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Fringe – X-Files Jr.?

It seems like every so often, prime-time TV schedules become packed with paranormal shows. A lot of the time it seems to be caused by one show that becomes very popular, very fast. It happened with the Twilight Zone, it happened with the X-Files. And now, it seems like it might happen again with Fringe.

Fringe is a TV show premiering this fall on Fox that seems to take a page, or perhaps a chapter, out of the book of the X-Files. It’s about a number of individuals, mainly scientists who take on fringe scientific topics. According to the preview for the series, they will deal with everything from teleportation to reanimation.

I, for one, enjoy these types of shows. I mean how many of us can really say they hated the X-Files or the Twilight Zone? The only thing I dislike about them are the fact that it brings false credibility to some of these phenomena and it paints skeptical scientists as a bunch of people without a clue. Remember Scully? She never had a chance, she existed in a universe where the paranormal was normal. Where ghosts and cryptids existed and where aliens routinely visited Earth for various purposes.

Granted, judging by the preview, Fringe seems to take on more scientific topics. They seem to be steering clear of total paranormal phenomena and sticking to the edges of science. It looks like they’ll touch on immortality and the singularity. Which makes it a little more interesting and at the same time, a little scarier. People could come away from this thinking this is real present-day science.

The one thing that really had me upset during the preview was the lines “what if science could exceed our imagination? What if the unimaginable could become reality?” Almost seems to me like the writers have no idea what science is. Science exceeds our imagination every day. And in doing so, the unimaginable DOES become a reality. If this is the way the writers will be treating science, this show will disappoint the skeptic in all of us.

The Fringe premiere airs Tuesday September 9th on Fox at 8pm and they’re promoting it to be one of their top shows for this season.

I just hope this doesn’t mean another slew of crappy paranormal shows on the major networks next season.

13 comments to Fringe – X-Files Jr.?

  • It always struck me that Scully wasn’t a skeptic, she was a denier. If she was really a scientific person, and kept getting hit over the head, week after week, of evidence of aliens and the paranormal, she’d've turned into a complete believer, too. Frankly, I thought she seemed a lot crazier than Mulder.

  • I don’t see how the “Twilight Zone” is anything like the “X-files”. One was a legitimate science fiction anthology, the other was an Alien Conspiracy Soap Opera.

    Granted, there are some “non-arc” episodes of the X-File, which are often favorably compared to the Twilight Zone, but those episodes are not the basis of the show’s popularity.

    To the question you asked early in the piece… I can honestly say I hated the X-Files.

  • I am 26. When they X-Files came out I was younger. It seems a LOT younger. I remember enjoying the show but I watched an episode recently and cringed. I agree with your article. I only watch TV when I am too tired to read or surf the net. Most TV is crap and we all know it. I cringe sceptically and scientifically at even my favourite shows. One of the best shows scientifically(that was fiction) was a Canadian show called ReGenesis and even that had to overplay the drama to make it palatable to a wider audience. It was based in a laboratory.

    I watched a pre-air of this show and thought it was ok. Compared too most TV it was quite good. I suspect I will watch and cringe and moan as is my right.

    What was the most popular TV show that our ilk would watch that was on last year? Heroes? Lost? Come on tell me how many gaffs you see in that per episode lol.

    I think I just imagine an alternate reality in which what happens in each show can actually happen. I think I am up too about 150 alternate realities at the moment lol.

    p.s. Every time the so called scientist (Mohinder is the character I think) in Heroes speaks about evolution I wanna chew off my own hand.

  • alexjbutterfield

    Haha. Got to disagree with you again, Febo. (Next time I can say ‘as usual’)

    I liked the X-Files for the standalone episodes, and it was my favourite show. The mythology eps were sometimes just too boring.

    I recently saw the movie and was disappointed that I couldn’t suspend my disbelief for a psychic character. Perhaps that was just down to the movie being god awful, and the psychic being Billy Connelly.

    I also saw an episode for the first time in years just before that, where Peter Boyle played a psychic (an ep that I remembered very fondly) and it was awful too. It has aged badly. The acting was bearable to a 15 year old, but at 25, after seeing really great acting (like Gervais in The Office, or Casey Affleck in The Assassination of Jesse James) it’s just cringe-worthy. It’s sad, but I should have known better than to try and revisit my fond memories.

    Good post Mjhavok. I’ve been into Heroes and Lost – more as something to be into, I watch them with my wife as I’m usually too scathing about the TV she consumes. I find Lost more palatable to my skepticism than Heroes for exactly the reason you mention. Heroes just butchers evolution.

    I hope Fringe is good though, if they have some decent writers maybe they can even promote an interest in science through the show.

  • Yep. I feel I have to suspend my disbelief when I watch TV nowadays. Even if I watch the news. :-S

  • jedischooldropout

    From watching an advance copy of the Fringe pilot it definitely does look like it deals primarily with events leading to the Technological Singularity. (Which annoys me in a ‘darn I was wanting to do something about that!’ kinda way.) It also appears to be more ‘long-arc’ than X-Files was. This shouldn’t be too surprising as its a J.J. Abrahms (Lost) product.

    In the defense of film & TV writers, it’s a really tough world to write fiction for that is both a) Skeptical and b) Compelling to the masses. (And for the record, that last requirement may as well be synonymous with ‘is going to put food on the table.’) Full disclosure – I have to deal with this exact dilemma myself.

    I’d suggest we don’t get too grumpy with the shows that are the least egregious. Don’t watch the stuff that really does support the woo. (‘Medium,’ I am looking at you.) Those narrative shows (to differentiate from Mythbusters) that are at least trying to be scientific – even if it’s being done poorly – are still promoting science, and that is all we’ve got right now.

    If Fringe is pushing the edge of speculation in a scientific direction, and is a success, then the next show down the pipe may be even more based upon REAL science.

    But in the end, do we really want a world where every show adheres strictly to the tenets of evidence and scientific method? Hell no. I came to science (and skepticism) as an interest via science fiction books and movies. I know I am hardly alone. And I don’t want to give up on the fantastical shows – they are fun damn it!

  • alexjbutterfield

    I agree it’s not the supernatural content that is the problem – I loved Donnie Darko, for example, that’s full of God ideas, and I like fantasy and science fiction. The difficulty is making it plausible, which means creating a world where it is possible.

    Too many shows just stick some supernatural elements in and leave everything else the same. If your fictional world accepts psychics then it needs to permeate that world – eg. Minority Report. (Not that that was any good)

    So it’s not that all shows or films or books should adhere to the laws of physics that we have. But they need to be consistent to the laws of physics that they create.

  • dcardani

    In my opinion, J.J. Abrams is anti-scientific. There’s a video of him speaking at TED where he explains that he likes when there’s a mysterious box that does something that seems magical, and he doesn’t ever want to know how it works. That, to me at least, is the antithesis of science. Scientists want to understand how things work. It doesn’t ruin things by removing the mystery – it makes things cooler by revealing the beautiful way in which they work. And then it gives us knowledge to grow upon to learn more about our world.

    And that’s why after about season 2 of Lost I started to dislike the show. I understand the need to keep things somewhat mysterious to increase the suspense and keep viewers interested, but at some point it just started to seem that the creators of the show want us to praise Locke (the philosophical, “have faith” guy) as the good guy, and shun Jack (the logical, rational doctor guy) as the bad guy. Despite the fact that Locke keeps screwing things up and Jack keeps fixing them.

    Anyway, I also hated the X-Files, but loved the Twilight Zone, for what that’s worth. I don’t think I’ll bother giving any more Abrams shows a look, as I don’t think his style is compatible with my tastes.

    Oddly, though, I loved Buffy. I guess it just never seemed like the writers believed in the paranormal stuff that happened on the show, whereas with things like Lost and the X-Files, it seems like they really do believe some of it. Plus Buffy was very heavily a metaphor for other aspects of our lives, so you could say, “well they’re not *really* talking about vampires here…”

    OK, enough rambling. :)

  • jdclews

    I don’t have much of a problem with para normal TV shows – crappy or otherwise – insofar as it is clear they are fiction. A local show which we have here in New Zealand makes me very angy. This show, which is bound to be modelled on some similar show in the UK or US, is a so called documentary called “Sensing Murder” in which “psychics” “investigate” (enough of the quote marks – you get the idea) unsolved murders. The psychics (who are supposed to have been given no information at all) unerringly lead the presenters to the family home of the dead person or to the site where the body was found etc (“there is so much bad energy here”)but when it comes to information that only the deceased or the perpetrator would know they beome rather more vague – in the case of a missing body – “she’s telling me that her body is near water”… etc. To me this is simply fraud – certainly on the part of the psychics and probably on the part of the producers. Peoople really get sucked into this.

  • ziggy

    Well, I just watched the pilot and I was VERY disappointed. It isn’t paranormal focused, which is the only good thing it has going for it. It is however, very bad science fiction. I would say it is “Armageddonesque”. They actually have a mad scientist set up in an old dusty lab with food coloring filled flasks and dry ice bubbling away! The cinematography and production values were very good for a TV show, but the story was horribly contrived crap! In my opinion… :-)

  • Sceptic

    I have to second Febo. The first thing that struck me and really distracted me was your comparison of X-files and Twilight Zone. No comparison…no explanation required.

  • matt346

    I’ve never seen Twilight Zone but I loved the X-Files, mainly because I believed in a lot more paranormal phenomena back then, and I liked Dark Skies even more and thought it was very realistic, whereas now I don’t think I would enjoy them as much. I like both Lost and Heroes, although I think the black cloud “monster” in Lost was pretty pathetic. With Heroes I manage to suspend my disbelief completely. Star Trek: The Next Generation (still my favourite tv series of all time and better than any movie ever made) was what got me interested in science. I just love the technology in that show and I think it’s pretty easy to suspend disbelief when it’s set in the 24th century rather than the present day. My ex-gf loves Medium and believes that it’s based on reality ie that the real Alison Dubois has really helped police solve crimes.

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