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How to write an episode of Fringe

Update (2011/01/04) - This was written after about 6 episodes of Fringe’s first season. Since then the show has improved dramatically. I enjoy it a lot now, but it was still worth poking fun in the beginning.

  1. Open with a person who is lost/confused/terrified. This person should typically be a loner and likely looks a little ill, or at least strange in some way. Put them in an everyday situation, such as a bus, office building or diner/restaurant. Make something freaky (and preferably gross) happen, such as having people start bleeding from their eyes and dropping dead.

  2. Cut to very cool title sequence. It is essential that JJ Abrams’ name is clearly shown. Like Alfred Hitchcock, he is more important than the cast, even though he doesn’t have much input these days. The show is stylish and futuristic, so use the typeface Gotham where possible, but also throw in Futura so that it subconsciously reminds people of LOST (again, association with JJ Abrams).

    Fringe titles

    Or what Zoolander thinks Bulemia is.

    Fringe titles

    Hello JJ and two other dudes.

  3. Come back from main titles with Cute FBI Agent and Cute (but useless) Guy investigating the crime scene. Cute FBI agent should look concerned. Cute Guy should suggest situation is ridiculous (although do not dwell on the fact that by now he has realised nothing is ridiculous). Crazy Scientist should hover in the background for a while, then push everyone out of the way and become totally engrossed with the situation. Meanwhile, FBI Boss Man Who Walks Like A Robot And Is That Guy Off The Wire and LOST should talk to Cute FBI Agent and say “we’ve seen something like this before”.

    Olivia Dunham

    Cute FBI Agent.

    Peter Bishop

    Cute Guy.

    Walter Bishop

    Crazy Scientist.

    Phillip Broyles

    FBI Boss Man.

Note that the press photographs, despite being all the same size, show more bare skin on the Cute FBI Agent. Feel free to create a implausible situation where she is convinced to remove her clothes and get in a tank of water in order to read minds.

  1. Now it is time for the Crazy Scientist to come up with a crazy theory about what might be going on. The crazier the better (but of course, he’s actually correct). Make sure he uses the word “posit”, the way all crazy scientists do. It should be related to “work” he did years ago without the use of modern technology (ignore the fact that in order to do all this work, raise a son and spend decades in a mental institution he would be about 100 years old). Also, have him do or say something that is supposed to be funny, but is not relevant to the story. It should also be socially unacceptable - he must appear to be the most crazy of all crazy scientists.

  2. Cute Guy now has the chance to do the only thing he is capable of: explain crazy theory to Cute FBI Agent. She should look puzzled until Cute Guy tenuously mentions some pop-science talking point, such as the Fibonacci Sequence, the theory that humans only use 11% of their brains, or the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. The ultra-nerds in the audience may groan with displeasure, but fuck them - the target audience is regular nerds.

  3. At this point one of the cool location titles that hover in mid air will take up 25% of the visual effects budget by somehow interacting with its environment. For this purpose, the scene should be raining (so rain can bounce off imaginary text) or include a tracking shot (so camera can move through imaginary text). For example, text hovers over water so that it can create a reflection.

    Text reflected in river

    Low flying aircraft should be cautious if Fringe is shooting.

    Crime investigation

    Walter plays “pull my finger”.

  4. Introduce Nasty Villain. If possible, they should be a (less crazy) scientist or head of a pharmaceutical company with an ominous sounding name (if you can’t come up with anything for the company name, then use an acronym). Villain may have some connection to the past life of the Crazy Scientist, although it is not necessary that Crazy Scientist remember.

  5. Have Freaky Bald Dude (a.k.a The Observer) appear in the background of a scene so that the dedicated fans can point excitedly at the screen while screaming in delight and clapping, and then rush to add information to the show’s unofficial wiki.

  6. Make formulaic cop-show stuff happen, such as Cute FBI Agent visiting victims’ houses or interrogating Villain. Cute FBI Agent’s Helpful And Supportive Male Platonic Friend Who Is Also An FBI Agent, should be involved every now and then (so that it will be a bigger surprise when it is revealed he was double-crossing later in the series).

  7. Meanwhile, back at the lab, have Crazy Scientist do some crazy science shit. If you can’t think of anything sufficiently crazy, have him hook some wires up to a corpse and reanimate it somehow (but not really bring it back to life, because THAT would be too crazy). Ensure there is a scene where Crazy Scientist forgets the name of Poor Sucker FBI Agent Assigned To Be Scientist’s Assistant (who will also turn out to be a double-crosser later in the series).

  8. For now, allow only the smallest hint of sexual tension between Cute FBI Agent and Cute Guy. That will happen eventually, but it needs to be drawn out.

  9. Mention Massive Dynamic and maybe visit Funny Looking Woman Who Knows More Than She Reveals.

    The Observer

    Another bald dude.

    Astrid Farnsworth

    What’s her name.

    Charlie Francis

    Future double-crosser.

    Nina Sharp


  10. The plot should come to a head with everyone working out what is going on at the same time. FBI Agents will change out of their FBI Suits and into their FBI Kick-Ass Clothes and then get into FBI Cars and drive to location.

  11. Somehow have Cute FBI Agent isolated so that she has to pull out her Cute FBI Gun and chase someone alone.

    Olivia with gun

    Stop, in the name of science!

  12. The Villain escapes or dies (e.g. kills themselves because they are just a pawn to a more evil master). That way, you don’t need anything in the way of explanation (either for plot or science). Leave ends as loose as possible. The crazy science involved in this story will not be mentioned again, despite the fact that it would be extremely useful in many current and future situations.

  13. Have a touching moment between Cute FBI Agent and Cute Guy, then Cute Guy and Crazy Scientist father.

  14. Then, the final scene should remind viewer that this story is all part of a bigger plot, run by a (probably evil) organisation. The viewer must get the indication that they could not possibly fathom how huge the conspiracy is. If you get a chance, reveal that a character is not exactly who they seem to be (preferably a traitor).

  15. End with Bad Robot. You’re done.

There are some plot points that will be revealed over the coming episodes, depending how close to cancellation the show gets or if a season finale is coming up.

  1. Reveal that Cute FBI Agent was chosen/destined to be investigating The Pattern.
  2. Reveal that Cute Guy is somehow connected to everything. This enables him to be less useless but shouldn’t really be a surprise since his father was the crazy scientist inventing all this crap.
  3. Introduce another Cute FBI Agent. She will be a double-crosser.
  4. Ultimately, everyone but the 3 main characters will double-cross.

I must say that, even with all the fun I’m making of it, I actually really like Fringe. It is great entertainment. All hail JJ.