As a lover of the arts, I also have a huge soft-spot for books, movies, and TV. But mostly anything with a good story and imagination.
I’m a big fan of Netflix, it has good and bad points but mostly good. And with the quality of television circling the drain due to the glut of cheaply produced reality shows, (see the History Channel is no longer about history and the Syfy channel is barely about sci-fi) it provides a haven, a glimmering beacon for those who love the serial drama. You know, shows that feature a different story every week but within the larger framework of an over-arching story.
Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of a show called Fringe. In grand tradition, I discovered this show about 5 years late; after its initial run. I imagine a trend that is becoming more and more common with the advent of Netflix. So many of these shows I would occasionally catch on TV back in the day, but failed to grab me because I came in the middle of it. Fringe is another such show. Netflix is amazing because I can finally watch a show from beginning to end. I completely revolutionized my watching experience. This fact more than makes up for the fact that you can only watch shows seasons, the year after initial release.
For those not familiar with Fringe, it’s kind of like this generation’s X Files but with a much more cohesive story. In fact, the story was obviously planned from the beginning and whereas X-files is mainly about extraterrestrials as one of a host of creatures in a pantheon of unexplained and supernatural phenomenon, Fringe attempts to explained the supernatural as a byproduct of the events that compose the overarching story.
It’s an amazing show, created by J.J. Abrams and some other guys, probably not as well known as J.J Abrams. What makes Fringe so special and stand out a bit is a strong female lead in what is more or less a police procedural with a sci-fi twist. Anna Torv does a great job leading the cast as Agent Dunham. And a great cast it is. No throwaway characters. Every character on the show is interesting and memorable. But by far the character that stands out the most is Walter Bishop played by John Noble. You may recognize him as the insane steward of Gondor, Denethor from Return of the King, if you’re a nerd like me. Just as in that role, he turns in a brilliant performance as Walter Bishop. He’s a little less psychotic in this role but makes up for it with eccentricity; playing a genius scientist with a faulty memory and a childlike passion/curiosity for weird science who spent the past 13 years being institutionalized. Although he does not have Alzheimer’s, he does a great job conveying the fear and helplessness that many elderly experience when they find they cannot care for themselves and so desperately want to be independent. He also has an ever-changing impulsive obsession with desserts.
The show basically consists of the cast investigating strange cases, typically that Walter has encountered in the past, much like Mulder’s X-files. If not, he can usually come to some conclusion as to what happened and how to catch the killer or otherwise solve the case. As time goes on a larger plot begins to be revealed that relates to all of the characters in a special way.
If you do have Netflix subscription, I highly recommend checking it out, if you haven’t already. Or watched it back in the day, like you were supposed to. But gems like Fringe don’t get worse with time, if anything they get better.