It’s been two weeks since the last TVEye and I’ve been chomping at the bits in anticipation of discussing what is surely the next wave in science fiction television; Outcasts. But first, a look at one of the best Fringe episodes of season 3, along with a visit by Kunta Kinte on Community and a hopeful sign for the future of tangibility on Face Off.
FRINGE (Ep. 57 “6B”) The great thing about Fringe is their understanding and indulgence of their primary fan base. Among the shows core demographic, the adult 18-49 range, Fringe caters more to the sci-fi/video game generation within the group, a populace of pop-culture vampires consistently latching onto good, albeit rare, science fiction storytelling where they can get it. Fringe is a highly original show, but it does fall back to the many inspirations from which it has so obviously evolved. Everything from X Files, Altered States, and The Twilight Zone has in some way contributed to the sci-fi/horror amalgam that is Fringe. This past week, Fringe treaded in yet another new territory in sci-horror narration; the ghost story. As they often do, the writers took a played out genre, the ghost story, and tweaked it to seamlessly blend into the complex storyline of the two conflicting worlds of Fringe. In one of, if not the coolest arcs on television, there are these two alternate universes that are in many ways mirror images of each other, with some subtle and drastic changes strewn about. The fabric of the universes is tearing, both slowly breaking apart and collapsing into one another. Every case the Fringe team investigates in some way or another is an affect of the colliding worlds. This week, a tear in the universes leads a widower to see a ghostly apparition of her dead husband, which in reality is the actual alternate universe version of her husband who is still alive and seen through the tear. The tear causes all sorts of strange occurrences, which make the building tenants where the tear is occurring fear that the building is haunted. Queue the mad scientist archetype Walter Bishop, who comes to the “haunted” building waving around a radiometer, which looks strikingly similar to the Ghostbusters P.K.E. meter. And here we have some of that wonderful fanboy indulgence I was speaking of. Walter, who has the most out there notions perhaps of any character ever on television, concludes that he does not believe in ghosts. Funny, but he then proves his theory in an instant. The episode was expertly handled, and very cleverly explained ghost sightings in a construct that genuinely fit into the Fringe landscape. It was determined that the tear was caused by the “quantum entanglement” of the two widowers, and was closed with their, well, closure. Walter was ready to amberize the building, a move that would have everlasting changes on the angle of the show. I’m glad he didn’t, for now, but the time will likely come.
COMMUNITY (Ep. 41 “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking”) Add another to the ever-growing list of classic Community Episodes. It was unofficially, LeVar Burton week on the show, which meant that pop-relative jesting was sure to ensue. Pierce (Chevy Chase) was hospitalized in a ploy to lure the others with pity. His goal was to be the center of the group’s attention, and toy with each and every one of their tragic flaws. The absolute greatest moments of the episode came when Pierce invited Troy’s (Donald Glover) idol, LeVar Burton to come and spend the day with him. Having told Pierce he never wanted to meet his idol in person, but simply wanted a signed picture, Troy was left crying in hysterics; “You can’t disappoint a picture!” For the entire episode LeVar tried to engage Troy in conversation, but he just sat their, wide-eyed, head cocked, and silent. At one point LeVar asks him if he is a fan of his from Reading Rainbow or Star Trek. Troy just stares, and there is a hilarious cutaway to him curled up on the bathroom floor crying while singing the theme song to Reading Rainbow. At the end of the song he hugs himself and yells; “set phasers to love me.” This is why I love Community. It’s comedy relevant to its core demographic, those adult Gen X an Y folks who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. There were so many amazing one-liners in this week’s episode. I won’t go through them all, but I will end with Troy and Abed’s death pact which you Sci-Fi geeks out there will agree sounds like a good plan; “If one of us dies, we stage it to look like a suicide caused by the unjust cancellation of Firefly. We’re gonna get that show back on the air buddy!”
FACE OFF (Ep.4 “Bad to the Bone”) It’s a very sad fact that the practical special effects and special effects makeup trades are on the decline. The advent and oversaturation of CGI has seen to that. CGI can be great and memorable, and really can work when used sparingly and with careful placement. However, more often the opposite is the case. Nothing beats a good practical effect in a great genre flick. This is why I like Face Off. To see merit given to a show about makeup artists working with tangible supplies is a breath of fresh air. Sure, some of the artists on the show are yawn-worthy, but others are doing some pretty original and skilled work. Last weeks challenge was exactly the kind this show was made for. Creating their own horror villain, the artists were given a brief amount of time and free creative reign. The end result was a blend of good, bad, and cliché, but designer Tom killed it with his “Teddy Told Me To” psycho killer. By grafting bits of ragged teddy bear into the mauled face of his character, Tom created a truly creepy persona. For the originality, Tom also won the episode. Lets hope this show in some way inspires a new generation of tangible artist’s ready to bring back the blood in place of the data.
OUTCASTS – I’m happy to bring this gem of a series to TVEye. Consider this a preview of the BBC miniseries Outcasts which I hope and have faith will come to US television screens later in the year. It has to, its that good. BBC One is killing it with the TV miniseries format over there in the UK. Last year I fell in love with their three-part Sherlock, which is making a return in late 2011, and now I’m in love with the 8 part miniseries that is Outcasts. This is science fiction storytelling at its finest. Set on the earthlike planet Carpathia, Outcasts follows the lives and conflicts of a colony of people who represent the first refugees from a war stricken Earth. Everything about this series is so well done. The acting is strong and personal. The sets and locations are genuine and epic. The script is a sci-fi wet dream. Imagine Battlestar Galactica combined with Children of Men and the short-lived 90’s series Earth 2. Remember Earth 2? That show too was about an earthlike planet inhabited by human refugees, only, it was really terrible. Outcasts took this concept and ran with it. They ran, and they’re still running. Outcasts is a marathon ride, and I’m not going to go into too much more detail, as I hope it will reach the states sooner rather than later. All I can say is watch out for Outcasts, and you too will sing its praises like I am right now.