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TV on DVD: Eccentric, essential Fringe with Anna Torv and Joshua Jackson

In blu-ray, dvd on 09/08/2009 at 10:15 am

Many shows have potential, although it is rare in this era of network executive with attention-deficit-disorder that enough time is granted. Fringe, presumably by virtue of the pedigree of creator J.J. Abrams (Lost, Alias, Felicity), was given the time and, despite some early season meandering, grew in leaps and bounds.
For those already fearing the void that Lost will leave and even those among us who are still pining for the glory days of X-Files, to which this series owes much, Fringe is the heir apparent (although new series Flash Forward is a comer, or so I’m reading).
Fringe started out with only potential. Many loved the premiere, in which we meet FBI agent Olivia (Anna Torv); former visionary scientist Walter (John Noble), pulled from his cell in a psychiatric hospital; and his estranged son Peter (Joshua Jackson), who is charged with wrangling Walter out of his institutional stupor to save the world.
Many loved it but, while I loved Walter and Peter’s tentative reunion, I found the elder’s eccentricities (he pees himself, he shoves “crazy” non sequiturs into every pause longer than three seconds) distracting, and I found Torv’s portrayal to be robotic and flat. There was no denying the story and structure had potential, but the alternating freak-of-the-week bizarre science (it starts with the arrival of a plane full of disintegrated corpses) and grand conspiracy (What is the Pattern? Who is behind Massive Dynamic and are they evil?) was ripped right from the scripts of X-Files.
Even so, I took off my X-Files watch and started giving it a chance and by the excellent finale, I was hooked by the drama behind Olivia’s cool exterior (evil stepfather, dependent sister and nephew), by Blair Brown and then Leonard Nimoy as the heads of the is-it-evil-or-is-it-not mega-corporation called Massive Dynamic. Even Walter’s eccentricities grew on me. And there is believable warmth among Peter, his father and Olivia.
Is it over the top? Of course, but, to hark back to the X-Files, I want to believe in this show and so I do believe in a series that now straddles two worlds connected by a portal, the fear of a grim future and the small band of wierdos who are trying to make it all right.
Season 1, available now on DVD and Blu-ray, comes a week before the Season 2 premiere. I consider it essential viewing. I command you: Go out and buy or rent, as I will, to fill in the blanks on what is to come. I am particularly looking forward to the extra called Deciphering the Scene on a number of episodes. If you know your way around the web, watch at least the finale to set up what is to come on Sept. 17 at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.
Other extras: gag reel, Roberto Orci’s production diary, a featurette on Gene the cow, the other member of the investigative team.
Here is the promo for Season 2.

Here are some other releases of TV on DVD this week.
Worst Week: The Complete Series
The Office: Season 5 (DVD and Blu-ray)
Criminal Minds: Season 4
No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
Harper’s Island: The DVD Edition
Adventures of Robin Hood: The Complete Fourth Season
Wiseguy: The Complete First Season
Smallville: The Complete Season 1-8
One Foot in the Grave: The 1996 and 1997 Christmas Specials and The Complete Series
Mr. Belvedere: Season 3
Meteor (TV movie)
Dog the Bounty Hunter: The Best of Season 5
Important Things with Demetri Martin: Season 1

— Denise Duguay

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