Beyond the 'Fringe'
Today's cuppa: PG Tips tea
Among the broadcast networks, Fox is known for interesting, clever promotional materials. The press kit for the new thriller "Fringe," premiering Tuesday, Sept. 9, is in keeping with the show's theme of unexplained occurrences and how they may be connected to each other and to larger forces.
It included a file folder, supposedly belonging to Homeland Security Agent Philip Broyles (Lance Reddick). Click here for his bio. He's leading the U.S. government's investigation into "The Pattern," and overseeing the work of FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) and the father-son scientific team of Walter (John Noble) and Peter Bishop.
Also included in the kit was a small digital recorder containing Broyles' dictated notes.
As anyone who watched executive producer J.J. Abrams' previous shows -- "Alias" and "Lost" -- knows, he's fond of complex mysteries and interlocking plot-lines. But Abrams plans to take a different tack with "Fringe," and it's partly because he understands the demands his other shows placed on the audience.
At the Television Critics Association Press Tour in July, Abrams talked about watching "Alias" at the home of his longtime pal, series regular Greg Grunberg, and being utterly unable to understand what was happening in his own show, describing it as "impenetrable."
Asked about that in a recent conversation, Abrams says, "On 'Alias,' very early on, people were saying, 'I quit, because I can't follow it."
About his experience at Grunberg's house, Abrams says, "Oh, my God, it was confounding. There's a certain apparent disconnect that happened on that show, where you literally couldn't understand what was happening."
Abrams refers to "Fringe" as an experiment in mixing standalone episodes and ongoing plot-lines, saying, "I'm sick of people saying to me something that I completely sympathize with. At a certain point, instead of feeling like, 'Well, I expect them to watch every week without hesitation,' whereas I couldn't (even do that).
"As a parent, it's hard to plan your day. If you can't tape or TiVo it or catch it on iTunes, you're screwed that next week. It's an unrealistic expectation. If we were doing simply a box set of DVDs, where it was all or nothing, I would say, 'Screw it, let's do it.'
"But I'm sick of hearing people say something that is completely understandable and something I empathize with."
So, Abrams explains that he and fellow executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci will have ongoing elements in the show but are planning to roll out mythology-heavy episodes every four or five weeks, using them as tentpoles for the season.
"When they happen," he says, "you don't need to see what has come before, because we will make it very clear, just in the storytelling."