SDCC 08: On the Fringe of Preview Night

Fringe’s lead actress Anna TorvOur man Nomad and crew have been providing pictures and scoops from Comic-Con fast as lightning, but I thought you might also like to hear about some of the goings-on at this year’s event. Last night was what they call “Preview Night,” and if it’s any indication of what the next few days are going to be like, I suggest everyone who’s attending wear comfortable shoes and get ready for a lot of standing in line.

Preview Night is a chance for industry professionals, members of the press, and four-day pass holders to get the lay of the land, formulate a game plan for the rest of the week, mingle and shop a bit, and then head out to a couple of parties. The proverbial calm before the storm if you will. And judging from the attendance, it looks like we’re in for a veritable downpour of humanity! It was certainly well beyond what I was expecting.

Comic-Con’s organizers decided to conduct an experiment this year and scheduled some actual programming for the first time on Preview Night. They offered back-to-back screenings of the first episode of the new JJ Abrams TV show “Fringe” so instead of following the rest of the Dread Central crew around the various exhibit halls, I decided to check it out. As a big fan of both Abrams and several of the cast members, it was a no-brainer, and am I ever glad I did.

The 81-minute episode was preceded by a taped introduction from Abrams himself in which he thanked us for coming and took a few jabs at those who previously leaked the show online. While it does open with scenes of a plane in peril due to an intense thunderstorm, that’s where any similarities with “Lost” begin and end. I don’t want to give away a lot of plot details, but suffice to say that some very impressive makeup effects are utilized in the airplane sequence as the passengers and crew inexplicably turn into unusual, almost zombie-like creatures. Then we cut to lovebirds John and Olivia (Mark Valley, best known from his stint on “Boston Legal”, and series star Anna Torv [pictured]), who are also FBI agents trying to keep their relationship a secret from their co-workers. They are individually called to Boston’s Logan Airport, where the ill-fated plane has landed, and we’re off and running.

“Fringe” is a sci-fi/horror/crime drama mash-up that is certain to draw comparisons to “The X-Files”, but it goes in a completely different direction. The “Fringe” of the title refers to “fringe science.” You know, stuff like mind control, anti-aging experiments, and re-animation. It’s got a stylish, contemporary look with clever graphics and a theatrical feel; a nicely twisted sense of humor; and the casting is unfaultable. Yes, even Joshua Jackson. You can forget about “Dawson’s Creek”. Between Cursed, Shutter, and now this, I think it’s safe to say he’s an asset to the genre. Torv, who is Australian and mostly unknown to American audiences, is quite a find. She’s attractive, but not in a supermodel kind of way, and utterly believable as the tough as nails Olivia, who is willing to break the rules and fight the odds to both save her man and catch the bad guys.

Kirk Acevedo, John Noble, Blair Brown, and Lance Reddick round out the primary characters. The groundwork has been laid for the writers to flesh them out and make them even more compelling, especially with regard to Olivia’s hinted at past and the estranged father/son dynamic between Jackson and Noble (who reminded me of Vincent Price in this role for some reason, certainly not a bad thing at all). Although we didn’t see much of her here, I expect Brown to shine as the evil corporate figurehead behind a vast conspiracy known only as the “Pattern.”

When “Fringe” ended, the room erupted in applause, which bodes well for its September 9th premiere on Fox TV. I know I’ll be watching!

Leaving the ballroom, I joined the thousands of other lucky Preview Night revelers and headed off into the warm San Diego night with my DC compatriots to discuss all that we’d seen and done and speculate on what awaits us in the days ahead. Keep it here to read all about it!

Debi Moore

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