Auto Pilot

fringe.jpgIn the pilot episode of Fringe, one bit of dialogue struck me as so wrong that I backed up to transcribe it.

An FBI agent (Anna Torv) is speaking to the man who’s supervising a mysterious case in which everybody on an intercontinental flight arrived with only their bones intact. Earlier in the episode, we had seen Torv’s character in bed with another agent, whose life now hangs in the balance after being attacked with a similar flesh-eating agent.

Here’s what the supervisor says:

“It would be nice to think that your tenacity in this case is a byproduct of a remarkable and robust professionalism.”

That’s a good line, spoken with with precise sarcasm by Lance Reddick (who will always be Cedric Daniels to me but is probably vaguely familiar to the masses from a few guest appearances on Lost).

Unfortunately, he’s not finished:

“But I can’t help but wonder if there wasn’t something going on between you and Agent Scott.”

That’s not a good line, and it’s so unnecessary that I can’t imagine how it got through.

You can get away with dialogue like that on Lost, which skates by on conceptual brilliance even when the acting and scripts make you wince.

But Fringe is a blatant rip-off of The X-Files. The series’ opening scene is effective and horrifying, but it mimics Chris Carter’s episode template. The opening credits include a handprint. The first scene after that found the two agents post-coitus, and it wouldn’t have surprised me if their names were Sculder and Mully. (Thankfully, the male didn’t survive the first episode.) There’s a grand conspiracy suggested in the pilot. It’s on Fox.

When you’re treading such familiar territory, you need some sharper conversation, particularly with a pilot episode, with which you’re trying to hook executives (initially) and then audiences.

Frequent Drunken Commentary Track collaborator Mike Schulz tells me I’m making a big deal out of nothing, that network television is written to the lowest common denominator.

That might be true, but this little niggling detail knocked my enthusiasm for the show down a couple notches.

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