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TCA Update: "Fringe," Rambaldi Need Not Apply

Posted by Sarah Rodman  July 15, 2008 03:00 PM

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One of the most buzzed about fall shows is this sci-fi series from J.J. Abrams ("Felicity," "Alias," "Lost") which follows a female FBI agent (Australian Anna Torv going Yank) and a father-son team of geniuses (Joshua Jackson and John Noble) helping her dig into paranormal occurrences. Although there's plenty of "X-Files" in its DNA, Abrams and his co-creators cited several other inspirations including the film "Altered States," the novels of Michael Crichton and Robin Cook, and the work of creepy-cool director David Cronenberg. (Himself once a memorable "Alias" guest-star).

Hands down the best line of yesterday's entertainment panels came when Abrams admitted bafflement after stumbling across a late-in-the-series episode of "Alias" while hanging out with pal and frequent cast member of his shows Greg Grunberg.

"I watched a few minutes, and I was so confused," Abrams said."I was, like, literally it was impenetrable. I was like, 'I know I should understand this- who the (expletive) is that guy?"

He promises "Fringe," the pilot of which is set in Boston but was shot in Canada, will not be such a tough nut to crack. "We can do a show don't have to watch episodes one, two and three to tune in to episode four." There will be a mystery of the week to solve as well as an overarching conspiracy story.

Abrams and his co-execs admitted to frustration with the pilot being leaked online so far in advance, especially since several elements have changed. (Which we won't spoil here). But having seen the show, now, I have to disagree with this Abrams assertion: "I was talking to someone who had seen it online - which was infuriating - and he said, 'Oh, my God, this is
totally Boston. I'm from Boston.'" No Pru/Hancock skyline? Not Boston.

And mark my words, once the show debuts, there will be a short window in which you will see homemade t-shirts bearing the phrase: "Excellent! Let's make some LSD."

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Sarah Rodman is a TV and music critic for the Boston Globe.

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