The most visceral is the gore. There's been a falsehood going around that movies and TV shows (particularly the network variety) have carte blanche to be as violent as they want and only get censored for sexiness. This is frustrating and persistent nonsense to violence fans, or at least I thought it was. Fringe's first episode begins with airplane full of people dying in a fleshy meltdown sequence that would have been at home in a hard R-rated horror flick like Planet Terror. Episode Two starts with a mutant baby exploding from a womb. The promise implicit in these scenes is that there's a lot more where they came from, and if Fringe follows horror conventions, it will only get worse from here on out (which is to say, better). It's heavy stuff, blood-and-guts-wise, and I had assumed there wasn't anything like it on TV because of network content restrictions, but possibly it was just because no one had tried before.
By contrast, the mad scientist character is time-tested in any medium, and here he's played by John Noble, recognizable as the mad steward Denother from The Return of the King. He's friendlier in Fringe (so far), his madness manifesting in relatively harmless ways such as wetting himself. Dr. Walter Bishop, meanwhile, is the brain behind the titular fringe science. After FBI agent Olivia Dunham gets Bishop out of a mental institution with the help of Bishop's estranged son, Peter (Joshua Jackson), the series is set to revolve around the trio as they move from one lethal outbreak of science to another. Episodic and cultish as hell, just as creator J.J. Abrams described it, Fringe could be the show that finally picks up where The X-Files left off, which is to say about three-fourths of the way through that series' run, when it got bogged down in too much alien oil.
All previous episodes of Fringe are available to watch on HD at the official Website, in addition to entertaining supplementary material.
Alaska: Big America
Just what is that mysterious icebox to the North, with its moose and Esquimaux? Do they have any natural resources? Is it a real state? Were any famous Americans from there besides Commander Riker from Star Trek: TNG? I wouldn't trust anyone but the History Channel and host George Foreman about something this important. (History, Saturday 10/4, 10 pm)
A new series taking place in an alternate reality where vampires are real and the South is exactly the same, meaning a hate crime every five minutes. Everything you need to know about the world of True Blood is on a business sign seen in the title sequence that reads "God Hates Fangs." God hates overwrought metaphors too. (HBO, Sunday, 10/5, 9 pm)
"Peter uses a dark power in a gamble to prevent the future ... and Suresh becomes impulsive." Not a wise gamble for Peter, since the future is going to happen eventually, no matter how dark his power is. And as for Suresh ... oh, God, no, NO! Anything but an impulsive Suresh! (NBC, Monday, 10/6, 9 pm)