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For me, FRINGE was and is the absolute best new television series of the 2008-2009 season. From the opening moments of the pilot episode, I was hooked on this wonderful show, which I like to refer to as THE X-FILES for a new generation. A mixture of science fiction, character drama and the police procedural, FRINGE proves itself to be one of the most compelling hour-long scripted programs currently airing. Created by J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci FRINGE has a lot in common with THE X-FILES, but it is also very different show, and one that has certainly been influenced by other genre shows like THE OUTER LIMITS, not to mention recent history and the paranoid state the world finds itself in since 9/11.

The weekly premise of FRINGE is set up in its pilot episode, in which an unknown toxin is released onboard a transatlantic flight, causing all the biological matter onboard to dissolve away. The plane lands stateside on autopilot and Homeland Security assembles an interdepartmental taskforce to investigate. Amongst the investigators is FBI Special Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), who employs an unorthodox approach to find a cure, after the unknown toxin infects her partner, John Scott (Mark Valley). Olivia’s unorthodox approach involves a brilliant, but disgraced scientist named Walter Bishop (John Noble), who has spent the last seventeen years in a mental institution as the result of a lab accident that caused the death of a lab assistant. With the reluctant help of Walter’s son Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), Olivia secures Walter’s release from the mental institution. And although Walter is quite literally a "mad scientist," Olivia is convinced he is the only man capable of devising an anti-toxin based upon his history of working with the government in the area of fringe science. As Olivia continues her investigation, she is informed by Homeland Security Special Agent Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) that the incident with the toxin is only the latest in a series of strange occurrences that have been labeled "The Pattern."

Each instance of "The Pattern" involves evidence of scientific experiments run amok, with parties unknown, using the world as a giant petri dish. The subsequent episodes of FRINGE are focused around new instances "The Pattern," which are investigated by Olivia, with the assistance of the socially dysfunctional Walter and Peter, who starts off as his father’s keeper, but quickly proves himself a jack-of-all-trades and necessary member of the team. Each week, much of the runaway science evidenced in "The Pattern" is somehow tied back to Massive Dynamic, a powerful global research corporation that is on the forefront of the majority of the world’s scientific breakthroughs. As much of the science is tied back to Massive Dynamic, the government has secured the company’s cooperation through high-ranking executive Nina Sharp (Blair Brown). Although Nina gives the appearance of assisting the government in their investigations, Olivia suspects deception due to Nina’s loyalty to Massive Dynamic’s and mysterious founder, who was once Walter’s lab partner. The first season cast of FRINGE also features Kirk Acevedo, Jasika Nicole and Michael Cerveris.

FRINGE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON ($60) comes to DVD in a seven-disc set that features the following twenty episodes that were aired during season one: Pilot, The Same Old Story, The Ghost Network, The Arrival, Power Hungry, The Cure, In Which We Meet Mr. Jones, The Equation, The Dreamscape, Safe, Bound, The No-Brainer, The Transformation, Ability, Inner Child, Unleashed, Bad Dreams, Midnight, The Road Not Taken and There's More Than One Of Everything.

Warner Home Video has made all twenty episodes from FRINGE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. The DVD presentations for the episodes compare reasonably well to their Blu-ray counterparts, but if you have experienced FRINGE in high definition, you are going to want to continue on that path. These are solid SD presentations that offer crisp and fairly well defined picture quality at their intended resolution. Sure, there are some inconsistencies in the image, but they are attributable to the peculiarities of what standard definition can resolve, when down converted from a hi-def source. Colors can be a little cool, but are generally reproduced with respectable saturation and natural looking flesh tones. Blacks are accurate, and the whites appear clean. Contrast is better than average for a television level production, plus the level shadow detail is in the same better than average range. The episodes are free from defects. Digital compression artifacts are generally maintain a low profile.

All of the episodes that constitute FRINGE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON are presented on DVD with Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtracks. Although DVD is encoded at a lower bit rate than Blu-ray, the sound quality is very similar, as are my comments. Since FRINGE is a primarily a dialogue driven series, the talky passages that dominate are mixed front and center. Incidental sounds and environmental noises are well integrated, as is the music, which has a strong presence, despite the lack of a lossless encode. The bass channel adds weight and a bit of rumble in places. Dialogue is clean, precise and fully understandable. Portuguese 5.1 channel tracks have also been included on the disc, as have English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Thai subtitles.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard episode selection and set up features, as well as, as well as the supplemental materials. Running Audio Commentaries are featured on three episodes: Pilot, The Ghost Network, and Bad Dreams; participants include J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtman, J.R. Orci, David Goodman, Bryan Burk, Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner. Featurettes and other programs include the following: Evolution: The Genesis Of Fringe, Behind The Real Science Of Fringe, A Massive Undertaking: The Making Of Fringe, The Casting Of Fringe, Roberto Orci Production Diary and a Fringe Visual Effects featurette. Unaired Scenes, a Gag Reel and a Gene The Cow Montage comprise the remaining standard supplements.

Again, in my opinion, FRINGE was and is the absolute best new television series of the 2008-2009 season. The DVD presentations look and sound quite good and should please anyone not contemplating high definition. Recommended.



Fringe: The Complete First Season (2009)



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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