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“Fringe”: First impressions

FringegrouphiresFirst impressions** of Fox’s Fringe.”

The net hasn’t sent out screeners of J. J. Abrams’ new drama but it did hold a few screenings for press the past few days in Gotham and L.A.

Fox execs emphasized that the roughly 90-minute Warner Bros. TV pilot was still “unfinished,” but they are still eager to show it off (and undoubtedly get some feedback). I’m writing this with my Spoiler Radar turned up to 11 in a sincere effort (as always) to not ruin any of the drama for viewers prior to “Fringe’s” September debut.

About five minutes in to the screening, I realized I’ve done this show a terrible injustice with the loglines I’ve been using the past few months, and the suggestion that it would be very “X-Files”-ish. It’s not. It’s right there in the  patented Abrams-conspiracy chiller/thriller/action milieu with a wildly intricate plot. It’s a good sign that the pilot — penned by Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci and helmed by Alex Graves — does not feel too derivative of “Lost,” even as it opens with mayhem on a commercial airline flight bound for Boston’s Logan airport.

The accurate synopsis: “Fringe” opens with FBI agents including Dunham sent to Logan Airport to investigate the ultra-mind-boggling situation that erupts when a German commercial airliner lands with a plane full of dead people, crew included. And they’re not just dead, but dead in a horrible, scientifically inexplicable way. Dunham’s dogged pursuit of the how, why and what-the-#$$%@? in the airline case puts her on the trail of a broader conspiracy that extends deeper and wider than she ever could have imagined. Her investigation also puts her in contact with a brilliant scientist who happens to have been institutionalized for the past 17 years. Dunham recruits the scientist’s miscreant son to help get him a Fringe3_2 furlough from the institution so that the elder and younger can help her ferret out the truth.

PRO

Anna Torv. The Aussie star is really good in the skin of the driven, resourceful and not-without-humor FBI agent Olivia Dunham. She’s not a warmed-over Kate from “Lost” or “Alias'” Sydney Bristow. She’s got her own quirks and traits, and that’s a very good thing. Torv is beautiful in an unconventional way. I also appreciate that she looks like a real person, not an 80-pound weakling. Olivia does share Sydney’s ability to kick butt and run like the wind when duty calls.

**Once again, these are first impressions and not meant as a review or hit-or-miss declaration. Pilots at this stage of the game are still works in progress.

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