Rewatching Fringe

I had not watched Fringe since it was originally on TV in 2009. I am a fan of the show and was on board for all its twists and turns and bonkers world building. This year we have had a number of US network shows that are aiming for that mix of procedural and mythology that made the X-Files a huge success. Almost Human and Intelligence (basically Chuck if the chip had stayed Bryce Larkin's brain) have shot for this territory and have come up short as they have failed to create a reason for the audience to come back each week. Both shows have been too procedural and have not created enough of a bigger story arc or a world filled with people we want to spend time with each week. They are both nice enough, but neither show has left me with a feeling of 'what the heck just happened? I want to know more' or have pulled me into the lives of the characters as Fringe did. Many TV critics and viewers thought that Fringe was not in the same league as the X-Files but I think this show should be seen for itself and not for what it is not.

The best thing Fringe did was finish on a high note, with a complete arc that had enough coherence to it and enough emotional wack for you to go along for the ride. The rewatch value of a show that has not gone off the boil and gives you a clear beginning, middle and end is very high. The usual worries about premature cancellation, bad ratings and what the heck is the next season going to be about are not there when you are rewatching.  You can delve into the world and just enjoy it.  I am in the middle of season 2 and the thing that is really noticeable is that Fox really really wanted higher ratings and a mainstream hit.  They reintroduced the story concepts time and time again and did a stretch of standalone episodes in the beginning of season 2 that was bait for the casual viewer.  As soon as Fox realised they had a cult hit on their hands and that the audience was steady and very vocal and unlikely to get bigger, they left the show to the writers and that is when Fringe leaves all the vestiges of being the pretender to the X-Files throne and stands for itself. Fringe becomes about the triumph of love. Family love, romantic love, friendship. All types of love. Not something you expect from a science fiction show that shows you monsters every other week.  

This series dared to do just about anything and most of the time pulled it off.  This is down to some excellent writing and directing but also due to a fantastic cast led by Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson and John Noble. I am anticipating some great episodes that I know are coming and I am enjoying where I am now in the storyline, being reminded of the small bits and pieces that were not in your face in the first viewing. For example, the traditional gender dynamics of a gun toting female FBI agent and a charming science guy are slowly inverted as the characters become more than a stereotype. Olivia Dunham does not wear high heels as an FBI agent and actually runs after the bad guys in a trouser suit with sensible shoes and her hair tied back in ponytail (most of the time). Peter Bishop is not portrayed as less than masculine just because he is not the protector in the situation. The characters become so much more than that. As a fan you become very invested in Peter and Walter Bishops father/son relationship.  There is humour, pathos, some gross out moments, scary moments, great use of music, and of course the brilliant promos and teasers done by Fox.

I am enjoying my rewatch and I highly recommend starting at the beginning and watching this show. 

P.S.  I have never been so happy as when the writers realised that the John Scott story was not working and they wrapped that thread up leaving the character of Olivia Dunham to become so much more.

X-Files Reunion at Comic-Con

What a difference 20 years makes.  When The X-Files began in 1993, the highest rated show on US TV were: 

60 Minutes
The CBS Sunday Night Movie
ABC's Monday Night Football
Murphy Brown
Rosanne
Coach
Home Improvement
Grace Under Fire
Seinfield
Frasier


As you can see, not an hour long drama in sight.  They were only in the Top 20 and included Murder, She Wrote; Northern Exposure; and NYPD Blue. With that context, no one could have predicted the critical and commercial success of The X-Files. The rise of The X-Files coincided with the development of the internet and was the blueprint for online fandom.  I remember waiting at least a minute for the next page to load on my university's DOS computer in the Computer Room.  The green screen and limited visuals of the episode reviews on the unofficial websites created and run by fans who called themselves X-Philes was the first glimpse of what was coming up on my favourite TV show. We still relied on magazines in those days for our news, and it was very very hard to get a magazine that had entertainment information, let alone a sci-fi TV show, outside of the US or the UK.  Some magazines eventually arrived about 6 - 9 months later in selected shops.  Very different to flicking through sites on my iPhone. 

20 years later, after two movies, nine seasons, cast changes, two technology booms and the rise of geek culture in the western world, the show will be celebrated this weekend at Comic-Con in San Diego.  Comic-Con itself has morphed into something so different to what it started out as.  Founded as the Golden State Comic Book Convention in 1970 by a group of four San Diegans, it focused on comic books and related merchandise.  The first three day convention had 300 attendees.  Now it has over 130,000 attendees.  The the long weekend has an annual regional economic impact of US$162.8 million, according to a San Diego Union Tribune article in 2011, so a figure from two years ago.  I wonder what it is this year?

The content has expanded from comics to previews, panels and seminars of upcoming feature films and TV shows, so much so that the term Comic-Con is not that relevant anymore.  The schedule for this upcoming weekend in San Diego spans four days and includes 22 separate rooms in the Convention Center, ranging from 280 seats to the massive 6,500-seat Hall H. - See more at: http://www.comic-con.org/cci/programming-schedule#sthash.61m2UZc3.dpuf.  

The X-Files 20th Anniversary Panel will be tomorrow, Thursday 18 July at 3.30pm in Hall 20 and will be attended by creator Chris Carter and stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.  Nice.

Here is a clip of some of the best moments from the nine year run.