the early word

Pilot Preview: J.J. Abrams’s ‘Fringe’ Brings ‘X-Files’ Weirdness Back to Fox

Courtesy of Fox

This week, Vulture’s taking a look at the best and worst of the fall season’s picked-up TV shows. Which are good? Can anything replace Cavemen? And, most important, what’s worth a DVR season pass?

Title: Fringe

Stars: Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson (Dawson’s Creek), Lance Reddick (The Wire), John Noble (Lord of the Rings)

Network: Fox, Tuesdays at 9 p.m.

The pitch: Another spooky mystery from J.J. Abrams, this one with an overtly supernatural vibe.

Pilot report: When an entire 737 full of passengers is exposed to a deadly chemical that boils them down to skeletons in gruesome seconds, FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Torv) and her office romance, Agent John Scott (Mark Valley), are part of the investigatory team called in to Boston’s Logan Airport. With the help of a Dr. Walter Bishop (Noble), a genius scientist sprung from a mental institution, and his recalcitrant son Peter (Jackson), Dunham begins to uncover a worldwide plot called the Pattern — as the mysterious FBI agent Broyles (Reddick, better known as The Wire’s Cedric Daniels) tells her, “”It’s as if someone out there’s experimenting, but the whole world’s their lab.”

Representative dialogue: The show’s a pretty expert mix of pseudoscience and horror, so we’ll offer two:

Dr. Bishop: The human brain generates a quantifiable electric field. I posited in 1976 that it is possible to synchronize the fields of two distinct minds to allow the sharing of information across the unconscious state, like a string between two tin cans.

Peter: You know what’s great about that is that it’s completely insane.

Olivia: You’re saying that I can talk to John in a coma … and he can tell me what the suspect looks like?

Dr. Bishop: It’s not an exact science —

Peter: It’s not even science!

But also:

Co-pilot: “BLAAAAAAAAARRRRRRGH!” [Skin melts away, jaw falls from skull]

Breakout star: Between her Blanchettesque good looks and willingness to strip down to her underwear in the pilot, we feel pretty confident that Torv will be appearing in the fevered dreams of nerds all too soon.

Worth a season pass? Yes. An X-Files with the mythology laid out from the get-go, Fringe promises to ride grody special effects, the chemistry of its oddball trio, and Lance Reddick’s basso profundo to the genre promised land. After watching the pilot, we can only say: More, please.

Pilot Preview: J.J. Abrams’s ‘Fringe’ Brings ‘X-Files’ Weirdness Back to Fox