Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fringe: What Were They Thinking?

Over the past year, Fringe has become one of my favorite shows on television.  I was really looking forward to welcoming it back after a month-long hiatus.  My hopes were particularly high because Grey Matters, the last episode before the break, was such a perfect blend of character development and mythological advancement.   Other viewers apparently shared my sense of anticipation.  Airing on Monday night, instead of in its usual Thursday time slot, Fringe decimated Heroes in the ratings.

All I can think after watching, however, is what a tremendous opportunity they wasted.

Instead of building on the promise of Grey Matters, we got a bland standalone offering.  Even more bizarre, the dearly departed Agent Charlie Francis reappeared without any explanation at all.  Fans will recall that Charlie was murdered earlier this season by a shapeshifter from the mirror universe, who assumed his identity.  Olivia eventually discovered the ruse and killed the shapeshifter, ending actor Kirk Acevedo's run on the show.  Or so I presumed until Charlie's mysterious return.

I couldn't believe the show would resurrect a character with no explanation.  So, was this Charlie the real deal but from the mirror universe like Peter?  Did he cross over as some sort of liason in an episode I missed?  Perplexed, I logged on after watching and learned that Agent Francis was not, in fact, a mirror twin.  According to Ain't It Cool News, the episode was actually filmed back in Season 1, but remained unaired until now for reasons that remain unclear. 

So why not promote it explicitly as "one from the vault"?  And why end the hiatus on such a confusing note?

I'm confident I wasn't the only one with such questions.  Clearly, FOX miscalculated, which doesn't bode well for the show.  There's always network pressure to do more standalone episodes -- procedurals like the monsters of the week on the X-Files -- which appeal to casual viewers.  I prefer longer story arcs myself.  But I can see a place for standalones, particularly after a break, as long as they're well written and observe continuity.  This episode did neither. 

The flagrant disregard for continuity is what really concerns me.  It suggests the network may be winning some internal battle with the creators to make this a even more of a procedural.  Let's hope the high ratings and backlash at this blunder will serve as a wake-up call for FOX.

As always, you're welcome to post anonymously, but please identify yourself somehow, so I can distinguish between anonymous posters. Thanks!


Capcom said...

Good post. I too thought that it was a pretty cheesy move. I read beforehand on FringeTelevision that it was an ep flimed last season, but I still didn't expect Charlie to be there. When he appeared it was totally shenannigans-time!

Makes you wonder where this ended up on the DVDs. Was it in the Season 1 release last year as a special never-aired episode? Or will it be stuck in as an "extra" in the S2 box? I haven't purchased S1 yet so I have no idea.

I taped Fringe and watched Heroes live anyway, I'll have to watch the Fringe ep tonight to see whether it was any good or not.

Anonymous said...

Hey it's Quackers from The Fuselage,

Happy to hear Fringe decimated Heroes in the ratings. I dvr'd Heroes, but had to delete it halfway through watching out of shear boredom. Hopefully tonight we'll see high ratings for the real next episode of Fringe. There is one good thing to consider about airing such a confusing episode: it got people talking Fringe.

Ally said...

Yeah, it was an episode that was slated for last season but apparently wasn't deemed good enough to air. So why they chose to put it on after House, where it would probably get an increase in viewers is beyond me. That is the timeslot it should have been all season and Lie To Me should have been elsewhere. Oh well, hopefully a few new people caught it and liked it enough to give the show a shot tonight.

princess buttercup said...

I thought I was going crazy and I'm glad to see that I"m not. Things like this tend to make me lose faith in shows. And I really hope that Fringe doesn't alienate its true fan-base for the casual viewer.