Weird science equals appointment television in Fox's heavily hyped "Fringe" ... but it wasn't always that way. Initial episodes "? even within its own overextended pilot "? stumbled a bit as the series tried to get up and running, but once it found its footing, the show proved an intoxicating mix of mystery and madness.
If you gave up early on because you found it good, but not good enough, you owe it to give it another try on DVD, with the seven-disc "Fringe: The Complete First Season." Anna Torv stars as FBI Agent Olivia Dunham, whose world is turned topsy-turvy when a flesh-eating virus fells an entire passenger jet, including her partner/lover. She turns to deranged scientist Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) for help, which sends them on weekly adventures investigating strange happenings which require fringe theories to solve "? you know, like the kind where you can take the eye of a dead person and use it to access the last images the dead person saw.
It's two parts "The X-Files," one part "Mr. Wizard."
Serving as the series skeptic is Joshua Jackson as Walter's son, Peter. He's not only the voice of reason, but the comic relief. And the team needs it, considering the obstacles they face, which include a baby who grows into an old man nearly instantly, a group of bank robbers who can walk through walls (well, minus the one who gets stuck midway) and killer butterflies. Yes, killer butterflies.
These bizarre situations are what give "Fringe" its juice. I'm less interested in its deepening mythology, such as the Massive Dynamics corporation subplot, which only serves to bore me. The core of the show rests with Olivia, Walter and Peter; the interaction between these characters generates real sparks.
Torv's kind of a wet blanket at first, but warms up once her initial storyline falls by the wayside. Noble is terrific throughout, and it's hard to believe his performance didn't merit Emmy attention. Jackson will erase any animosity you may harbor toward him for the crimes of "Dawson's Creek." He's that good!
Warner Home Video has iced this intoxicating cake with several special features, mostly behind-the-scenes info in bite-sized chunks. Be warned, however, that many spoil surprises, so they're best watched following the episodes, not before them.