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Fringe Season One

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Increasingly, television that’s worth watching is too good to watch on television. The delay of a week between episodes, the incessant interruptions of commercials and the propensity of broadcast networks to regard the lower third of your screen as another revenue source can mangle the continuity of even the most engaging content.

Fringe is arguably such a work – an initial viewing of the trailers for its pilot made it clear that viewing it on broadcast would be deeply frustrating. Weird, engaging, skillfully written and played by a troupe of deft actors, it deserves better.

Such it was that we ignored it until it became available on DVD.

Fringe is a treat on disc, wherein it becomes a week-long movie. Its subtle story arcs and nuanced characters really work in the absence of less accomplished actors trying to sell you car insurance.

Fringe tells the tale of an FBI agent assigned to a “fringe” division of the bureau, which investigates strange goings-on. Circumstances find her acquiring the services of a genuinely mad scientist, his overachieving son and sundry other quirky, ceaselessly engaging characters. It’s reminiscent of the X-Files without any overt mind games.

The creatures are state of the art, the grisly bits are cranked up to ten and the underlying conspiracy is expertly wrought. You can’t watch just one episode.

In its original broadcast incarnation, the first season of Fringe was presented as what its parent network called “remote-free TV.” It aired with about half the usual commercials of network drama. As such, its episodes as they appear on DVD are about six minutes longer than you’d expect. Its creators have done a lot with those six minutes, creating more involved story lines and extended details in the lives of their inhabitants.

The only arguable drawback to Fringe on DVD is that it comes in a somewhat ephemeral plastic box. With relatively little mishandling, its internal disc holders will shatter, and the resulting shrapnel can scratch the discs flapping around therein. It’s a really good idea to shake the box and listen to its contents before you buy it… no matter how many other shoppers look at you strangely. We got through all the copies of Fringe at the local WalMart before we manage to assemble one without any scratched discs.

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