Fringe – Edgy or Recycled

September 10, 2008

When I was really young I remember seeing fringe in all the Saturday afternoon westerns and on Daniel Boone. Then it became fashionable and even cool. Sony and Cher had it. Roger Daltry wore it. CCR had it on an album cover. The longer and more of it, the better. Now that I am older fringe is once again becoming fashionable. Only this time it is techno-fringe.

I am not a J.J. Abrams fanboy and have to admit not a big “Lost” fan (in fact I could swear I heard the Fonz revving his motorcycle in last seasons finale) but I decided to give his new show “Fringe” a watch.

While watching the pilot episode I couldn’t help thinking what happens if you cross “The X Files” with “Night Stalker”, sprinkle in a bit of “Twin Peaks” (the cow) and “Twilight Zone” (airplane), and add a dash of “Altered States” (the “tank”). I think you would have “Fringe”

Every few years (decade?) we are treated to a new incarnation of the SciFi-Mystery-Horror genre on mainstream TV and of course I must watch. Kolchak: The Night Stalker and X-Files (and related shows: The Lone Gunmen and Millennium (now on the Chiller network)) being 2 of my favorite TV shows (although I don’t consider the last 2 seasons of the X-Files real X-Files).

This time around Abrams and company have started us on another conspiracy theory laced romp of SciFi, mystery, supernatural and horror in search of the “Pattern”. Future Fringe appears to be giving us a veritable smorgasbord of standard genre elements psychokinesis, bionics, transmogrification and teleportation with some twisted humor thrown in (the cow again :-)).

The production quality feels much like “Lost” and my wife even commented the music is eerily similar. To me it seemed that Scully and Mulder have already been down this path, however, I found myself watching the full 90 minutes and promising to withhold judgment for a couple more episodes.

Also, in typical Abrams fashion there are some websites you should check out: http://massivedynamic.com and http://www.glowingmonkeys.com . Both were part of the pilot episode. Massive Dynamics is the name of the “Spooky Big Business” that will be part of the series and glowingmonkeys appears as a sticker on a light post. And of course the producers have deposited “Easter Eggs” thoughout to keep us hooked and trying to solve the mystery ( http://eastereggs.fringetelevision.com to play along).

And now I remember why I am not a big “Lost” fan. With my short attention span for pop culture it is just tooooo tiring to keep up. I am sure that after a while I will get burned out of the over-exposure (4 episodes seems my max) and need to take a break. The good thing is when I choose to return I can always catch up on

I recently noticed a channel on my TV called “Chiller”. Seems its been around for a year and I haven’t paid that much attention (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiller_(TV_channel)). As usual I am off thinking about mundane things having to do with making a living, feeding my fat face, and getting enough sleep.

I found it by accident. I was setting up a DVR search to catch any episodes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Much to my surprise a bunch of hits showed up. I am in Stalker heaven.

It is rumored that X-Files creator Chris Carter said one of his major influences was watching Kolchak: The Night Stalker as a child. There are similar threads from the Night Stalker in the X-Files. Still, X-Files has taken the ideas much further, and added many new ones as well but in my mind, the Night Stalker still reins supreme.

For those of you that haven’t seen the Night Stalker, the series was based on a TV movie The Night Stalker, and its sequel, The Night Strangler. There was a total of 20 episodes, running from September 1974, until April 1975 and still has a substantial cult following.

The concept of The Night Stalker series was of reporter, Carl Kolchak, working for the Independent News Service in Chicago, encounters the unnatural. Each week he dealt with a supernatural (mystical, scientific, alien or whatever) threat. Each week brought us a series of grisly related murders, involving blood draining, marrow loss, old age, spine snapping, or use of medieval weaponry. Inevitably, the lame local authorities are intent on ignoring or covering up the true nature of the murders, while Kolchak’s boss refuses to believe his employee. In the end, Karl seems to figure it out but never gets the full story printed.

The Night Stalker as a series was probably doomed to a single season. There aren’t enough unique ideas to do varied stories within the shows chosen format. Towards the end, episodes of The Night Stalker (like The Sentry and The Youth Killer) were dredging the bottom of the barrel. But I still find myself watching with a stupid grin on my face. It is just so mind numbingly entertaining and just enough campy that I can’t help myself. Even the “over-the-top” melodramatic style of Darren McGavin hasn’t caused me to quit watching. I would love to see a mash-up of Night Stalker and Christmas Story. Ralphy could be hacked to death by those fantasy outlaws and his foul-mouthed father/reporter could solve it. I would watch!!

And if you are wondering about the title of this post, it is my favorite quote from the series.