Will SLEEPY HOLLOW Rue the Day?

SHnobleWhen SLEEPY HOLLOW returns to Fox Nov. 4 after World Series coverage, FRINGE veteran John Noble will make his first guest appearance,  and then on Nov. 25, the cast will grow again, when Jill Marie Jones and Amandla Stenberg begin recurring as Lt. Frank Irving’s wife and daughter.

Jones will play Cynthia, the ex-wife of Irving, who is portrayed by Orlando Jones. Stenberg will play their teen daughter, Macey. You will probably remember Stenberg as the adorable Rue in last year’s The Hunger Games movie — but no word on whether her character on SH will also be adorable. Early indications are that she feels “disconnected” from her father since he started working in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.

Noble — beloved by fans as FRINGE’s loopy Walter Bishop — will recur on SH as Henry Parrish, a man with supernatural powers who may hold the key to severing Ichabod’s blood connection to the Headless Horseman.

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FRINGE 3.22: The Day We Died

In the immediate aftermath of the third-season finale of FRINGE, I couldn’t help thinking how distraught we fans would have been if the series had been canceled, and we were left with the cliff-hanger of “The Day We Died” as the last word on the series. But after some reflection, I realized that the story really could have worked as a series-capper, because it ends on a note of hope: The survivors have all the tools they need to save our world and the Other Side, thanks to Peter learning what the future holds. Sure, Peter blinked out of existence, but there is always a price for knowledge, and besides, as the Observer…uh, observed, Peter had served his purpose.
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FRINGE 2.20: Brown Betty – what are you smoking?

Olivia Dunham, P.I.

FRINGE took some chances this week by using one of those oddball “tell me a story” plotlines. In this case, Olivia’s niece Emma begged for a tale from Walter, who had just indulged in a custom-blended pot smoking binge. That combined with his grief over Peter’s disappearance to produce a strange noir that was equal parts Dashiell Hammett, Broadway, The Princess Bride and a pinch of The Wizard of Oz.

Olivia was cast as a hard-boiled private eye, hired by a woman named Rachel to find her missing fiancé, Peter Bishop, who has absconded with an artificial heart. The fun came from seeing the twisted versions of familiar faces. The period dress and hairstyles were great. Even stuffy Broyles (Lance Reddick) got in on the fun. I loved the mixture of old cars with cell phones. Walter cast himself as a crippled scientist who invented all the wonderful things in the world (chocolate bars and teddy bears), as well as singing corpses (“Why not bring a little life to the dead?”) – and an artificial, glass heart. Kudos to John Noble and Anna Torv for bravely warbling a couple of tunes – especially after Jasika Nicole (Astrid) showed off her trained pipes.
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FRINGE 2.18: Gotta get back in time

Walter

FRINGE always does strange and off-the-wall pretty well, but this week’s episode excelled at creating a sense of melancholy that hung over the story like low cloud cover.

Genre demigod Peter WellerRoboCop himself, who will always be known as the eponymous hero of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension – guested as Alistair Peck, a scientist who discovered a way to travel back in time. While his mission was selfless – he wanted a chance to stop his fiancée from being killed in a car crash 10 months ago – his methods were selfish: His technology consumed huge quantities of energy; energy that was sucked out of electrical devices and human beings alike, killing them. Mad scientists like Peck are usually played with eye-rolling mania or loopy enthusiasm, but Weller played Peck with quiet determination. He was undermining his own humanity by replacing his own body with mechanical parts, so matter if were to lose something as ephemeral as a soul? Peck said it himself, that science itself is God; technology is the only higher power he needs. (And no, the irony was not lost on me that Weller was playing yet another tragic character that was more machine than man – and this time it was his own doing.)
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Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 5/13/09

“People never do that,” gushed a breathless Kara DioGuardi after Kris performed on AMERICAN IDOL. What did he do that was so amazing? He played guitar while singing. Apparently, professional songwriter DioGuardi has never seen that before. Who’da thunk it? But it is kinda fitting for KARAOKE IDOL, after all, since the entire phenomenon seems to exist in its own little insular world where the wedding singer contestants bestride the globe like modern gods. Me, I thought Adam was completely overpowered by his backup singer as he shrieked and squeaked his way through the Aerosmith classic “Cryin’.” It could have been the atrocious sound mix, but I don’t think so. Still, I cannot understand why the judges competed with each other to proclaim Adam greater than every other contestant ever and sliced bread combined. I can only conclude that the sound system in the theater is much different than what we hear at home. Or else Simon and friends exist on another planet.

Speaking of other worlds, FRINGE’s first-season finale hinged on bioterrorist Mr. Jones trying to open a portal to another dimension. No, he wasn’t trying to pull Randy Jackson off the IDOL stage — he was (apparently) trying to contact missing industrialist William Bell. And he wasn’t the only one: Olivia wanted to arrest Bell for financing the Z.F.T. organization. Meanwhile, Walter was compelled by the Observer to unearth one of his old inventions: a device that closes dimensional rifts. It all came together at a lake in upstate New York, where Peter plugged Jones’ interdimensional escape hatch — literally chopping Jones in half in the process. Even though the episode ended with two giant reveals — Leonard Nimoy playing Bell living in a still-standing World Trade Center on an alternate Earth, and Peter’s gravestone — I was still disappointed. The story felt anti-climactic. After building up Jones as the Big Bad all season long, he was dispatched in mere moments. And the great shocking visual of half his body being sucked into another dimension was ruined because viewers already saw an anonymous soccer played suffer the same fate 20 minutes earlier. Way to bankrupt one of your big moments, FRINGE. Another silly moment: Liv collated all the evidence of the Pattern on a single map and in five minutes produced a literal pattern — one that Massive Dynamics’ best minds could not see? Really?

But of course it wasn’t all disappointing. My favorite part was when Peter tracked Walter to the family beach house and recounted one of his few happy memories of childhood: Walter making pancakes. We also learned what exactly Walter and “Belly” had in mind all those years ago: They believed that the things they saw while under the influence of hallucinogens represented a real place, one that children have a natural ability to see. Cortexiphan was an attempt to augment that ability to the point where children could cross over to the alternate reality. Walter created the plug to seal the breach after crossing over.

•Best line honors go to Walter: “We’re trying to plug a hole in the universe. What are you doing here?”

And, finally, there was the truly shocking reveal that Walter was not visiting the grave of his late wife — it was Peter’s! The tombstone read “Peter Bishop 1978-1985.” This means one of two things: Peter is a clone (which is why he has such huge gaps in his memories of childhood), or this Peter was brought over from an alternate dimension. I vote for the latter.

Some major emotional stuff went down on RESCUE ME, including Tommy and Lou having a gigantic knock-down, drag-out fight over Genevieve, the boys of 62 truck getting into a literal brawl with other firefighters over Franco’s crazy 9/11 conspiracy talk, and Tommy finally revealing what he did on 9/11. He admitted that he feels guilty for letting cousin Jimmy die, and sometimes wishes he had died instead. Well, it’s about time! That sad fact was obvious to us viewers back in season one, but it was a relief to finally hear Tommy admit it to himself. Let’s hope this epiphany doesn’t make Tommy any less reckless and self-loathing. I like my antiheroes!

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 5/6/09

Anyone who watched last night’s installment of RESCUE ME witnessed Michael J. Fox‘s Emmy reel — and perhaps the series’ bid for writing and best drama. It was that good — ironically, because it was so difficult to watch. It began with a horrifying dream sequence depicting suitcase bombs exacting a terrible toll on the city, then followed up with Sean receiving a diagnosis of kidney cancer, Colleen and blackSean ruining their relationship by having sex, and finished up with Sheila’s extended monologue about the uniquely personal horror of 9/11. By the time it was over, I didn’t know whether to stand and applaud or throw my TV out of the nearest window. Yep, that’s TV you can get behind. TV that draws you in, grabs you by the [CENSORED] and twists. That’s why the best dramas are on cable.

As ATROCIOUS IDOL ate into my precious FRINGE time, the phone-number recap revealed that Allison and Kris didn’t completely suck, like Danny, and Adam was only pretty bad instead of awful as usual.

“A myth is just an unverified fact.”
— Walter Bishop

Yep, that was AS THE WORLD TURNS’ former Jennifer, Jennifer Ferrin, playing Nancy Lewis and her barbecued twin, Susan Pratt, on FRINGE. Only this wasn’t a case of of spontaneous human combustion, it was pyrokinesis. Nancy and her sister were given the ability to start fires with their mind but, lacking training, had trouble directing the heat outward. Olivia makes a connection between the experimentation on Nancy and the Cortexiphan trials she herself underwent.

Remember that video of a young Olive cowering in a burned-out room? We can now assume the younger Liv was a firestarter, after all! Nancy put her power to good use when she torched the scuzzy Sanford Harris. (Were you as disappointed as I was that Sanford turned out to be part of the conspiracy? It was all too neat and convenient. I wanted him to just be a garden variety jerk with an axe to grind playing office politics.) Speaking of the Z.F.T., Walter revealed that the typewriter responsible for the Z.F.T. Manifesto belonged to “Belly” — William Bell. However, Walter maintained that the founder of Massive Dynamic would never do the bad things attributed to Z.F.T., and blamed others for twisting its ideals. This episode was a treasure trove of meta references (even more than usual):

•While investigating Susan’s death on the street, Walter was toting a Slusho drink — a recurring in-joke seen in many J.J. Abrams productions, from ALIAS to LOST to the movie Cloverfield, and even slipped into other shows, like HEROES. Slusho — “You can’t drink just six!”
•The entire interlude with Emmanuel Grayson was one big wink at STAR TREK fandom. “Grayson” is taken from “Amanda Grayson,” Spock’s human mother (hence his “I am the son of Sarek” line). The conspiracy by renegade Romulans from the future to alter the timeline is the plotline of the new Star Trek movie, written by FRINGE co-creators Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci and directed by Abrams! And, of course, the actor playing Grayson, Clint Howard, appeared in several TV incarnations of the series. Oh, and look for Slusho in the movie! (Hint: It appears in a bar scene.)

Next week is FRINGE’s season finale, so we will find out if Ms. Sharp survived being shot, and (hopefully) exactly where the Observer is taking Walter. Also, be in the lookout for an cameo by Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy as William Bell. And I am happy to note that FRINGE has been renewed for a second season, so we can look forward to a few more appearances by Nimoy.

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 4/29/09

I knew I could expect something fun when this week’s episode of FRINGE opened with the strains of Bauhaus’ goth classic “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” in a clear homage to Tony Scott’s 1983 vampire movie, The Hunger. But the show also set viewers up for a clever inversion — we were led to believe that lady killer Bob was an actual serial killer of ladies (and maybe he was), but Bob got his neck graphically snapped by this week’s menace, a gorgeous bar pick-up with preternaturally blue eyes and an insatiable thirst for spinal fluid. (her Hunger, right?) The woman turned out to be juiced with an experimental drug that turned her into a spinal-fluid-drinking monster as punishment for her husband, Dr. Nicholas Boone, trying to leave the Z.F.T. organization. Irony alert: Boone worked on the XT-43 substance that transformed his wife into a monster. Boone was also the guy who developed the rapid-skin-growth toxin seen in a previous episode, “Ability.” Boone revealed that Z.F.T. wanted him to create the toxins “to show off” for other scientists. Well, so much for The Pattern being some grand design, eh? Unless Boone was lying. But he was certainly a part of Z.F.T. as his exchange with Walter indicated: “I know very well who you are,” Boone said. “That makes one of us,” Walter replied. And, in the video that Boone made, he revealed the movement is being funded by none other than Massive Dynamic founder William Bell.

Meanwhile, on the home front, Olivia had to comfort sister Rachel, whose husband has filed for divorce and sole custody of little Ella. (What do you want to bet that we see that matchmaking service for mismatched people, “Two Singles Together,” again? And in a bad way?) Liv actually asked her boss, Broyles, if he was “satisfied” with his divorce lawyer. Speaking of grumpy Broyles, he actually got off the line of the night (possibly the week): “I can just about remember when a suspect being human was a given, not an option.” That even topped Walter’s “Where would the fun be if we already knew all there is to know?” And now we know Walter has the entire lab hooked up to the Clapper. Hilarious.

The horror of Sept. 11, 2001 continues to be a soul-crushing weight on RESCUE ME, but it also serves to ground the series, in contrast to wacky plots like the boys opening a bar and Tommy and Janet encouraging daughter Colleen to have sex with her boyfriend to derail her marriage plans. This week, Tommy was convinced he saw dead cousin Jimmy on video footage recorded after Jimmy was believed killed. Tommy began to wonder if he really knew the truth about his cousin’s death. Lou finally blasted Tommy for behaving like he was the only one at Ground Zero. I’m finding the scenes in which the normally-flippant Lou releases his pent-up rage and sadness to be quite moving, and the weekly mixture of the sacred and the profane makes this basic-cable series one of the best shows on TV.