For all you young whippersnappers out there who don’t remember The X-Files – fear not! JJ Abrams has re-made it for you in the shape of Fringe. He’s also stolen some of the sillier bits of Flatliners as well, but to be fair, there’s quite a lot to enjoy here – explosions! Joshua Jackson! Anna Torv in her underwear (black and functional, in case you were wondering)! A constant recurring sense of refrigerator logic!
However, do we really need a re-tooled X-Files?
The X-Files of course was phenomenally successful, running to over 200 episodes (something I can’t quite see Fringe doing) and still spawning the odd, uneven film (I Want To Believe). Fringe has a slightly different initial focus inasmuch as there’s a great deal of pseudo-scientific babble floating about the place, but essentially it possesses the same DNA as The X-Files, as both narratives share many of the same underlying building blocks.
Perhaps there’s some merit in re-tooling old(ish) TV shows for today’s audience, something that JJ Abrams seems to be doing more and more these days, what with Star Trek due for a 2009 overhaul (perhaps Lost is an exception. That said, check out Jeffrey Lieber’s – the co-creator of Lost – story here; it really is a fascinating read). And whilst we’re on the subject, how about Cloverfield? A real hoot, but essentially a remake of every Godzilla film you’ve ever seen.
In comparison, perhaps it’s more interesting to look at where X-Files writers such as Vince Gilligan have ended up. A couple of posts back I wittered on about Breaking Bad, written and directed by none other than Mr Gilligan himself – to say it’s the diametric opposite of The X-Files would be a drastic understatement. Fringe, therefore, can’t help having a little bit of a retro feel. Sure, it goes ‘Bang!’ quite a lot and it certainly holds your attention – however, its many plot holes are more reminiscent of cinematic narratives rather than a carefully crafted TV drama such as Breaking Bad.
Seems to me at the moment that all JJ needs to do to re-tool a much loved show and/or concept is to give it a great big ‘War on Terror’ spin – which is fine, until you come up against Star Trek. I have no idea what he’s going to do with it, but there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s going to look and sound strangely familiar.