On The Fringe: Television For The Strong Of Stomach

I have become addicted to Fringe, a television show which I call "Denethor, Mad Scientist," because the guy who plays the mad scientist played the mad king in Lord of the Rings. (If you don’t remember the name, he’s the one who set himself on fire and then plummets to his doom after almost killing his own son.)

It’s a surprisingly addictive show that seems to be a combination of X-Files and House. The shows usually start with something bizarre, gory and horrible happening to some poor schmoe just going about his business, and sometimes said schmoe kills a bunch of other people too. Sometimes they turn into a monster, sometimes they explode and sometimes a giant slug erupts from sensitive body parts. It’s pretty gross, which is why I’m enjoying watching Season 1 on DVD–I can fastforward past the yuck.

The rest of the show centers around the efforts of the Fringe team to figure out what happened and prevent it from happening again.

The team is composed of a kickbutt FBI agent, a mad scientist (Walter) and his son/babysitter (Peter). The mad scientist really is mad, having been taken out of a mental institution during the first episode, and he says some appallingly inappropriate and funny things on a fairly regular basis.

Walter: All commands will come through the headphones. Once you’re given the order to put on the headphones, do not remove them under any circumstances. If you do, you may die a gruesome and horrible death. Thank you for your attention and have a nice day.

And another example:

Peter: I need my own bedroom. I woke up to this morning to him singing an aria from Pagliacci.
Astrid: Your father has a wonderful voice.
Peter: Not when he’s doing jumping jacks. And did I mention he was naked?
Walter: A good morning sets the tone for the day.

It’s a strange show, and while it’s gory and kind of disturbing at times (don’t watch it with small children around!), it’s also very well-written, with the dark spooky stuff firmly counterbalanced by Walter’s total loopiness and his son Peter’s attempts to act as a primary caregiver despite not being a caregiving type. It’s an interesting dynamic for a father-son show, and I don’t remember the last time I watched a father-son show where both parties were adults.

And remember:

Walter: Just because no one has documented flying monkeys or talking lions yet hardly means they don’t exist.