Network Television Fall Season 2008


It would seem the writer’s strike has limited the amount of new programming offered this fall. Either that, or I have just gotten pickier about what I will view. Either way, this year, I only found three shows I wanted to test drive.
Here are my thoughts so far:

1. “Fringe”, Fox, Tuesdays. This one began in September. One of the producers on this show is J.J. Abrams of “Lost” fame. Like “Lost”, the show is plenty quirky, with seemingly impossible things made possible, but unlike it, the action takes place mostly in Massachusetts. Olivia is an FBI agent initially sent to investigate an airplane that landed safely, but with all the passengers dead from an unknown cause. In order to unravel the mystery, she must get assistance from a scientist (brilliantly played by John Noble from “Lord of the Rings”) who has been a patient at a mental hospital for the past 17 years. She must also enlist the scientist’s son, who is the only one who can authorize his father’s release. Soon it becomes apparent that the incident on the plane is part of a much larger mystery.
The program is called “Fringe” because it deals with something called fringe science: phenomena that some have theorized might be possible, but have so far not been proven. This is what makes the program fascinating. Episodes that have aired so far have featured such oddities as communicating with the comatose or recently dead, turning homing pigeons into a GPS system to locate a person, turning someone into a source of massive electric energy, tuning into frequencies not normally accessible to the human ear, and accelerated aging.
I do enjoy the three main characters: the mad scientist who can’t remember his assistant’s name but can recite the formula for root beer, his usually exasperated son, and the no-nonsense agent who finds herself more and more believing the unbelievable. Every week, I look forward to seeing what outlandish events will take place. I think “Fringe” holds the most promise for finding a loyal audience and the fact that Fox airs it right after “House” doesn’t hurt either.
2. “My Own Worst Enemy”, NBC, Mondays. This one has an excellent time slot, airing right after “Chuck” and “Heroes”. It stars Christian Slater, and Christian Slater. He gets double billing because he is two people inhabiting the same body: Henry, a family man with a steady job, and Edward, a secret agent. It seems the people Edward works for implanted his brain with a chip that allows him to assume an alternate identity when he’s not on assignment for his own protection, and the two men comfortably co-existed until some sort of malfunction occurred. Edward becomes Henry at a most inconvenient time, and Henry discovers to his dismay that many of the details of his own life are not even real. I found the premise quite interesting, but I got confused at times, whether I was watching Henry or Edward. I don’t know if that is intentional or the result of my own cognitive dysfunction. I also wonder how long the concept will stay fresh. For now, though, I will give it the benefit of the doubt and keep watching.
3. “Crusoe”, NBC, Fridays. I guess because most people go out on Friday nights, the networks aren’t motivated to bring out their best stuff. But since I am partly homebound, I usually search in vain for something good to watch that night of the week. So when I found out NBC was going to do a version of “Robinson Crusoe” on Fridays, I set up my DVR to record it. The premiere episode was two hours long and set the mood for the season. For those who never read the original, Robinson Crusoe is an Englishman shipwrecked on a remote island with a friend he calls Friday. The TV series begins when a group of men land on the island. Crusoe introduces himself, hoping that they’ll provide a chance for him to return to his wife and home. But these men, and one woman, are pirates, escapees from a Spanish prison, and their only interest is in finding gold, supposedly located on the island. They enlist Crusoe by force, to lead them to the gold, and they mistake Friday for a slave and send him over a cliff. Friday survives and attempts to rescue Crusoe and in the process meets the Spaniards who are after the pirates. The real star of the show, though, may be the elaborate tree house that Crusoe, a master of invention, has fashioned for himself and his friend. It makes the Swiss Family Robinson look a bit primitive. This version of the Crusoe story is quite obviously geared to a younger audience with its handsome leading man and all the fun island gadgets. But purely visual appeal isn’t always a bad thing, and I’ll stick with this one for awhile to see where it goes.
You can probably pick up downloads of episodes that have already aired via the network websites or services such as iTunes.
Submitted by: Karen Brauer,, © 2008

  • Nancy

    I agree totally about Fringe. I happened to catch it on a weekend on Space Channel while flipping thru channels. They ran the 2 hour pilot and first 2 espisodes and now show the weekly show a few days after Fox.
    Once I saw the pilot it had me hooked. I noticed some of the same people who had been on LOST on this show too, so wasn’t suprised to see it was from the same production team.
    One thing I give them credit for it having such strong female characters in their shows. Think of Olivia in Fringe and Kate in LOST. Neither are wimps and handle most things better than the men around them.
    I love shows that make you think, and ask if this is possible and keep you thinking about the show, after it’s over.
    Bravo Mr, Abrams! Another hit for sure!