I expected more from FRINGE (**1/2), the latest big-budget TV series from LOST and ALIAS mastermind J.J. Abrams, who developed the series and wrote the pilot script with TRANSFORMERS writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman for FOX. Directed by TV vet Alex Graves (THE NINE, WEST WING, SPORTS NIGHT, JOURNEYMAN), this extended episode (82 minutes) felt less like a true pilot and more of a middle-of-the-season-episode. The series revolves around a cute, blonde FBI agent named Olivia (Anna Torv) who is forced to work with a supposedly insane scientist named Bishop (John Noble) and his genius son Peter (Joshua Jackson) in order to solve weird and strange crimes that go beyond the normal call of duty. Basically, it's a new attempt at an X-FILES-ish type procedural with a paranomal twist. It's just that most of it felt stale and tired. The opening 10 minutes were the best. A plane full of people are going through a severe electical storm at 35,000 feet. One of the passengers looks extremely sick and starts moving around the shaking plane cabin. All of a sudden, his skin begins melting right off his body and before long, he's infected everyone on the plane; everyone is melting and falling apart. It's all fairly gross and pretty exciting. Thanks to the plane's newly installed "automatic landing system," the plane lands in Boston and the Feds are called in. What happened? Was it bio-terrorism? Or something else? It's a nice set-up but sadly, the show went nowhere exciting. There is a late-in-the-episode twist and one or two surprises along the way but most of FRINGE felt routine and pedestrian. The dialogue is average and the pacing was a bit lethargic; they should cut this down to a brisk hour instead of running it as a "two-hour special event," as FOX will no doubt bill it as. There was a nice, movie-style car-flip during a climactic chase which was nice to see in a television show. And the "super-titles" that tell the viewer where the action is taking place (i.e. Boston, MA or airport or stock yard) are extremely stylish. It adds nothing to the story but they are cool to look at nonetheless. But you never really got to know the characters so you're rooting for them out of the normal desire to root for the heroes. And on TV, it's all about the characters. Sadly, these people are no Mulder and Scully. Far from it. Also, it must be pointed out that the show's creators totally stole a major plot device from the movie THE CELL for FRINGE; if you've seen THE CELL you will laugh out loud when a certain plot device is introduced in FRINGE. CBS has a similarily themed show coming out this fall called 11th HOUR, which was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, and based on a hit British show about paranormal investigations. Hopefully that one turns out better than FRINGE did. I might check out the second and third episodes of FRINGE later this fall, but it's off my radar as "appointment TV."