Well into the fall TV season, and we’re recording/watching three Science Fiction-ish shows on the big networks: Fringe, Flash Froward, and V. The latter two being new shows (sort of), while the first is back for a second season. Of course part of this is to fill the void left by the end of Battlestar Galactica, and part of it is curiosity about big media’s ability or desire to deliver attempts at genuine science fiction to the masses.
Fringe seems to me like a true successor to The X-Files; something a lot of shows have attempted but none have really pulled off. It has the paranormal investigator overlay, the quirky and interesting characters, and a good blend of humor, gross-outs, and conspiracies. The two leads (Anna Torv and Joshua Jackson) have good chemistry and John Noble as Dr. Walter Bishop (Jackson’s dad) is great. The writers outright steal a lot of the successful themes and tropes from Chris Carter and the X-Files, and have probably studied that show’s successful seasons of plot development like PhD students. So far this has entertained rather than annoyed me.
Flash Forward was recommended by some co-workers, so we started recording episodes but still haven’t caught up with the latest. This show is based on venerable sci-fi author Robert J. Sawyer’s novel and revolves around a central planetary event: everyone on Earth blacks out for two minutes and seventeen seconds (lots of disasters there) and have vivid visions of their own personal futures of a date about six months out – hence the flashforwards. This is not only grist for countless volumes of personal and relationship drama, but also for a good old fashioned mystery. The FBI is on the case. So far it’s been interesting, but I’m already starting to wonder if the writers can keep the plot moving forward with enough balance on the characters and relationships, or will it become a mess of decompressed Lost-like formula? Joseph Fiennes (and his eyebrows) features, along with John Cho, Sonya Walger, and Dominic Monagahan (that’s a bard, a Sulu, and a hobbit if you’re counting).
V has just begun and has the most treacherous path of any of these shows. As the new entry that’s most obviously trying to replicate the BSG-remake success model, and with the legacy of that first show in the minds of many, you can’t help but wonder where the writers will go. For most people of my approximate age, the original V represents one of the scariest TV moments of my childhood. I refer, of course, to the alien birth scene. The original series also had a tough time sustaining much momentum after the original rush of paranoia. Will this remake take any risks and strike out for new ground (like BSG) or will it stick to the old outline? Most importantly, how long will they stretch out the visitors’ big secret, and what will happen when the lizard’s out of the bag, so to speak?