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

July 14, 2008 |  1:09 pm

Newseason_tourtalk_2

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)

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