Over the last two weeks-ish, I’ve been rewatching the TV series Fringe, from creator JJ Abrams (thank you IMDb TV and Amazon Prime Video). I didn’t watch it when it aired originally as I thought it was just another X-Files knock-off. I first watched the whole series on Netflix about six or seven years ago, and it blew my mind, so much that I wanted to do it all over again.
Fringe centers on FBI agent Olivia Dunham and the father/son team of Walter and Peter Bishop as they investigate a recurring series of strange phenomena dubbed The Pattern, all seemingly related in some way to Walter Bishop’s experiments in fringe science back in the 60s and 70s. It could have easily have turned into a monster-of-the-week show (as part of The X-Files did), but right from the start we get an overarching storyline that gets addressed in some way, shape, or form in each episode, not just in selected ones (again, as they did in The X-Files). As a consumer, it is enjoyable to be rewarded with continued glimpses of the storyline as the mysteries unfold; as a writer, it is a great example of how to keep the audience hooked with a steady stream of breadcrumbs that both reward their continued loyalty and invites them to keep guessing.
Fringe hits a lot of buttons for me, being a modern drama where the real world is not all that it seems, with characters that are interesting, complex, and distinctly flawed, and a steady dose of paranormal phenomena, this time with a more scientific grounding rather than a supernatural one (like, for example, in Twin Peaks). Halfway through the first season, I am thoroughly enjoying revisiting this world, as I find I remember just enough to find it all exciting once again while trying to catch how the clues were laid out from the start.
I sometimes ask myself why I’d rather go back to watch shows I’ve already seen instead of one of the dozens of new ones being made by pretty much every media provider these days. The truth is that I’d much rather watch Twin Peaks or Deep Space Nine or now Fringe all over again in much the same way that I’d go back to a favorite novel because I know the experience I’ll be getting out of it, the feelings the story will be evoking, the satisfaction that comes with reliving a good story. I’m not averse to trying out new shows, but my media-consumption time is a lot more limited these days, and I’d need some thorough and trustworthy curating before trying out something new.
In the meantime, I’ll be re-watching Fringe.