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For me, FRINGE was and is the absolute best new television series of the 2008-2009 season. From the opening moments of the pilot episode, I was hooked on this wonderful show, which I like to refer to as THE X-FILES for a new generation. A mixture of science fiction, character drama and the police procedural, FRINGE proves itself to be one of the most compelling hour-long scripted programs currently airing. Created by J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci FRINGE has a lot in common with THE X-FILES, but it is also very different show, and one that has certainly been influenced by other genre shows like THE OUTER LIMITS, not to mention recent history and the paranoid state the world finds itself in since 9/11.

The weekly premise of FRINGE is set up in its pilot episode, in which an unknown toxin is released onboard a transatlantic flight, causing all the biological matter onboard to dissolve away. The plane lands stateside on autopilot and Homeland Security assembles an interdepartmental taskforce to investigate. Amongst the investigators is FBI Special Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), who employs an unorthodox approach to find a cure, after the unknown toxin infects her partner, John Scott (Mark Valley). Olivia’s unorthodox approach involves a brilliant, but disgraced scientist named Walter Bishop (John Noble), who has spent the last seventeen years in a mental institution as the result of a lab accident that caused the death of a lab assistant. With the reluctant help of Walter’s son Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), Olivia secures Walter’s release from the mental institution. And although Walter is quite literally a "mad scientist," Olivia is convinced he is the only man capable of devising an anti-toxin based upon his history of working with the government in the area of fringe science. As Olivia continues her investigation, she is informed by Homeland Security Special Agent Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) that the incident with the toxin is only the latest in a series of strange occurrences that have been labeled "The Pattern."

Each instance of "The Pattern" involves evidence of scientific experiments run amok, with parties unknown, using the world as a giant petri dish. The subsequent episodes of FRINGE are focused around new instances "The Pattern," which are investigated by Olivia, with the assistance of the socially dysfunctional Walter and Peter, who starts off as his father’s keeper, but quickly proves himself a jack-of-all-trades and necessary member of the team. Each week, much of the runaway science evidenced in "The Pattern" is somehow tied back to Massive Dynamic, a powerful global research corporation that is on the forefront of the majority of the world’s scientific breakthroughs. As much of the science is tied back to Massive Dynamic, the government has secured the company’s cooperation through high-ranking executive Nina Sharp (Blair Brown). Although Nina gives the appearance of assisting the government in their investigations, Olivia suspects deception due to Nina’s loyalty to Massive Dynamic’s and mysterious founder, who was once Walter’s lab partner. The first season cast of FRINGE also features Kirk Acevedo, Jasika Nicole and Michael Cerveris.

FRINGE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON ($80) comes to Blu-ray Disc in a five-disc set that features the following twenty episodes that were aired during season one: Pilot, The Same Old Story, The Ghost Network, The Arrival, Power Hungry, The Cure, In Which We Meet Mr. Jones, The Equation, The Dreamscape, Safe, Bound, The No-Brainer, The Transformation, Ability, Inner Child, Unleashed, Bad Dreams, Midnight, The Road Not Taken and There's More Than One Of Everything.

Warner Home Video has made all twenty episodes from FRINGE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON available on Blu-ray Disc in 1.78:1 wide screen presentations that have been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. I have been watching FRINGE in high definition on Fox and let me just say that the 1080p presentations on Blu-ray really kick broadcast’s butt. Gone is the artifacting, and other annoyances, associated with how cable and satellite companies deliver hi-def programming. For a television production, the image displays terrific sharpness and clarity, in addition to appearing rather dimension and offering a nice level of fine detail. Some shots do look a bit softer than others, but there is nothing here to complain about. Colors can sometimes be a little cold, but are generally rendered with good saturation. Blacks are deep and whites are completely stable. The contrast can sometimes demonstrate a stark quality that goes beyond typical broadcast fare. Although there are places that the shadow detail isn’t exemplary, I can’t say that it detracts from the overall quality of the presentations. There is some grain/noise in the darker sequences, but nothing beyond what one should normally expect.

All of the episodes that constitute FRINGE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON are presented on Blu-ray Disc with 5.1 channel Dolby Digital 640kbps soundtracks. Considering the excellent video, the lack of lossless encoding is something of a let down. Still, even in lossy 5.1 the sound design proves itself engaging for a television production, with a nice use of the outlying channels during key moments. As expected, talky passages are front and center. Incidental sounds and environmental noises are well integrated, as is the music, which has a strong presence, despite the lack of a lossless encode. The bass channel adds weight and a bit of rumble in places. Dialogue is clean, precise and fully understandable. No other language tracks have been included on the disc, but English, French and Spanish subtitles are provided.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard episode selection and set up features, as well as, as well as the supplemental materials. . Running Audio Commentaries are featured on three episodes: Pilot, The Ghost Network, and Bad Dreams; participants include J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtman, J.R. Orci, David Goodman, Bryan Burk, Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner. Fringe Pattern Analysis takes a closer look at six select scenes with experts who dissect each scene with notes, photos, and diagrams (requires a Profile 1.1 player). Featurettes and other programs include the following: Evolution: The Genesis Of Fringe, Behind The Real Science Of Fringe, A Massive Undertaking: The Making Of Fringe, The Casting Of Fringe, Roberto Orci Production Diary and a Fringe Visual Effects featurette. Unaired Scenes, a Gag Reel, a Gene The Cow Montage and Deciphering The Scene sidebars comprise the remaining standard supplements. FRINGE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player).

Again, in my opinion, FRINGE was and is the absolute best new television series of the 2008-2009 season. The Blu-ray presentations are excellent- definitely besting hi-def broadcasts. Very highly recommended.



Fringe: The Complete First Season (+ BD-Live) [Blu-ray] (2009)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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