'Fringe': Save this show! A guide (and a plea) for new fans.

The bonds of family, the ecstasy of romance, the exhilaration of intellectual inquiry, and a secret government agency working to protect you from all kinds of crazy, weird stuff. If I told you there was a TV series featuring all of that, plus great acting and superb action sequences, wouldn’t you want to watch that?

Sure you would. And people who are watching Fringe now know  it’s doing something rare. It’s a TV show working on all levels, characters with which anyone can identify, imaginative scripts, crackling dialogue, and a positive message (boiled-down: All you need is love). It’s the kind of show that, every time you finish watching the latest installment, you want to see its next episode right now.

A new episode of Fringe, titled “Os,” airs tonight, and as I explain and exhort in the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on sale today, you’re making a mistake if you miss it.

But if you’re not watching Fringe — and in case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is a passionate please-save-Fringe plea to you and to the dear, intelligent, how-much-flattery-do-you-need folks at Fox — here’s what I suggest: Forget everything you’ve heard about Fringe. Banish the notion that you’ll be confused by the serialized nature of its storytelling, that it’s too deep into its mythology for you to catch up. It’s not.

Because like the best TV, Fringe works on a number of levels, and one level is, it’s highly entertaining, accessible stuff. All you really need to know about Anna Torv’s Olivia Dunham and Josh Jackson’s Peter Bishop is that they’re brave investigators for the FBI’s Fringe Division, seeking to solve the mysteries of our world, which may be in jeopardy from another, alternate version of our world. And, by the way, Peter and Olivia are in love in a manner that’s so glowing with passion yet so challenged by emotional roadblocks thrown in their way, they make Romeo and Juliet look like Phil and Claire Dunphy.

And all you really need to know about John Noble’s Walter Bishop is that he’s a brilliant scientist who’s also emotionally fragile, playfully eccentric, and a junk-food junkie (it’s unlikely any other genius has referred to Pop-Tarts as “delicious strawberry-flavored death”). Oh, and by the way, Noble deserves an Emmy for his extraordinarily delicate, wide-ranging performances.

At its big, red, throbbing heart, the show tells the story of a love so powerful, it crosses universes: When Peter was seven, he died. His brilliant-scientist father, Walter, having discovered that there was a parallel universe containing doubles of everyone here, transported himself to that Other Side and brought back that universe’s Peter, to love and to cherish. In doing so, he created not just a rift in the universes (which are now dangerously, explosively out of balance), but also a rift between father and son (when Peter discovered who he really was, and grappled with the idea that he belonged to another Walter, a “Walternate”).

This is the bare-bones version of Fringe, which is creatively capacious enough to also take in the dual nature that resides in every one of us; arcane conspiracy theories that end up as eerie realities; and the over-arching idea held by every regular reader of Entertainment Weekly that we can experience everything – politics, art, philosophy, and cures for loneliness — through the culture around us.

From The Twilight Zone to Battlestar Galactica, the sci-fi/fantasy genre has been downbeat, dystopian, pessimistic, and bleak. In that context, who can blame viewers leery of Fringe, after seeing all those Fox promos in which the heroes yelp variations on “Our whole universe may end!”? We get enough of that kind of message on other channels, like Fox News and MSNBC. Successful, hit TV shows, all hits of any pop-culture kind, have one thing in common: reassurance. They make you feel that, when you get up off the sofa, you’ve not only been entertained and, at best, mentally stimulated, but you’ve also been assured that life goes on and the future is sustainable.

This positive, utopian, optimistic message is the one Fringe delivers; it’s just that it comes wrapped in a package that some people have too quickly pigeonholed as “dark,” “gritty,” “complicated,” and “it might make my head hurt.”

I’m not going to guilt-trip you and say that if you don’t watch Fringe, you’re helping to create an atmosphere in which daring new shows won’t make it onto future network schedules. Instead, I’ll be sad that you’re not sharing in what could be the best puzzle-pieced epic since Lost, and the best portrait of a fractious family since Frasier, or perhaps even M*A*S*H. Because right now, Fringe is promising you nothing less than the world – two of ’em, in fact.

Why do you think Fringe isn’t more popular? Will you be watching it?

Twitter: @kentucker


Comments (416 total) Add your comment
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  • Brigid

    I so wish that I had a Nielsen box. I would watch Fringe live and then rewatch it an hour later! I love this show so much and really hope it gets renewed for another season.

    • Tiffany

      It’s weird, I got a questionnaire from Nielsen a couple of weeks ago. I am going to support Fringe 110%. That is the only show I put on it. Hopefully, Nielsen sends all those out to only fans of Fringe. That would be epic. I just wish that the networks would keep the quality shows alive and not the dumbed down reality crap.

      • Brigid

        It’s discouraging that intelligent, thought provoking and well acted television can’t find an audience, but other crap lives on forever.

      • PMD

        I am so jealous that you got a Nielson box!!! Imagine if all the smart, intelligent tv watchers got one. There would be so much less of this reality drama and a lot more quality tv still on!!!

      • Dippidy doo

        FRINGE is a wonderful show that FOX does not deserve, I just finished watching the entire series of Firefly and Serenity and it has to be the best series this century – it was this generation’s Star Wars, and crap like Human Target gets a second season?? Whoever manages FOX is a moron, I just hope FRINGE goes out on its own terms

      • notryt

        People are basically stupid, (remember last nov) You cant expect them to watch anything that requires any form of analysis. Basically “Fringe” watchers have IQ’s in the triple digits. With the dumbing down of the America. All we can expect in the future from Fox is more Reality TV and the Glenn Beck show. Those who still can think will have to Hulu the thought provoking stuff.

      • EMAIL FOX!!

        Send them a message/email on the fox website, tell them you love the show and then tell them again, and get other people to do the same.

      • EMAIL FOX!!

        Here are a bunch of fox email addresses:

        http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,77538,00.html

      • elizabeth

        In addition to the emails, make sure to bookmark the Fringe site on Fox, and periodically load and reload it as much as possible. They count the traffic and it does contribute to these decisions, esp. as the Fox site also has ads they want us to see.

    • shawn

      I didn’t know it was in trouble! why is this show in trouble. my wife and i love it. we just got our brother-in-law hooked on it. we’re pissed they moved it to fridays. a little tired of idol to be honest. so they better renew it. hear that fox tv, renew and keep fringe it’s the best show you’ve got!

      • ro

        I am also doing my part as I have gotten 2 families in on it by giving them season 1 and 2 to catch up and get hooked on. everyone should pass it on and keep this show going.

    • Emilio

      I have a big, big problem. I’m an overseas loyal viewer of Fringe (Perú). I’ve made it popular among my family, friends and students, yet I know that FOX isn’t counting us as viewers. What can I do? I’ll suffer it’s cancelation just as much as you, yet I can’t do a thing, or can I?

      • jimbo

        watch it on hulu too. im sure they pay attention to how many hits it gets on there

      • CanadianClaire

        Unfortunately that won’t help – Hulu is only available in the US.

      • saboosh

        Send them a message on the fox website, tell them what you just told us… then tell them again, and get other people over there to do the same.

    • Tajah

      @Brigit I wish I had a Neilson box too, so I could help this show, one of the best on TV, stay on the air. Fringe is brilliant and deserves to be renewed. Fox, PLEASE DO NOT CANCEL IT!!! I am telling everyone I know via phone, Facebook, email, yelling down the street, etc. to watch this show. Give it a chance.

      • Jack2211

        Best show on TV.

        So do cable/satellite companies not track viewing data? What about PVRing (when done through a digital service, like Bell or Rogers in Canada). Is that tracked?

        Personally, the move to Friday meant there’s nothing to watch anymore on Thursday nights.

        Maybe the ratings are why Fringe seems to be going for broke tonight. Spoiler:

        Anna Torv’s Nimoy voice sounds a little like Billy Crystal’s “I’ll have the pecan pie-ee” voice in When Harry Met Sally.

      • elizabeth

        @Jack2211: DVR live and DVR same night are now considered ALMOST as important as Nielsen. DVR+7 is included in weekly ratings roundups. Now they need to start including online viewing and downloads, which they do not include NEARLY as much as they should. They do have people paying attention to these sites, too, so the more we talk about Fringe, the better.

    • sfday

      This show is amazing, it would be a tragedy if it weren’t renewed! It’s the smartest thing on tv right now, and the most emotionally engaging.

      • Carolina

        I plan on using glass more and buying in bulk more for less kipcagang waste. I send my daughters lunch in glass containers now instead of plastic or throwaways. She also has a cloth napkin and a reusable water bottle. It’s fun finding ways to help the earth!!!!

    • EDWARD 4 EVUHHH!!!!!

      This show is so stupid!! You all should like totally get a life and start reading the greatest books in the world ever: TWILIGHT!!!!!! Its so much more good than this stupid show! In 100 years, Twilight will be the new Shakespeer! Youl see!!!!! Twilight fans willz live 4EVUUUHHHH!!!!!

      • amnesia76

        Troll. Twilight is dreck

      • Desmond

        YOU ARE SUCH AN IDIOT! first of all, YOU NEED A LIFE. go back to grade 1 and learn how to spell, and then throw out those twilight books. ive read them – AND THEY SUCK. how dare you compare TV’s most thought-provoking, mind-bending, terrificly acted show to a vampire and werefolf series! lemme guess, you haven’t even read the books have you? your probably just some little teenaged girl who only likes the series for taylor lautner’s abs!

      • um_what?

        That’s right, “it’s so much more good than…” As Einstein said, “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidy, and I’m not sure about the former.”

      • Alena

        Guys, I think that was a joke. Nobody with a high enough IQ to comprehend the thesis of that article would actually write that.

      • Gina

        I love this show!! I watch it every week. Its so strange and thought provoking that I can not walk away, if I do I am scared I am going to miss something. Great casting and storyline. I hope it returns. The shows on now are terrible. What happened to actual stories and Entertainment or discovery? All this reality crap are destroying our brains.

      • Color Me Impressed

        Guys, calm down. I honestly think this was a joke. At least I hope it was.

      • carolyn

        So much more good? This is why you watch Twilight over Fringe… you’re probably 12 and your education (or lack there of) is the reason you don’t watch this great show..

      • Tomalak Geret’kal

        I just love how you’re all berating this guy’s spelling and grammar (troll or otherwise), evidently blissfully unaware that, although non-idiomatic, “so much more good” is perfectly valid English.

      • Olive

        Shakespeer? Twitards can’t even spell, no chance their lonely neuron could understand fringe….. Pathetic

      • wise-in_va

        Sarcasm? I truly hope so, for your sake. If not, then all I can say to your comment is
        hahahahahahahahaha…breathe in . . . . hahahahahahaha….beathe in againhahahahaha.

        This disproves the comment that all Fringe viewers have IQ’a in the triple digits, or does it??? Perhaps only those who GET Fringe have IQ’s in the triple digits?
        Even my husband likes it, and he’s typically a Steven Segal-Jet Li-Arnold-Stallone type of guy.

      • ekolint48

        Your the dumb one if ur seriously hawking that twilight S***. Go back to the 12 year old’s board where people are at your same maturity and intellectual level. We’re not going to tolerate that nonsense over here.

      • Fringie6989

        I was completely obsessed with Twilight, reading the books several times, watching all the movies on opening night, my car was covered with stickers so much it was called the Twilightmobile…then I watched Fringe and realized how much better Fringe was than Twilight. In fact, they aren’t even in the same ball park. Fringe is SO much better!!! The mythology, the characters, the storyline…it would be too much to type to explain all the reasons that I love Fringe so much and am now completely obsessed with at a level that could never have happened with Twilight. If you seriously think Twilight is better, it is because you haven’t watched Fringe.

    • hlynn

      Amen! This is the best show on right now!!

    • M.C.

      I couldn’t agree more, we have to do something to save this show.

    • Ankit

      Comment It was 11 crazy days. We’ve already poestd up the happenings from days one to four (here, here, here, and here) and we finally got up the final VLOGs. Part 1 of Fringe Days 5/6/7 is

      • Adhe

        Sooo happy and sooo proud of you sweets!!! You unlediabny deserve every itty bitty good thing that comes your way…..(rockin outfit in the pic btw:)MWAH!

  • Hill

    Just finished Season 1 and my only regret that I didn’t start earlier– hoping I can get season 2/first part of 3 done ASAP to start watching and add to the Nielsen ratings

    • CC

      Like most good shows, season 2 is their gold standard. You’re going to love it.

      • cd

        except for LOST, when the main characters spent most of season 2 playing house in the hatch. haha

      • mesa

        I loved the Hatch. but it’s true

      • CE

        And X-Files, Season 3 is their gold standart. And Twin Peaks, House MD (S1)…

    • carlos

      Just watch the new episodes while catching up!

    • elizabeth

      I remember when I first started watching, I had saved about four eps on my DVR before I got around to watching them. (I had just discovered Mad Men at the same time, so Fringe got second billing for me then.) Then one day I was in a funk and decided to do a Fringe-a-thon, and was BLOWN AWAY. I never did enjoy the John Scott stuff as much (even though I like Mark Valley), but in every other respect, I was hooked (I think it was Olivia’s willingness to trust Walter and go into the the sensory dep. tank that did it for me), and couldn’t wait for the next week’s ep. I’ve been a live fan ever since. I EVEN WATCH THE ADS, FOX PEOPLE!

      • Olive

        Btw. What happened with Scott ? I know ge died and his body was at mass dyn, but did they ever find out who he really was?

  • CC

    I’ll be watching. Great show.

    • bethanymae

      It really is such a fantastic show. It has so many elements that make it interesting and gripping, and yet it’s not too complicated to start now. The reason for that is because it’s surprisingly relatable and can identify with the character’s and their various struggles–they’re just magnified. If you watch Fringe, you’ll feel, you’ll question, you’ll think, you’ll laugh, you’ll ache, you’ll want 10 more seasons. Give this awesome show a chance–it’s one of the best.

      • Kimberly

        Yes, it’s not hard to understand. I actually started watching a few weeks ago when it was the Fauxlivia centric episode. I got hooked, started watching season 1 online and continued to watch season 3 as it goes along.

  • Delon

    Fringe should be nominated for an Emmy. ASAP!!! This show started as something silly and cheesy and morphed into a thought provoking sci-fi character drama with scares and unprecedented depth.
    John Noble deserves an Emmy more than any other actor on TV. His work is astounding. Layer upon layer. A beauty to behold. I think what us Fringe devotees should do is to start a campaign to get our beloved show some award recognition. Ken Tucker, start waving the flag. RIGHT NOW !!!

    • AltDave

      Agreed. THE GOOD WIFE didn’t really take off until the Emmys and GGs gave it some well-deserved recognition and people started checking it out. FRINGE is totally deserving of nominations for any and all of its stars, writers, best series, best ensemble, best depiction of an alternate reality…….

      • elizabeth

        Excellent point, take note Academy people.

  • Elizabeth

    Networks should quit making their decisions based on the antiquated Nielsen system, especially FOX.

    • Jenna

      I know, it’s crazy. Like how the CW has tiny ratings compared to all the other networks, but if you just look on twitter or youtube or facebook you can see how millions of tweens and teens are obsessed with the CW shows!

  • Kate

    Since about six weeks ago, I have been recording it but haven’t brought myself to watch it yet. I really tried at the beginning and it lost me. I accidentally watched a couple of episodes when it replays on Saturdays at 11 around me and I liked it. I am dreading watching it because I don’t want to be disappointed, but it is getting to DVR armegeddon and I think this weekend will be the have to point. So, I could return her Monday morning I die hard or…

    • TQB

      You won’t be disappointed!

    • Danielle

      I agree you won’t be disappointed! This show has only continued to get better.

  • AmyB

    It annoys me when a station “trains” me to watch a show on a certain night then moves it. It then becomes my fault as a loyal viewer if the show is cancelled if I don’t rearrange my week to watch when it airs instead of taping it.

  • Jen

    I would never miss an episode, I love this show!! I think that the general public loves to watch the same things over and over again though, the L&Os, CSIs, etc. They can’t seem to expand their horizons.

  • DHo

    I’ve been trying to preach the word of Fringe to my friends for a long time now and only a handful have listened. You really are missing out on one of the best produced, written, and acted shows on TV right now if you’re not watching Fringe. Don’t wait to see the first 2 seasons on DVD…start watching NOW and catch up on DVD during the Summer.

    • theresa

      i watched fringe AND DVR’D it to rewatch. i am BIG FAN. LOVE LOVE LOVEIT

  • mack

    Ken Tucker I love you for that comment about Peter and Olivia!!!

    They make my heart explode with love.

    They are without a doubt the best couple on TV. Mature, real, fitting, respectful of the characters and of the audience.

    I just need a bed scene, Fringe Producers. Thanks ;0)

    • Tajah

      I agree with everything Mack said!! Seconded on the bed scene!!!

      • Etty

        After reading bateuy and the mum I decided to ask the question where can I buy a winge from as even my GHD does not straighten my own fringe as it has reeceded so I must get another from somewhere, please let me know.Thank You

  • TQB

    Why don’t people watch? Because of the comparisons to Lost, which couldn’t be more different. The writing and acting on Fringe is much better, and it is nowhere near as focused on games, clues and references. You tell people “it’s like Lost” and they immediately have one of 2 reactions: ugh, I never got into that show because it was so self-important and deliberately weird, or ugh, I just got finished being way too invested in Lost, I can’t do it again.

    Fringe is much more traditional really good sci fi – which is to say, much more about using weird out there stuff to tell the very personal story of a handful of people.

    Whatever, it’s a fascinating, brilliant and beautiful show. Give it a shot.

    • Julie

      I think this is a huge part of the problem. People think it’s something that it’s not.

      For instance, I know of a lot of fans of “The X-Files” think that “Fringe” is just a rip-off and they find it insulting. Some won’t even bother to give it a chance.

      Same with people who have gotten involved in other J.J. Abrams shows. They think, “Ugh. Another LOST or Alias.” They don’t take into account that while he created these shows, they all have different writers and show runners. Thus, it’s a completely different show.

      • TQB

        Right! I was a huge X-Files fan and at first I thought Fringe was just a clone. It isn’t. There’s a huge difference between being referential to a past great show and copying. Fringe takes place in a very different real-life present than the mid-90s X-Files did – different social and political issues, different science, different problems. They are each a unique product of their time. The government was behind the vast conspiracies of the X-Files. The government is the least of the Fringe universes problems! The only thing they have in common is a real commitment to brilliant storytelling and deeply evolved characters.

      • elizabeth

        Not the least of whom is Akiva Goldsman, one of the most brilliant film people in H’wood.

      • Liz

        Eh, I’m a HUGE Lost fan and a HUGE Fringe fan. I understand the comparison but they are different shows. I don’t think it has to be either/or.

    • crispy

      Here’s why I don’t watch… because I fell behind a few seasons back when American Idol was always running late and my DVR kept cutting off the end of Fringe. I never got caught back up. I would love to watch Fringe again, but it doesn’t seem like the type of show you can just jump in and start watching again. Maybe if I had a list of the 5 definitive episodes to watch.

      • AltDave

        AI is the worst if you DVR your favorite shows. But now I have it set to record an additional 5 minutes of BONES so when AI goes over I don’t miss the end.

      • TQB

        Can I give you a handful from both seasons?

        Season 2:
        A New Day in the Old Town
        Jacksonville
        Peter
        Olivia. In the lab. With a revolver.
        Over There 1&2

        Season 3:
        Olivia
        The Abducted
        Entrada
        Immortality
        Subject 13

      • crispy

        Thank you!! I am caught up thru the “Peter” episode, so this actually won’t take me that long.

    • E

      For me, I first decided to give Fringe a try BECAUSE I loved past J.J. Abrams shows and sci-fi shows like X-Files and was missing a quality mystery/fantasy drama in my TV viewing.

    • elizabeth

      It IS possible to discuss how brilliant Fringe is and how different it is from LOST without disrespecting either LOST or its fans. So let’s try, shall we?

  • RoscoeNats

    I wish the rest of the world would catch on to this fantastic show. FOX is in a tough spot but I hope they’ll make the right choice and keep Fringe (and Lie to Me). With all the rising interest in Syfy’s shows, I’d imagine some of their viewers would gravitate toward FRINGE. Dammit people, SPOCK himself is on this show!

    • TQB

      Great campaign: “Fringe – Endorsed by SPOCK!”

      • edandish

        Seriously, I love the show and seeing him make an appearance in it is always exciting.

  • Nicholas

    Oh! How I love this show! Have watched since day one and NOTHING on TV compares! I wish I could do more to ensure its survival. This show is worthy of SO much more recognition that it is getting. I watch it live every Friday, not that anyone is counting my house hold, but it’s all I can think to do! Everyone should be watching this show!

    • Dudi

      haha I’m totally agree with you on the whole etcipnion rip off. I honestly thought Peter was gonna spin a top on a table and have the camera fade to black. I did not like the cartoons at all. I’m thinking that the writers put William Bell back in the mix with the hopes that Leonard Nemoy might do it? Idk but it was such a letdown.. Anyway. Love the show. Love your reviews. Keep up the great work..

  • Mincha

    Fringe is phenomenal, and if you’re not watching it, you are missing the best show on television. It’s not *just* a sci-fi show; it is everything Ken mentions in the article. It’s a show that stays with you long after you’ve watched it, with unforgettable plots, themes and characters. It’s hugely entertaining, suspenseful, thought-provoking, heartbreaking, heartfelt, and mind-blowing. Seriously, how could you not want to watch a show with all of that?

  • Todd

    Thanks Ken, it is great to see someone else with the same passion for Fringe that I have. I think this really is the best show on TV. Once I get done watching an episode, I can’t wait for the next one. Weeks with no Fringe are excrutiating. I hope that enough people watch this show and that it get at least another season. It will be a travesty if this show is cancelled and the fans don’t get a satisfying finale.

    • Charles

      Oh, I forgot to mention but every plot twist is more predictable then a Republican’s response to President Obama. I find myself saying “No S*” at the end of each episode.”

      • Densler

        Posted on Im glad to have located this post as its such an rteeitsning one! I am always on the lookout for quality posts and posts so i suppose im lucky to have located this! I hope you will be adding more in the future

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