This is the third part (of four) in a blog series about what shows I’ve watched and what I thought of them. Just a few remarks for each of them. The text will be with only minor spoilers, so it should be relatively safe to read this in case you’re curious about shows you haven’t seen before.
Country: USA | Genre: Science Fiction/Drama | Seasons: 5 (2008-2013) | Status: Ended
Fringe is a science fiction series created by J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. The series follows an FBI “Fringe Division” team under the supervision of Homeland Security. The team uses unorthodox “fringe” science and FBI investigative techniques to investigate a series of unexplained, often ghastly occurrences, which are related to mysteries surrounding a parallel universe. The show has been described as a hybrid of The X-Files, Altered States, The Twilight Zone and Dark Angel.
The Fringe Division includes Olivia Dunham, Special Agent; Dr. Walter Bishop, the archetypal mad scientist; and Peter Bishop, Walter’s estranged son and jack-of-all-trades. The Fringe Division’s work often intersects with advanced biotechnology developed by a company called Massive Dynamic, founded by Walter’s former partner, Dr. William Bell.Wikipedia
This is a show by J.J. Abrams who also created Alias and Lost. It mostly follows a female FBI agent, an eccentric old professor and his intelligent son examining odd supernatural or science fiction heavy incidents. It has clearly been inspired by The X-Files regarding these cases.
The team is quite different, however, and especially revolves a lot around the professor, Walter Bishop (John Noble), his mannerisms and his strangely regular involvement in the mysteries they find. In fact, the professor is such an integral part of the show that you probably have to like (or at least accept) his strange habits and dialogue in order to fully appreciate the show. I have seen two seasons so far albeit only the first one together with my family. My mother just couldn’t stand his repeatedly silly and irrelevant digressions.
I must confess that I’m not completely sold myself either. The team is certainly interesting, the actors talented, and the stories are sometimes really far out and imaginative, but something is just lacking. First of all there’s the son, Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), who seems a little out of place somehow – it’s as if he doesn’t really want to be there at all (he was kind of hijacked into the role as his fathers guardian), and somehow the laboratory also looks like a temporary solution.
This sensation of a fragile team that could break up any moment was there in the entire first season and a half. Towards the end of second season, however, a couple of really great episodes shake up the relationships while also answering a lot of questions. That was a improvement that made me want to continue watching it. That being said, the two-part finale was a bit of a mess.
I normally like the music composed by Michael Giacchino, but I really think the theme for the intro of Fringe is far too simple and aggravating. It sounds like something an amateur would throw together in a jiffy, and we know from several other shows that mr. Giacchino is not an amateur. I especially like one of his background themes in Lost used when a group is traveling.
At one point during the second season there’s an episode that takes place in the 80’s. To get into the mood there’s also an 80’s version of the intro, and ironically the theme playing here is just so much better than the standard version. Sigh.
Country: USA | Genre: Science Fiction/Drama | Seasons: 4 (2006-2010) | Status: Canceled
Heroes is a science fiction drama series created by Tim Kring. The series tells the stories of ordinary people who discover superhuman abilities, and how these abilities take effect in the characters’ lives. The series emulates the aesthetic style and storytelling of American comic books, using short, multi-episode story arcs that build upon a larger, more encompassing arc.Wikipedia
The first season is actually quite good. The various characters of the show discover their super powers, we get acquainted with them and learn about their personal problems, they meet each other sporadically during the season, and the story has a nice pacing. There’s a great atmosphere too; the unusual background music, the cartoonist at his atelier draws paintings with visions of the future, and the scenes demonstrating the powers are often awesome.
And when you have finished that first season, you should stop right there. No, seriously. Starting with the second season, the quality of the writing drops and the show meanders into a mess. The third season was a terrible disappointment and I didn’t bother with the fourth season at all.
A lot of new characters are introduced (some of which have super powers) and not all of them works. One of them is a significant retcon explained by showing various scenes from the first season only with the new character present as well (usually right before or after the original scene). Bah!
Also existing characters are adapted to circumvent that they are actually too powerful, which felt a bit contrived to me. The main bad guy temporarily loses his powers, turns good, then turns bad again. It feels like the story is just created on the whim during these seasons.
Country: USA | Genre: Medical/Drama | Seasons: 8 (2004-2012) | Status: Ended
House (also known as House, M.D.) is a medical drama. The show’s central character is Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie), an unconventional and misanthropic medical genius who heads a team of diagnosticians at the fictional Princeton‑Plainsboro Teaching Hospital (PPTH) in New Jersey.Wikipedia
This is a great medical show with a “mystery” each episode, a patient with a strange illness, that has to be solved by Gregory House and his small team. Hugh Laurie is excellent as the sarcastic and reckless doctor that prefers to follow his own rules. It’s like the wit and genius of Sherlock Holmes mixed together with the rudeness and charm of Han Solo. Even if you’re normally not into medical shows, you might like this one just because of Gregory House.
House has a team of 3-4 other doctors and together they try to solve the problem with examinations, tests, inspiration from seemingly unrelated situations, breaking into the home of the patient to find the cause, and discussions with heavy medical jargon. Especially the latter is common and certainly not always understood by us mere mortals, but it doesn’t really matter. There’s enough of meat around it to still warrant watching the episodes, and in the end you’ll probably understand enough.
Apart from the team, House also have a good friend in Dr. James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard). He is the only one that can really handle his deceive and trickery and there’s often a lot of hilarious dialogue between the two doctors. However, in some of the later seasons it does seem to go a little overboard with second-, third-, fourth-, and five-guessing each others true motives.
Also the episodes can be a little samey after a while, although to be fair the writers really try to shake things up in certain seasons. We have seen 5 seasons so far and although we love House, we’ve found it can be a good idea to limit the number of episodes watched in a session.
Country: USA | Genre: Post-Apocalyptic/Drama | Seasons: 2 (2006-2008) | Status: Canceled
Jericho is an action/drama series that centers on the residents of the fictional town of Jericho, Kansas, in the aftermath of nuclear attacks on 23 major cities in the contiguous United States.
The series begins with a visible nuclear detonation of unknown origin in nearby Denver, Colorado, and a loss of power and modern communications, effectively isolating Jericho. Several themes regularly addressed in the show included the gathering of information, community identity, public order, limited resources, the value of family, hardships of fatherhood, and internal and external threats.Wikipedia
As stated in the Wikipedia quote above, there’s a lot of internal and external threats, family problems, hunting down resources, and suspicious characters with strange secrets, just to mention a few of the ingredients of this show. Since it’s a post-apocalyptic show taking place in a small town, there’s a lot of characters. Most of them are likable and interesting enough to keep going.
The show has an interesting beginning as it goes from a normal everyday situation to a nuclear explosion with everyone running for cover to avoid the radioactive rain. As the episodes progress, their problems inevitably turns to lack of resources and disputes with other towns. The show only reveals very little about the fate of the rest of America, to fuel the desperation of not knowing how bad it is and whether they will ever get help.
The show was canceled after one season, but a small second season was filmed later to tie up the lose ends and give the show some closure (there’s even an alternative ending on the DVD, but we liked the original one better). There’s lots of good action and suspense, and the actors are good. We especially liked Alicia Coppola as an IRS agent sent to audit the Richmond farm.
Lie to Me
Country: USA | Genre: Crime/Drama | Seasons: 3 (2009-2011) | Status: Cancelled
In Lie to Me, Dr. Cal Lightman (Tim Roth) and his colleagues in The Lightman Group accept assignments from third parties (commonly local and federal law enforcement), and assist in investigations, reaching the truth through applied psychology: interpreting microexpressions, through the Facial Action Coding System, and body language.Wikipedia
A unique show where a team led by Cal Lightman (Tim Roth) is hired to detect whether someone is lying. Typically these cases are related to police procedural work, but sometimes they also hired to e.g. figure out if a new employee is sincere, and there can be several cases in an episode.
The idea with detecting what people are thinking through their body language and microexpressions feels quite original, and it’s well done with close ups and quick cuts, as well as the way Tim Roth scrutinizes almost everyone he’s talking to (to give the idea that he’s really adept at this).
Unfortunately it also feels like a one trick pony and does get a bit old after a while. Even worse, in our opinion the show had the not too uncommon problem of a team where only the lead (Tim Roth) is interesting, while the all the other characters are pretty bland. We’ve only seen one season, though.
Country: USA | Genre: Adventure/Science Fiction/Drama | Seasons: 6 (2004-2010) | Status: Ended
Lost was created by Jeffrey Lieber, J. J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof. The series follows the lives of various individuals and groups of people, most importantly the survivors of the crash of a commercial passenger jet flying between Sydney and Los Angeles, on a mysterious tropical island somewhere in the South Pacific Ocean. Episodes typically feature a primary storyline on the island, as well as a secondary storyline from another point in a character’s life.Wikipedia
Thrilling adventure series filmed in gorgeous locations on islands with sandy beaches and palm trees. Lots of likable characters you want to follow. In fact, the cast is one of the most diverse I’ve seen. Especially the first season bodes well with an epic plane crash and nice back stories, and it doesn’t take long before you realize that there’s a lot of great mystery and supernatural events going on.
Unfortunately some episodes feel like the writers doesn’t always know where they’re going; a feeling that persists throughout the entire show until the finale in season 6. At some point where white flashes start appearing (I can’t say more than that without spoiling anything) the show really feels like it jumped the shark and you’re only watching now because you want to see the end of it.
Of all the colorful characters on this show, it probably doesn’t come as too much of a surprise that we really liked John Locke (Terry O’Quinn), especially the way he was mysterious and charismatic in the beginning of the first season. Then for some weird reason the writers of the show decided to make a fool out of him; an anti-hero with a failed past and all questions instead of thoughtful answers and suggestions. “What happened to you, Locke? You used to be so cool!”
However, the fantastic shots of the islands and the diverse characters (backed up by good acting) still makes it worth watching it to the end, and it does have closure.