Fox’s Fringe has been growing in popularity over the past season. For those of you that haven’t tuned in there is still time because Fringe is, thankfully, episodic television. Each week features a self contained story. Think of it as more along the lines of a Sci-Fi/ Horror version of Law and Order than the heavily mythology based X-Files. Not to say that Fringe isn’t building up its own but it is still in its infancy. There’s still time to get addicted and what has transpired so far has been a great mixture of horror, drama and comedy portrayed by relatable characters.
A quick premise for the uninitiated is that Special F.B.I. Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) recruits Doctor Walter Bishop (John Noble) to help investigate crimes that are unexplainable scientific curiosities. The problem for Agent Dunham is that Walter has spent nearly two decades in an institution for the criminally insane. Agent Dunham persuades Walter’s son, Peter (Joshua Jackson), into helping her decipher his estranged father’s scientific findings. Walter and Peter need to learn to trust and work with one another in order to help Agent Dunham and the F.B.I.
Now that American Idol is getting down to its final contestants Fringe will return to finish its season. Jeff Pinkner, whose credits include Lost and Alias, is both a producer and writer on Fringe. Mr. Pinker was more than happy to field a few questions and laugh it up about this dark show.
Mania: There are people who immediately compare Fringe to the X-Files. What did you see as some of the faults of the X-Files and how does Fringe plan to escape those faults?
Jeff Pinkner: I sincerely don’t think the X-files had that many faults. I think the X-Files… I don’t think we are setting out to be X-Files. It’s like saying what is the fault of Star Trek when you set out to make Star Wars. They are both stories set in space but they are very different. I don’t think there were faults in the X-Files. I think the one thing that the X-Files did fantastically well is that they managed to tell utterly stand alone stories that had nothing to do with their own mythology. Then they would tell stories that were solely about their central mythology. I think our model has been more that our stand alone episodes also have elements of the characters mythologies.
Mania: So with the debut of Wereupine in “Transformations”…
Jeff Pinkner: (laughs) The Porcupine Man! Wereupine. That’s funny.
Mania: You took the show to a new level where we were jumping out of our seats in terror and laughing in awe of what we just witnessed. How do you top that?
Jeff Pinkner: We were concerned with that effect. The creature was largely a visual effect and our visual effects department is spectacular. I think our show is dependent on their skill and creativity. We all sat and watched the effect and you cannot help but start laughing. Then you think, is that a problem that I am sitting here laughing? Shouldn’t I be scared and shocked? You then realize your only appropriate response is to laugh. I think our show will top that every other week. We have fairly high standards and the things that delight and entertain us (laughs) will hopefully delight and entertain the audience.
Mania: There are a lot of theories on the show. I got one I want to run by you. I think Peter (Joshua Jackson) is actually Walter’s clone.
Jeff Pinkner: Well I know the truth (laughs) but I will tell you that your theory is held by other people. I certainly don’t know if it is the accurate theory.
Mania: What have been your favorite episodes thus far?
Jeff Pinkner: I think the one you just mentioned [“Transformations”]. One of the very first episodes we did, the second episode [“The Same Old Story”] where a baby is born and then ages rapidly in a couple of minutes. I thought that was a great episode because it was the first one after the pilot and where we realized that are show would work. Our stories were not just odd for oddness sake but emotionally grounded. I thought that was a great episode. What delights and entertains us is putting a whole bunch of little games into the show for the fans who want to see them. For the people who don’t want to see or discover them they don’t have to, to enjoy the show but every week there is a clue, a hidden clue to what next week’s show will be about somewhere. You can either look for it or go back and find it afterwards. We have secrets in every episode and no one has even discovered they existed yet. The symbols that come on at the beginning of every episode and the symbols that come on at the beginning of every commercial break are chosen and there for a purpose.
Mania: Your portrayal of the F.B.I. agents is incredibly realistic. Yet, there always seems to be that element of humor that makes it even more believable. Do you have former agents that work with the writers to bring that balance?
Jeff Pinkner: I think the writing staff comes up with those things. We then run everything by our F.B.I. agent on set or even at the production meetings. This is a dark show. It could be an unsubtly dark show and you need that comic relief. At the same time we want our characters to respond in a (laughs) suitable way. The things they are dealing with are crazy and we attempt to make them all incredibly grounded and we treat a Porcuman as we would all hope to. At the same time there is certain degree of “what they hell are we doing here” that is necessary. Walter (John Noble), not intentionally, in many ways is a very funny character. He is a genius that has lost his mind and approaches things, very much, at face value and very child like. He can be fascinated by a Porcuman where for everybody else it would be a fairly disgusting concept. I think we always attempt to make our scripts as funny as possible.
Mania: With a show like Fringe you can practically go anywhere in the realm of science fiction. Do you have a list of things you wish to tackle or do you have a board of random things, like a porcupine man and just try and make it work?
Jeff Pinkner: It comes both ways. Sometimes we start with “déjà vu” that’s a weird experience and what kind of story can we tell about that. Other times we go, let’s have a guy go up to a flight attendant and say “you are going to need to lock me up in the bathroom and no matter what you hear going on in there, don’t let me out”. It started there. Then we back into the science and explore that area and make it real.
Fringe returns Tuesday April 7th at 9 PM with six episodes in a row. If wait has been too long here is your Fringe recap:
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