TV Guide used to have this annual feature called "The Best Show You're Not Watching." I'm not sure why they stopped doing it -- it was a great way to honor quality television that, for whatever reason, just wasn't getting the ratings it deserved. If they were to reinstate that list today, the #1 contender would be Fringe. In its fourth season and airing in the much-maligned Friday Night Death-Slot, Fringe's ratings are at an all-time low. Here are ten reasons we think you should be watching.
10. It's pretty.
Let's be honest, we're all a little shallow sometimes. Even if you don't want to admit it to yourself, you like pretty things. And there is a whole lot of pretty in Fringe. The color palette of the show is full of deep, rich hues that are soothing on the eyes, and every once in a while, they'll throw in these gorgeous bright accent colors, bright reds and yellows and greens. Not only is it a feast for the eyes, it gives the show a great sense of atmosphere. Add to that the beautiful people who populate that atmosphere, Michael Giacchino and Chris Tilton's haunting score, and you've got yourself an hour of gorgeous things ready-made every Friday night.
9. It's imaginative.
Fringe started out as the spiritual successor to The X-Files -- a show which famously thrived on Friday nights -- but it has since evolved into its own breed of monster. Like The X-Files before it, Fringe has lots of weird baddies and monsters of the week and beautiful FBI agents solving deeply bizarre crimes, but Fringe is also a character piece in a way The X-Files never was. Perhaps the most important quality of both shows is that they have imagination. Fringe isn't afraid to stretch itself in new directions, to think outside the box. Every week I see things I've never seen on television before. It's like the writers are sitting around thinking, "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if . . ." And then they follow through.
8. It's thoughtful and intelligent . . .
One of the best things about Fringe is that it isn't just weird and imaginative, it's weird and imaginative with a purpose. It combines everything on this list: complex, thoughtful plots, psychologically deep characters who change and grow, beautiful music and cinematography, philosophical explorations, and the weird and wonderful, to say something unique about the human experience. And it does all this with a sense of humor.
7. . . .with a gooey emotional center.
It's not enough for a show to be smart, it also has to have resonance, and the best way to resonate with your audience is through emotion. Fringe does this with practiced ease. Aloof FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) struggles to love and trust the people around her, because of a complicated, violent past. Estranged son Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) struggles to reconcile with his mad scientist father, Walter (John Noble), who in turn struggles to earn his son's respect and forgiveness, and to make up for the irreparable damage he caused to not one, but two universes through one selfish act a long time ago. It's the relationships these people have with one another that are the real heart of the show.
6. It's creepy and thrilling . . .
On top of all this smartness and touchy-feely crap that possibly some of you aren't interested in at all, Fringe also boasts some incredibly cool action sequences, and some very, very deeply disturbing set-pieces. There's guns everywhere, and people attacking each other all over the place, and car chases and hold-ups and you name it. It's awesome.
5. . . . and it's got parallel universes and doppelgängers up the wazoo.
Maybe this is just my thing, but parallel universes! Doppelgängers! COME ON!
4. The cast . . .
You could have the best most beautiful and profound dialogue in the entire universe, but if you don't have the right actors to speak it, it's practically worthless. Fringe's cast is well up to any task showrunners Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman throw at them. Joshua Jackson gives a strong performance as the moral and emotional center of the Fringe unit's dysfunctional family, and Anna Torv has turned out to be a quiet powerhouse of talent, after her deceptively bland performance in season one (which I now firmly believe to be intentional, and a great bit of character work). Supporting cast members Jasika Nicole, Lance Reddick, Blair Brown, and Seth Gabel are wonderfully watchable and diverse in their abilities. All of the actors now routinely play multiple versions of themselves (parallel universes!), and they make it look as easy as putting on a new coat. Fringe also has a habit of casting superb guest actors like Leonard Nimoy, Andre Royo, Amy Madigan, and Christopher Lloyd. It is quite simply one of the most consistently wonderful casts on television.
3. . . . and John Noble in particular.
Did you think I forgot John Noble? Because I didn't! His portrayal of the tortured and yet delightfully eccentric Walter Bishop should have earned him at least ten Emmy's by now, and it is a crime against humanity that it hasn't happened yet. Do you hear me, voters? MAKE THIS HAPPEN. He is a genius.
2. Despite the weird, it's about things everyone can relate to.
Fringe is about love, sex, and death (the big three), but it's also about family and regret and forgiveness, and finding the time to have fun with the people you love and who populate your world. It's funny and heartbreaking and exciting and depressing all at once. This show has literally (and believe me, I don't throw that word around lightly) something for everyone.
1. Because we have a moral obligation as human beings not to let something this great go to waste.
Fox is actually being really supportive of the show. Instead of canceling it outright last season, as it would have been well-justified to do, Fox greenlighted a full season order. Maybe this was just to give the show a last hurrah, but it was a nice gesture all the same. Regardless of its performance (it's barely scraping 3 million viewers at this point), Fox supports this show. They believe in it, and you should, too. This is probably going to be Fringe's last season, so you should tune in now while you still can. And maybe, just maybe, we'll get a season five.