Lately, it’s been hard for me to turn on the television and find an excuse to watch any of the prime time shows. This feeling is derived from the fact that TV is now over-populated with reality shows; American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, and even hybrid reality shows. What I mean by hybrid is a combination of let’s say, American Idol and Dancing with the Stars with the result being So You Think You Can Dance? This is what the networks are worried about putting on the screen these days and it’s not very enticing for many. The TV has lost its appeal; great shows for the most part have been replaced by mediocre remakes of series that have been long gone.
But luckily for viewers, there are a few gems mixed in with all the mediocrity. This is exactly where Fringe comes in. When director J.J. Abrams (Lost and Star Trek) announced he would be working on a new show, I was intrigued by all the possibilities. When The X-Files went off the air, it left many an empty feeling. Now Fringe has the potential to fill that spot once again.
Once again, J.J. Abrams manages to create an intriguing and suspenseful plot. The story revolves around agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) who while in the midst of a mysterious investigation, is forced to recruit the “Jack of all trades”, Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson). Peter’s father, Walter Bishop (John Noble) has been put in an insane asylum because of his experiments based on fringe science (chimeras, rare diseases, teleportation, transhumans, psychic abilities, etc). But he may be the only person that can help Olivia and Peter solve their cases.
Fringe has all the elements necessary to keep the viewers glued to their seats. It’s a show composed of a great cast. Episode after episode you can really feel the connection between the characters. Fringe is strange and deals with unexplainable cases, which sort of resembles those shown on X-Files. The show begins rather slowly, with just enough things to keep you wondering. I must say this is one of Abram’s strengths; he manages to maintain the suspense throughout the show.
I am really surprised with the direction the show took and how well the writers were able to take each character and develop the story in such great fashion. As I mentioned before, the story begins slowly with a series of events that not only defy logic but they seem rather impossible. But the director and his writing crew manage to pull it all together to the best of their abilities and produce a magnificent show.
The only problem I find with the show is perhaps the difficulty to follow it, which has been a complaint about other shows produced by Abrams. As the show develops and reaches the mid point the plot begins to become a bit confusing. While the regular viewers of the show will not find a problem, newcomers will certainly have problems catching up to the over-arching plots of the series.
Like the recent releases by WB, Fringe has a very nice video quality. It boasts a VC-1 encode with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The skin tones are very natural and the contrast has never been used so perfectly. The textures are the best part of this video presentation. They are very crisp and clean to the point. The viewer is able to see agent Broyles’ (Lance Reddick) skin texture or Dunham’s freckles in the snow. The colors are bold and the deep blacks make a great addition. The reds especially are very colorful and are really able to add a little extra to the gory scenes.
There seems to be some grain on several scenes throughout the show, but the detail does not suffer from it. All in all the video presentation of Fringe is magnificent, capturing the very essence of the show and the gritty feel in every scene.
It seems like WB is adamant about its unwillingness to provide better audio tracks for their TV series releases. The Digital Dolby mix is decent but I can’t think of anything to say to praise it. Among the positives in this track are a crisp dialogue and rears that seem to properly output a more than decent soundfield. My complaint still resides in the fact that WB did not bother to give the series a better audio track. But at the end of the day this is a decent enough track that will deliver for most regular viewers although it sure will turn the audiophiles away.
I sure hope WB rethinks their releases and provides good quality audio for the more deserving releases. For now I guess all we can do is wonder how great the airplane crash, car chases, and all the other sound effects from the show could have sounded.
With a show like Fringe, anyone would wonder how many extras the studio could include, no? Well, WB has included 6 full hours of extras on this release. The Blu-ray contains one supplement in high definition while the rest of the extras are in standard definition. Yes, you read that right. Only one of the supplements comes in high definition. But aside from that fact, I must say that the supplements included are very interesting and will effectively add a better understanding of the direction producer J.J. Abrams and his crew took on the show. So let’s dig into the goods!
Fringe includes several audio commentaries from the production crew and the man himself, J.J. Abrams.
- Audio Commentary – First the creators of the show Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci, and J.J. Abrams discuss everything surrounding the show, the pilot, casting, special effects, etc.
- Audio Commentary – On the second audio commentary, J.R. Orci, co-writer David Goodman and Bryan Burk talk about the plots and “The Ghost Network” among other things.
- Audio Commentary – Lastly, writer and director Akiva Goldsman and executive producer Jeff Pinker discuss the story, the future of the series and “Bad Dreams”
- Deciphering the Scene – This is not a single featurette. Each episode contains a featurette that talks about the case dealt with in the episode and some behind the scenes shots.
- Dissected Files – This features the extra and/or deleted scenes that didn’t make the cut. Nothing really substantial to the story, but definitely worth the watch.
- The Massive Undertaking – The feature contains a quick look into the difficulties surrounding different episodes of the show.
- Evolution: The Genesis of Fringe – SPOILER ALERT! – The series creators discuss the Fringe and the evolution of its many characters.
- The Casting of Fringe – SPOILER ALERT – Get some glimpses into the audition tapes.
- Behind the Real Science of Fringe – SPOILER ALERT! – This is a very interesting featurette. The production team and the science consultants talk about the real science behind the episodes.
- Robert Orci’s Production Diary – Take a tour of some of the filming locations and get cover some extra information about the show.
- Unusual Side Effects – Blooper reel.
- Fringe Visual Effects – The creators talk about the special effects used throughout the series.
- Fringe Pattern Analysis – The only HD featurette found on any of the discs. Experts talk about the series and its concepts.
- Gene the Cow – This is just a look into Gene the cow.
- BD-Live – Contains ‘My Commentary’, ‘Media Center’ for downloads and an extra audio commentary on the season 1 finale.
Fringe is an excellent show with great casting and a great production team. Sure Fringe will definitely not appeal to everyone, but it will certainly grab the attention of those willing to give it a try and those left with a void after X-Files went off the air. Personally I have become a fan of the series and without a doubt I’ll be waiting to see what next season has in store for everybody. Yes, the audio is still my main concern with WB TV series but putting that aside the studio delivered a solid release and I highly recommend it. Fringe is top notch.
Own Fringe on Blu-ray & DVD. Both available at Amazon!
Buy Fringe: The Complete First Season (+ BD-Live) [Blu-ray]
Here’s a promotional trailer!