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Hercules Says J.J. Abrams’ FRINGE Is The Best New Fall Series He’s Seen So Far!! What Say The Newspaper Critics??

I am – Hercules!!
What’s the difference between the “Fringe” that leaked months ago and the one we’ll see tonight? New dialogue makes more clear why Walter Bishop was locked away. At least one scene was added to make the Joshua Jackson character more likeable. Lots of cool new CGI effects were added, and they play a big role in the pilot’s new final shot. For those who missed it, here’s what I posted on June 20 (beware the spoilers!):
Fringe 1.1 FAQ What’s it called? “Pilot.” Who’s responsible? Teleplay is credited to the “Alias”-“Mission Impossible III”-“Star Trek” team of J.J. Abrams (“Felicity,” “Lost”) and Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci (“The Island,” “The Legend of Zorro,” “Transformers”). What does Fox say? “When an international flight lands at Boston's Logan Airport and the passengers and crew have all died grisly deaths, FBI Special Agent OLIVIA DUNHAM (newcomer Anna Torv) is called in to investigate. After her partner, Special Agent JOHN SCOTT (Mark Valley, "Boston Legal"), is nearly killed during the investigation, a desperate Olivia searches frantically for someone to help, leading her to DR. WALTER BISHOP (John Noble, "Lord of the Rings"), our generation's Einstein. There's only one catch: he's been institutionalized for the last 17 years, and the only way to question him requires pulling his estranged son PETER (Joshua Jackson, "Dawson's Creek") in to help. When Olivia's investigation leads her to manipulative corporate executive NINA SHARP (Blair Brown, "Altered States"), our unlikely trio along with fellow FBI Agents PHILLIP BROYLES (Lance Reddick, "The Wire"), CHARLIE FRANCIS (Kirk Acevedo, "Oz") and ASTRID FARNSWORTH (Jasika Nicole, "Law & Order: Criminal Intent") will discover that what happened on Flight 627 is only a small piece of a larger, more shocking truth.” The big news? I’d be shocked if we see another fall pilot this year as good as this one. Scary, funny, suspenseful and superslick “Fringe” will fire imaginations and, like the three Abrams-scripted pilots before it, leave viewers craving more. What’s this about “a larger, more shocking truth?” That “larger, more shocking truth” business is interesting, and complicated. The description of superscientist Walter Bishop as “our generation’s Einstein” represents a rare bit of understatement on the part of Fox’s publicity department. Bishop is more like this generation’s Milo Rambaldi, the shadowy 15th century seer/inventor who haunted the events of “Alias” by designing technology he saw in our future. Bishop’s twentysomething son (who turns out to be plenty brainy himself) believes with Sydney Bristow-esque naivety that his chemist father made his living in a basement below Harvard University “doing research for a toothpaste company.” Aim? Aquafresh? As it happens, Walter Bishop’s lab beneath Harvard had little to do with toothpaste and more to do with rapidly evolving technology into the realm of science fiction. “He was part of a classified U.S. Army experimental program called Kelvin Genetics,” the FBI girl tentatively explains to Bishop’s shocked son about 30 minutes into the 2-hour pilot. “They gave him the resources to do whatever work he wanted.” And all this is somehow tied to the plane mishap? There was “an accident” in that Harvard lab some two decades ago. Ubergenius Bishop was arrested. Bishop’s lab-mate and only confidant was a fellow named William Bell who, sometime subsequent to Bishop’s institutionalization, became the superrich, superfamous and superpowerful founder of a now-$50 billion high-tech defense contractor called Massive Dynamics, which appears to manufacture robots, weapons, proprietary pharmaceuticals, and a host of other modern miracles. And Massive Dynamics (an entity of which the long-sequestered Bishop remained wholly unaware) recently employed someone with an intimate knowledge of what happened on that plane bound for Boston. Say. Didn’t Fox already air a series about FBI agents investigating the uncanny? It did. Will subsequent “Fringe” episodes deal with sentient extraterrestrial crude oil, killer bees or humanoid tapeworms? We learn late in the “Fringe” pilot that what happened on that horrifying flight is somehow tied to a wave of three dozen incidents investigated and “authenticated” over the prior nine months. Dozens of kids who disappeared a decade ago have just begun reappearing, having not aged a day. A mysterious plane carrying a very noisy device apparently appeared in the skies over Asia not long before a tsunami killed 83,000 people. A man woke up from a long coma and began jotting down a seemingly endless stream of numbers – numbers that turned out to be “above top-secret” coordinates for NATO battlegroups stationed in the Pacific. Few are aware of these incidents, but certain U.S. officials are calling them “The Pattern.” Is the “Fringe” pilot as good as the “X-Files” pilot? Ha! The “Fringe” pilot strips its hot blonde FBI girl down to her underwear just before it sticks a cold metal rod in her brain and drops her in a tank full of saltwater. So yes. The pilot also suggests the “Fringe” series will offer more interesting characters and a more persuasive and coherent mythology than did Fox’s earlier sci-fi FBI series. The production values, stunts and special effects are eye-popping and even its superimpositions (showy, floaty text that tells us whether we’re in Boston or Baghdad) are supercool. “Twin Peaks” had FBI agents investigating weird stuff every week, didn’t it? Is the “Fringe” pilot as good as the “Twin Peaks” pilot? Nothing’s as good as the “Twin Peaks” pilot. Is the “Fringe” pilot as good as the Abrams-directed “Alias” and “Lost” pilots? It is not. But those were two of the best pilots ever forged. How rate you “Fringe’s” cast? Terrific top to bottom. Torv and Jackson are compelling and convincing leads. Blair Brown (one of the pilot’s many nods to “Altered States”) is spooky as a creepy Massive Dynamics exec. “Wire” walker Lance Reddick brings beautiful suspicion and disdain to his latest bald-guy-in-charge. And Noble does a spectacular job as the broken brain at the center of the tale – summoning a performance by turns sad and funny and scary. Abrams didn’t direct this pilot, right? Emmy-winning director-producer Alex Graves, whose work has graced “The West Wing,” “The Practice,” “Gideon’s Crossing” and “Journeyman,” helmed the pilot. His work here is striking and exceptional. Isn’t Abrams essentially abandoning “Fringe” as he did “Alias” and “Lost”? I gather Abrams, Kurtzman and Orci all have busy, expensive big-screen careers and will not be actively involved with the series. The good news is Jeff Pinkner, an “Alias” vet who wrote the superb “Lost” episodes “Not In Portland” and “The Man From Tallahassee,” has taken over as series showrunner. This sounds … promising. How long before Fox cancels it? “Fringe’s” lead-in this fall is the megahit “House.” Its lead-in next spring is the super-megahit “American Idol.” “Fringe,” I suspect, is going to be a ratings monster. Fox airs the 2-hour “Fringe” pilot Sept. 9. AICN’s “Capone” says:
… The pilot is a slam dunk … prepare to be immensely entertained. …
The Associated Press says:
… As Olivia, newcomer Anna Torv is suitably authoritative or vulnerable, as the situation requires. Joshua Jackson ("Dawson's Creek") establishes Peter as cocky but caring. And John Noble ("The Lord of the Rings") is perfect as Dr. Bishop, the not-so-mad but scattered genius. Meanwhile, viewers are treated to a couple of sly twists that should bring them back for the second episode. Based on its opener, "Fringe" does action, intrigue, mind-blowing science and horror-film ick. It even does humor and romance. What DOESN'T it do?
USA Today gives it three and a half stars (out of four) and says:
… What Abrams brings to Fringe is a director's eye for plot and pace, a fan's love of sci-fi excitement, and a story-teller's gift for investing absurd events with real emotions and relatable characters. But more than anything, he's an entertainer; what permeates his shows is the joy he takes in the medium, in contorting conventions and genres into something new.…
The New York Times says:
… as pilots go, this one is sensational, an artful, suspenseful mix of horror, science fiction, layered conspiracies and extended car chases. “Fringe” sets out to stretch the boundaries of conventional network series. …
The Los Angeles Times says:
… an uneven but promising jumble of horror, thriller and comedy …
The Chicago Tribune says:
… frequently overwrought but occasionally interesting … I'm willing to give "Fringe" a few more chances to convince me that anything is possible.
The Washington Post says:
… apart from the opening sequence -- think gooey, taffy-pull flesh and projectile viscera -- there's not all that much that's freaky or creepy about "Fringe." … The good news here is the pilot often has the look of a feature film, as, with a reported budget of $10 million, it should. … merely throws together a lot of ingredients in a not-very-satisfying salad.
The San Francisco Chronicle says:
… Though the pilot has some flaws in it - mostly from a clash of tones - it still overdelivers on creativity, creepiness, fine acting and burgeoning character development. Nobody should need a free pass after giving that much to viewers, but a lot is expected of Abrams and Co., and "Fringe," with its "X-Files" and "Altered States" influences, is boundlessly ambitious. …
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:
There may be a good show buried deep within "Fringe," but the 90-minute premiere episode is a mess -- and an overstuffed, head-scratching bore, too.… At the end of the "Fringe" premiere, viewers get intriguing information about Sharp and what goes on in the Massive Dynamic labs. That closing scene gives me some hope that "Fringe" may be able to pull itself into something more coherent in future episodes.
The Boston Globe says:
… Abrams grabs us straight away with a "Twilight Zone"-ish mystery that promises to push us to the brink of the imagination. Of storytelling ambition, it must be said, J.J. Abrams has no dearth. But after the electrifying start, "Fringe" unfolds as an uneven, unwieldy piece of work that provides very few chills and thrills. There is potential here, and if anyone can pull a good series out of a slack, meandering premiere, Abrams can. Still, this eagerly awaited show is a disappointment, one that unsuccessfully strains to evoke the paranoid spirit of "The X-Files." As it skips - at times nonsensically - from twist to turn, "Fringe" never truly got me to care. …
Variety says:
… given the auspices and hype, "Fringe" disappoints … the show is handsomely produced, and the premise provides access to a potentially fertile vein of modern paranoia; still, for a series that will need to tap into an avid core of viewers to succeed, the formula appears lacking in the necessary chemistry to conjure a fanatical "Fringe" element.
The Hollywood Reporter says:
… What really makes "Fringe" so promising is that it is potentially reminiscent, in a small way, of the battle-of-the-sexes charm that once made "Moonlighting" the best hour of TV of its time. …
8 p.m. Tuesday. Fox.

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