For my money, "Lost" is the smartest show on television. Sometimes it's too smart. Between the delightfully convoluted storylines, the whole Dharma Initiative thing, and time traveling, each weekly episode requires a notebook and a scorecard to figure out who's who and where they're going. Mystery in and mystery out, "Lost" is like catnip to my brother, Matt, and my good friend Mary. And they're the two smartest people I know.
Much to their dismay, however, "Lost" is leaving, exiting prime time after its season ends in May 2010. To provide comfort for Matt and Mary, I wanted to offer an alternative. Something just as smart, just as incredibly outlandish, and just as impossibly implausible.
The answer is "Fringe." And it's no coincidence, since this show and "Lost" both come from J.J. Abrams, the certifiable genius behind "Alias" and the recent remake of "Star Trek."
Like "Lost," "Fringe" blurs the line between actual science and science fiction. It's a happy blend of murder, mystery and mayhem. Unlike "Lost," however, "Fringe" is funny.
Its Mad Hatter-meets-Nutty Professor, actor John Noble's Walter Bishop, is obviously crazy. Like, zany aunt who can't remember your name and wears lipstick on her chin, crazy. He makes inappropriate comments; he's always hungry; and he has a pet cow. Yet, he can cure any disease, and provides a means of communication between the living and the dead.
And, the action on "Fringe" is just as good as what you'll see on "Lost." Actress Anna Torv's FBI agent Olivia Dunham is reminiscent of Jennifer Garner's CIA agent Sydney Bristow on "Alias." She runs and guns with the boys, and does what it takes to track down and catch the bad guys ... who are often times genetically altered.
Joshua Jackson, who many of us grew up watching as Pacey Witter on "Dawson's Creek," has mastered the art of portraying the loner. At first, his character, Peter Bishop, was hesitant to work with his estranged, deranged father. Moreover, as a law-bender, he also wasn't too keen on working with the FBI. He does, of course (this is television, after all), and finds his place as the straight one in the group. Peter provides balance to Walter's extremes and Olivia's passion.
United, the trio solves crimes, unlocks the mysteries of the universe, and leaves fans scratching their heads in joyful disbelief.
"Fringe" is just like "Lost." But, with a cow instead of John Locke.
Now that's smart.
"Fringe" airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Fox.