BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Think you've had a hard time following the complex plots and convoluted characters on Lost and Alias? Believe it or don't, the shows' creator, J.J. Abrams, feels your pain.
"I was (at a friend's) house and Alias was on, and I was so confused — literally, it was impenetrable to me," said Abrams. "I saw the show from that place … so I understand how tough that can be."
Abrams faced a roomful of journalists Monday as part of the TV Critics Association's summer press tour, pushing his latest foray into layered plotlines and conspiracy theories, the fall series Fringe.
As Hollywood is recovering from the writers' strike, there are so few buzzed-about new series coming this fall that Abrams has seen his quirky show take on added attention. As one of the few Golden Boy producers left, everyone wonders: Is this the guy who can save network TV from itself?
For his part, Abrams simply promises that fans tuning into Fringe won't find another series packed with so many plotlines that only the most devoted fans could decode it all.
“Fringe is an experiment for us," said Abrams, still smarting over the fact that the pilot episode was leaked over the file-sharing Web service BitTorrent. "We believe it is possible to do a show … where you don't have to see Episodes 1, 2 and 3 to tune in and understand Episode 4. We're trying very diligently to do a type of show that doesn't require an insane amount of devotion to follow."
But Fringe's plot — centered on a plucky FBI agent and a quirky team she assembles to chase outbreaks of "fringe science" across the globe — feels cribbed from the wonkiest fanboy shrine of all time, the X-Files. Fringe’s 90-minute pilot, screened to mixed reviews from critics Sunday night, piled the appearance of a mysterious, flesh-eating toxin on top of a possible corporate/government conspiracy, poignant love story and flashes of buddy comedy.
That's simplifying things?
Eric Deggans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8521. His blog, the Feed, is at blogs.tampabay.com/media.