’m finding that Fringe is becoming a bit too predictable in the way it sets up and solves its cases. I don’t expect the show to drop its procedural elements and embrace all things Massive Dynamic, but I’m afraid the series will become stale quickly if it doesn’t shake things up a bit.
Before I dish up some advice for the powers that be at Fringe, I want to point out that I do love some procedural dramas. I think House is absolutely brilliant, and it somehow manages to be extremely entertaining every week despite the predictable nature of its cases. I’ve seen Dr. House get a lifesaving last minute revelation at least a thousand times, but the show can get away with it thanks to its laugh-out-loud humor, well-drawn characters and fantastic performances. Fringe has solid performances and a few chuckle-worthy moments per episode, but the characters aren’t yet strong enough to keep us coming back every week.
The first three episodes of Fringe have followed the exact same structure in regards to their mysteries: Something freaky happens, Olivia and Peter investigate, Dr. Bishop throws out a crackpot theory, Peter scoffs at it, Dr. Bishop performs a wacky experiment to help find the culprit, there’s a short chase sequence, and everything is wrapped up in a bow. Sprinkle in a few plot points about Massive Dynamic along the way, and that’s every episode of Fringe in a nutshell.
It’s obvious that Fringe is somewhat inspired by The X-Files, and my advice to the showrunners is to go one step further and actually steal the structure of the late sci-fi classic. I was constantly amazed by the way The X-Files structured its seasons to appeal to both monster of the week-lovers and rabid mythology buffs. The first one or two episodes of each season would be mythology-based, followed by two in the middle of the year, followed by one or two at the end of the season. Other than those episodes, the show was almost entirely standalone and easily accessible to new viewers. I’d love to see Fringe explore things like Massive Dynamic and The Pattern for entire episodes before seguing back into the experiment of the week formula. It’d give Lost fans a lot more to chew on.
Of course, this shake up of the structure would only help if the series also varies its procedural episodes a bit more. Like I mentioned above, each case has played out in exactly the same way so far. I want to see some unexpected twists and turns. I want to see the characters leave Boston. I want to see an episode without a chase sequence or crazy science experiment, followed by an episode with 10 chases and 10 science experiments. Anything that makes the series more unpredictable works for me.
Fringe is a show in its very early stages, and it’s likely to grow, evolve and fix some of these issues as it goes along. I just hope that FOX gives it the time it needs to work out the kinks.
– Don Williams, BuddyTV Staff Writer
(Image courtesy of FOX)