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The latest television series from Lost mastermind J.J. Abrams will have a difficult time dodging early comparisons to The X-Files, but with its clever mix of absurdity, intrigue, suspense and creepiness, Fringe could be Fox's next science fiction hit.

The show's title is referring to fringe science, a blanket term used to describe unorthodox theories and ideas such as telepathy, reanimation, telekinesis, teleportation and, in the series premiere's case, melting flesh. In the jarring first scene of the episode, the passengers aboard Flight 627 from Berlin are liquefied—in gory fashion—and no one seems to know why or how.

The flight lands at Boston's Logan Airport, where FBI Special Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) and her partner/boyfriend John Scott (Mark Valley, Boston Legal) are called to investigate. When John is exposed to some of the same mysterious degenerative chemicals during the investigation, Olivia's work becomes personal as she races to track down someone who can save him. Her search leads her to Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), a fringe science expert who has been institutionalized for the past two decades. To speak with him, she enlists the help of his estranged son Peter (Joshua Jackson, Dawson's Creek), who is less-than-enthusiastic about seeing him again. The trio soon learns that what happened aboard that international flight was just part of a larger—and dangerous—global conspiracy.

After the shocking first scene, the premiere episode is primarily formative and not particularly exciting. There is a goofy bit about mind-melding so that Olivia can communicate with an unconscious John to see what the Flight 627 culprit looks like (John caught a glimpse of him before he was doused with chemicals), but other than that, the primary goal here was to get the three main characters together and raise some larger questions about where the series is headed. In that sense, it succeeds.

Those who worship at the altar of J.J. Abrams will notice that, not unlike Lost, Fringe is rife with cryptic dialogue and conspiracy. What's the deal with Massive Dynamics? What about these "patterns?" What is the meaning behind those pre-commercial break images? Does Abrams really get a kick out of driving viewers crazy?

Abrams shares writing duties with the team of Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, whose credits include Michael Bay's Transformers and much of Abrams' most popular work including Alias, Mission: Impossible III and the upcoming Star Trek film. The trio works well together, and conveys a great deal of comfort with blending outlandish concepts and real-world drama.

After one episode, it's difficult to tell if Fringe will generate the kind of cult following that Lost has, but the series is already showing potential. Fox will be airing an encore presentation of the premiere on Sunday, September 14, at 8 p.m. ET. The second episode will air on Tuesday night, September 16, at 9 p.m. ET during the show's normal timeslot.

Fans might also want to check out Wildstorm's Fringe comic book miniseries, which kicked off September 3.

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