I’m always game to give a new TV show a solid chance before judging it. And I didn’t really have great expectations for the new US series Fringe in the first place. Having seen three episodes now, I have to say that it’s pretty weak.

Billing itself as something like the X-Files, with a series long story arc to appeal to long term fans and single stories every episode to appeal to more casual viewers, it seems to have landed in a dead zone somewhere in the middle. The long story arc is a bit obvious and overplayed while the individual stories are not that great and absolutely full of holes. Seriously, the science alone is atrocious, let alone the actual story-telling.

There seemed to be potential at first as the series appeared to be like the X-Files, only a bit darker and grislier. That appeals to me. Less UFOs and more human phenomena. That appeals to me too. It could be really good. But the makers have said that they can keep the story going over several seasons or, if the studio pulls the plug, they can wrap it up in a single episode. This is a deliberate attempt to prevent the Lost syndrome where people give up on the series when it gets too complicated with no end in sight. (Although they have now announced an end date for Lost in an attempt to woo some viewers back.) Perhaps this “drop out at a moment’s notice” position contributes to the weakness of the show.

So far, and three episodes is not that many to judge by, there seems to be a very distinct formula. But no one would give a book more than three chapters to hook them in, so TV series should be held to the same standards. Especially prime time drama.

The show’s formula appears to be something along the lines of:

– Weird event occurs;
– Doctor Bishop (who is quite mad, naturally) posits a bizarre hypothesis while Agent Olivia Dunham looks on with an expression of grim determination;
– A tenuous connection to Massive Dynamic (“Generic Evil Worldwide Corporation”) becomes apparent;
– A tenuous connection to “The Pattern” is stated, which appears to mean “anything weird that Massive Dynamic might have a hand in”, although the team have yet to really take the Massive Dynamic link seriously for some reason;
– Doctor Bishop begins some preposterous experiment to move the case along, usually with something that he first developed in the 70s that he never thought he’d see again (and this is always done with absolutely no regard for any of the recognised scientific disciplines);
– A truly blatant coincidence causes the Doc’s experiment and Dunham’s grim determination to bear fruit;
– More of “The Pattern” and everyone’ s connection to it is hinted at as a post-script.

The coincidences are one of my biggest gripes. Take Episode 2 where the Doc manages to use one of Massive Dynamics funky new technologies to read the images a dead girl last saw. Don’t even try to understand how this is supposed to work. But it does work. They don’t see the face of her murderer, however – the last thing she saw – nor do they see the inside of a random building. They see a bridge she was looking at a minute or two before her murder. What a piece of luck! Not the nameless face of the criminal, but a location they can track easily (apparently). And then the criminal happens to be plying his criminal trade at that very location when Dunham and the official sidekick (Peter Bishop, son of Doc) arrive to save the day. Brilliant!

“Oh, I’m terribly sorry. I was convinced that you’d find some science in there.”

However, even with all this going against it, I might give it one or two more episodes to tighten up. “The Pattern” concept may yet keep me interested enough to know what happens. Or I may stop wasting my time and look up the answer on the internet once the series ends. If it carries on like this, that may not be very long.