Friday, 11 January 2013

TV series: Fringe (2008+), and Warehouse 13 (2009+)

The success of that famous TV series The X-Files, which ran from 1993 to 2002 (was it really that long ago?), has obviously inspired some other programme makers. Two different TV series came along only a year apart, both featuring US government agents who specialise in investigating paranormal phenomena. I've just started to watch them and have seen the first few episodes of each.

Fringe features Anna Torv as FBI Agent Olivia Dunham, who becomes involved in investigating some very strange occurrences in the field of "fringe science". The first involves a plane on a scheduled flight which lands automatically, with all the passengers and crew not only dead but with little more than skeletons left of them. To solve the mystery Dunham has to recruit an awkward pair of scientific geniuses, father and son team Walter and Peter Bishop (John Noble and Joshua Jackson). She and her team are then seconded to the Department of Homeland Security, working under Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) who tells her that what she witnessed is only one of many similar occurrences known as "the Pattern". Subsequent episodes involve Dunham investigating other mysterious incidents with the aid of Peter Bishop, while his father, still struggling with the after-effects of a long stay in a secure mental unit, works in a makeshift laboratory to discover what is happening and how to counter it.

Warehouse 13 features Joanne Kelly as Myka Bering and Eddie McClintock as Pete Lattimer, two Secret Service Agents who are assigned to a vast, isolated warehouse in a desolate part of the country in order to assist the curator, Artie Nielsen (Saul Rubinek), in his task of collecting any mysterious objects with unexplained powers which might prove dangerous if left in circulation. The warehouse contents vary from secret inventions by famous scientists to mythological items which contain strange forms of energy which may cause mayhem if released. The agents travel the country, investigating unexplained occurrences to discover whether or not such objects might be involved (which naturally they usually are) and bringing them back for safe keeping.

How do the two series compare? Fringe is more similar in mood to The X-Files in that it treats its subject more seriously and frequently involves gruesome biological/medical scenes which push it towards the horror field. I hope this doesn't get worse as it was the increasingly horrific nature of The X-Files which eventually turned me off it. On the other hand, it has Anna Torv who has deservedly won awards for her compelling performance in the series; she has immediately joined the select group of actors whose presence is an incentive for me to watch whatever she's in. Warehouse 13 has a different feel; it is much lighter with a constant thread of humour running through it, particularly in the odd-couple relationship between the two agents, and it lacks the gruesome aspects. The mood is much more like Raiders of the Lost Ark, and there is even a direct connection with that film, in the final scene of which we see the Ark of the Covenant being boxed up and deposited in a vast government warehouse full of such boxes. Well, in effect that's Warehouse 13!

According to the Wiki summaries, both series are regarded as improving as they progress, so it looks as if I may be following them for a while.

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