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TCA: Fox's 'Fringe' won't be impenetrable, Abrams promises


Jj_jyrj07nc_350 J.J. Abrams learned a lesson from “Alias.”

It hit him when he was at a friend’s house one day and an episode of the ABC spy vs. spy drama was on television. Abrams, the show’s executive producer, couldn’t follow what was going on.

“Literally, it was impenetrable,” he said.

So for his newest project, Fox’s much-anticipated mystery “Fringe,” the writer-producer took a different tack.

“We believe it is possible to do a show that has an overall story and end game … but also a show that you don’t have to watch Episodes 1, 2 and 3 to tune into Episode 4,” Abrams said.

While “Alias” was a show “I so loved working on,” he added, “I can see how it was difficult.”

“This show is going to have a different paradigm,” Abrams promised. “We’re trying very diligently to do a show that doesn’t require the kind of insane absolute dedication to a series.”

Continuing Abrams’ fascination with paranormal mysteries, “Fringe” stars Australian newcomer Anna Torv as an FBI agent who’s thrust into a web of perplexing scientific occurrences. She seeks to unravel the mysteries with the help of Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), an institutionalized but brilliant scientist, and his estranged son, played by Joshua Jackson.

The team will solve a mystery in each episode, even as they try to sort out the larger force behind the phenomena. Clues are sprinkled through the series in reoccurring images: a six-fingered hand, a leaf, smoke that reveals a secret pattern.

“It’s part of the code of the show,” Abrams said.

There are high expectations for the series, which comes from the makers of “Lost” and is considered one of the strongest freshman offerings in the fall season.

Abrams tried to downplay the hype, saying that “any pressure or expectations for this or any other show could ruin a show.”

A version of the much-guarded pilot has already leaked online, much of the dismay of the producers.

But “the good news is the response has been much more positive than not,” Abrams said. “At the end of the day, our fingers are crossed.”

Still, noted executive producer Roberto Orci: “You can’t hide behind, ‘They didn’t promote it, or nobody knew about it.’ It’s our fault if it doesn’t work.”

“Fringe” is one of a dozen prime-time series being shot in New York, which tripled its tax credit program to lure more film and television productions. The pilot for the series was shot in Toronto, and the change of locales forced the producers to recast one key part: the cow that Bishop keeps in his lab.

“We now have a new cow, because we weren’t allowed to travel the cow from Canada,” said executive producer Jeff Pinkner. “Literally there have been conversations about making up the cow in case anyone realizes it has slightly different spots.”

-- Matea Gold

(Photo Joshua Jackson courtesy Mark Ben Holzberg / FOX)

Comments () | Archives (11)

Would someone please tell Mr. Abrams (and about 130,000,000 other people) the correct usage of the word "literally"? (Hint: if a book is "literally impenetrable," that means nothing can physically penetrate the book cover -- how can a TV show be "literally impenetrable"?)

I remember a radio commentator once asking the question as to why "literally" is the only word that can't be used figuratively. I thought he had a good point.

Saw it being filmed a few months ago in Toronto, huge production under the Gardner Expressway with all the Boston Police cars. I just think the name is stupid, hope the show is good.

Daniel ................................ Toronto, Canada

Hmmmm.... >> The team will solve a mystery in each episode, even as they try to sort out the larger force behind the phenomena. Clues are sprinkled through the series in reoccurring images: a [one], a [two], [three] that reveals a secret pattern.<<
Sounds like a description of The X-files to me.

Literally or otherwise, ALIAS was "impenetrable" only if you lived under a rock. I missed the first three seasons but there's this wonderful invention called DVD that made catching up (and becoming totally addicted) a breeze. This was before iTunes started offering TV episodes and networks like ABC made them available for free online. Now there is NO excuse for "impenetrable" series to attract an audience...if said audience is willing to turn on their grey matter and engage. Let's be honest, that will always be the biggest problem for challenging, dense series like ALIAS. Serialized or not, it was a thinking person's action hour. Now, it was Abram's show so he is certainly entitled to his opinion but I think he's just being polite. The U.S. television audience isn't always the most intelligent or sophisticated. To be fair, ABC was a big part of the problem when it came to helping ALIAS gain traction. The network was run by different people back then...a group or programming and marketing execs who had no idea how to promote or schedule a series like ALIAS when they had WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE? on the brain. Since then, ABC has become an exceptionally savvy network airing the most diverse (and I think best) array of smart, hour long dramas on television. They also do a fantastic job of marketing their series, treating each one as an individual property rather than a cog in their network machine (hear that, CBS?). Still, this is a country that thinks CSI is a "deep" show and tunes in en masse to junk like HELL'S KITCHEN, BIG BROTHER and that god-awful game show hosted by Howie Mandel (currently the highest rated show on sad sack NBC). I love my popcorn TV as much as the next guy but until more people are willing to dedicate as much space on their DVRs for amazing shows like WEEDS, LOST, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, MAD MEN and DIRTY SEXY MONEY as they do for wonderful fluff like DANCING WITH THE STARS and PROJECT RUNWAY, each season will see another ALIAS sent to the dust bin...literally.

You realize there is more than that one meaning for impenetrable.
from miriam and webster for impenetrable:
"1 a: incapable of being penetrated or pierced b: inaccessible to knowledge, reason, or sympathy : impervious
2: incapable of being comprehended : inscrutable"
So he is saying it is literally incapable of being comprehended. Seems like appropriate enough use. Then to add to that, if you actually looked up the definition of literally you would find this:
"1 : in a literal sense or manner : actually
2 : in effect : virtually
usage Since some people take sense 2 to be the opposite of sense 1, it has been frequently criticized as a misuse. Instead, the use is pure hyperbole intended to gain emphasis, but it often appears in contexts where no additional emphasis is necessary."

So, his use of the word was correct. I'll try to let the other 130 million other people know you were wrong.

I think JJ' has it bass ackwards. It wasn't the "Alias" storyline that was impenetrable. If anything was impenetrable, it was the 6 inches between the ears of American TV viewers.

A TV audience is like a pyramid. The intelligent viewer who is apt to really appreciate a quality show like "Alias" foms the pointy peak of the audience pyramid, while the viewer who is more likely to prefer "The Bachelorette" forms the much wider base of the pyramid. Since there are far more consumer eyeballs available at the base than at the pointy peak, guess which show is likely to fail, regardless of quality.

Therefore, if "Fringe" is to enjoy a longer run than the 4.77 seasons achieved by "Alias", it will have to be considerably dumber. JJ is all over it, starting with self-contained episodes, and a "penetrable" storyline.

"Sounds like a description of The X-files to me. "
Well, JJ does tend to "borrow" ideas from other works, which is okay, as long as you improve on them.

"Therefore, if "Fringe" is to enjoy a longer run than the 4.77 seasons achieved by "Alias", it will have to be considerably dumber. JJ is all over it, starting with self-contained episodes, and a "penetrable" storyline."
I just wish JJ had been into his own show enough to be able to penetrate it the way we regular viewers were somehow able to.

hi, i'm in high school and this topic was brought up in class and i was just researching it some more. i will mention your blog in class tomorrow.

First season the shows varied in style and tone. Second season is text book in how to do a great show. I am already looking forword to season three.


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