Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Bad form, JJ!


Dedicated readers know of my love for almost all of JJ Abram's creations. (I never did watch any of Felicity.) So, you probably won't be surprised to know that I have become a fan of Abrams' latest show, Fringe.

Fringe has strong elements of The X-files and Alias. The lead character, FBI agent Olivia Dunham is in charge of a task force that investigates a great many odd events, criminal occurrences, and scientific/technological oddities. At the same time, she herself is being revealed as the subject of childhood experimentation and an uncertain (almost prophetic . . . future).

BUT, I am not afraid of calling Abrams out when he goes too far--specifically when he allows his baser commercial instincts to overcome his intriguing storytelling skills.

I am thinking specifically of that infamous moment years ago when (during an episode of Alias, when Sydney Bristow and Agent Vaughn were desperately searching for a vehicle to commandeer to chase after a fleeing perp. Vaughn called out "Quick! Get in the F-150!" while the camera swung to prominently show the FORD logo emblazoned on the side panel of their new truck model. It was so egregious that I almost expected Vaughn to continue extolling the fact that the truck has the greatest towing capacity of any truck in its class. Luckily . . . I guess he did not.

I thought that was one of the worst moments of product placement that I had ever experienced.

Until tonight's episode of Fringe.

A bit of backstory--but I'll try to keep it brief.

Agent Dunham is investigating the mysterious combinations of scientific manipulation, genetic mutation, and whatever else is the motivator of each week's Fringe episode. Sometimes the name of famous (fictional) corporation Massive Dynamic comes up in the investigations. The corporation is run by William Bell. We've never seen Bell before, but as this season winds down, we know that Bell is coming under more direct suspicion for being the leader of a shadowy cult of scientific acolytes who are appearing to be behind the weekly mysterious happenings that result in deaths, unexplained crimes, and general mayhem.

Who is the actor slated to portray William Bell (who will appear on camera in next week's episode)? It's this guy. And what else is he in (that is coming to a theater to you this weekend?) This.

And who is the creative man responsible for both? Yep, it's Abrams.

Corporate/media/marketing people call all this synergy. But, when you know all of this stuff, that might just mean you (meaning me) are more informed on the ins and outs of a TV show--maybe more than you should.

However, when there is also specific dialogue in tonight's episode that directly references the TV show Star Trek, the character of Spock, the reference to time-travelling Romulans . . . all of which seem to figure quite clearly in the plot of Abrams' Star Trek movie reboot (again, coming to a theater near you in only a few days). Well, that is a bit TOO heavy handed, even for me!

(And that isn't even getting into the fact that this Fringe episode--with it many Trek connections--was also sponsored by a Burger King commercial that featured the new Star Trek promotional giveaways AND a brief preview of the upcoming movie that shows the aforementioned time-travelling Romulans.)

I just hope the Enterprise in the movie hasn't been redesigned by our fine friends at Ford Motor Companies.

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