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Fringe

Fringe is an American science fiction television series created by J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci. It premiered on the Fox Broadcasting network on September 9, 2008. The series follows Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), and Walter Bishop (John Noble), members of a Federal Bureau of Investigation “Fringe Division” team based in Boston, Massachusetts under the supervision of Homeland Security. The team uses “fringe” science and FBI investigative techniques to investigate a series of unexplained, often ghastly occurrences, which are related to mysteries surrounding a parallel universe. The series has been described as a hybrid of The X-Files, Altered States, and The Twilight Zone.

The series format combines elements from procedural dramas as well as those found in serials. The series began as a more traditional “mystery of the week” series, and became more serialized in later seasons. A majority of episodes contain a standalone plot, with several episodes also exploring the series’ overarching mythology.

Early critical reception of the first season was lukewarm, but became more of a critic favorite in subsequent seasons when the series began to explore its mythology, including parallel universes and alternate timelines. The show, as well as the cast and crew, has been nominated for many major awards. Despite its move to the “Friday night death slot” and low ratings, the series has received a cult following. The series has been renewed for a fifth and final season consisting of 13 episodes, which premiered on September 28, 2012. The series has also spawned two six-part comic book series and an alternate reality game.

Reception
One of many marketing posters used to promote the series featuring a twist on a common image. Pictured is a leaf with an embedded isosceles triangle.

Early reception through the first season was generally lukewarm. The pilot episode was watched by 9.13 million viewers, garnering 3.2/9 Nielsen ratings among adults 18–49, with ratings improving over the course of the episode. Ratings improved greatly for the second episode, “The Same Old Story” which 13.27 million people watched, making it the fifth most watched show of the week. As of October 2008, the show had achieved the first place in the 18–49 demographic among new shows. As a whole, the series was well received by the critics.

Barry Garron at Hollywood Reporter found it promising because “it is reminiscent of battle-of-the-sexes charm.” Robert Bianco, of USA Today, said, “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.” Travis Fickett of IGN gave it 7.6 out of 10, calling it “a lackluster pilot that promises to be a pretty good series.” While Tim Goodman of the San Francisco Chronicle remarked that it was “boundlessly ambitious”, Chicago Sun-Times’s Misha Davenport called it an “update of The X-Files with the addition of terrorism and the office of Homeland Security.”

In its 2008 Year in Review, Television Without Pity declared Fringe one of the year’s biggest TV disappointments, commenting that the show is “entertaining” and “the cast is largely strong” but the character development is insufficient.[98] The show’s main character, Olivia Dunham, is “wooden and distant, and after half a season, we still haven’t gotten to know her.” The untrustworthy Nina Sharp is well acted but “one-note and lazily written,” and Lance Reddick’s character is also “underdeveloped.”

The Daily Herald commented that Fringe is promising and “it may yet develop into a worthwhile program” but has “largely been spinning its wheels”. Meanwhile, in other articles recounting the best and worst of 2008, The New York Times stated that Fringe “is the best of a rash of new series that toy with the paranormal.” The author goes on to praise the cast saying that “Much credit belongs to Anna Torv who stars as an F.B.I. agent investigating bizarre murders that all appear to be linked to a powerful and mysterious multinational corporation,” and “Ms. Torv is backed up ably by John Noble as a crazy but brilliant fringe scientist and his level-headed but skeptical son, played by Joshua Jackson.”

Changes in the approach and storytelling of the show in the second and subsequent seasons led to more positive critical reception and made it a media favorite. Entertainment Weekly stated, “The best new show of the year took a few weeks to grow on me, but now it’s a full-blown addiction.” The Los Angeles Times called Walter Bishop one of the best characters of 2008, noting, “the role of the modern-day mad scientist could so easily have been a disaster, but the ‘Fringe’ writers and the masterful John Noble have conspired to create a character that seems, as trite as it sounds, more Shakespearean than sci-fi.”

Chicago Tribune stated that some episodes are “distressingly predictable and formulaic” but adds that there have also been some excellent episodes. The New York Times named Fringe one of the top 10 television shows in 2010. while Television Without Pity, previously dismissive of the show, listed it amongst their 2010 “Most Memorable TV Moments”, stating “there were so many great Fringe moments this year” and “we were treated to some of the best sci-fi on television this past fall.”

The A.V. Club named Fringe the 15th best show of 2010, stated that the episode “Peter” gave “the series’ overarching storyline a devastating emotional core”, making the series a “rare blend of inventive ideas, wild ambition, and unexpected soulfulness”. IGN named Fringe the 18th best science fiction show of all time in a 2011 listing, stating that since the middle of the first season, “it’s been nothing but a series of satisfyingly jaw-dropping ‘holy eff!’ moments layered with wonderful, nuanced performances from Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson and John Noble”.

In 2012, Entertainment Weekly listed the show at #17 in the “25 Best Cult TV Shows from the Past 25 Years,” saying, “Fringe was conceived as a mass-appeal genre procedural, with a background mythology that wouldn’t detract from monster-of-the-week episodes. … But the mythology overtook the monsters following the revelation of a parallel universe. By its third season, Fringe was overpopulated by multiple versions of every character. Unfortunately, that increasing narrative complexity has steadily pigeonholed it as a niche show.”


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