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TV Nerdist: Small Screen In The ‘Fringe’ Alt-verse: Oh, Possibilities!

The alternate universe in Fringe, which has been a lingering aspect of the show almost from the beginning but which we’ve only really begun to see in all its glory – and horror – after the second season two-part finale “Over There,” is flipping fascinating. It may yet prove to be the best-realized alternate universe vision since Watchmen – there, I said it. (Watchmen, of course, was an alt-verse in relation to real life; in Fringe, we’ve got two complex universes existing side by side. With the potential for more.) J.J. Abrams and Team Bad Robot like their alt-verses (Star Trek reboot shook up the Trek continuity like an Etch-A-Sketch, and Lost… okay, it didn’t turn out to be an actual alternate timeline after all, but don’t let’s start dissecting that one just now…), Fringe could very well be the most awesome and nerd-provoking of all.

In how many ways? Legion, kiddies – sociopolitical, technological (which is of course a key aspect of the show’s mythology)… and maybe it’s more of an amusement than anything, but the pop culture differences have been great, fun winks cast at us by the writers. I nearly fell off my chair laughing when the Observers, in an alt-1985 flashback, walked out of a movie theater bearing the marquee “BACK TO THE FUTURE, STARRING ERIC STOLTZ.” The apartment kept for Peter in the alt-verse for his inevitable return includes brilliant conceived, altered covers of classic comic book issues. And as our renegade heroes are stranded waiting for a bus in part one of the finale, we got this look at a billboard advertising The West Wing… still on the air! Who the hell are those people?!:

West Wing poster on Fringe Ep. 2x21

All this has had me geek-storming the possibilities for lots of pop culture differences. (Cyndi Lauper about to embark on another world tour, adopts another African baby; meanwhile, Madonna is kicking ass on Celebrity Apprentice…), but as a television nut, I’ve been focusing mostly on the boob tube. How would this alternate reality have been kinder, or crueler, to the shows we watch over here?

  • What about Twin Peaks? – would a universe used to the concept of paranormal occurrences, as outlined in Walter(nate) Bishop’s ZFT text, retain interest such a willfully weird and awesome show for longer than we did? Could Agent Cooper have continued battling the evil in those woods for a few more seasons? I’d have faith that, at least, the writers over there would resist network pressure and keep the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer going for a lot longer than they did. Hey, it is David Lynch after all… he’s probably bound to be revered as weird in any context. (And with coffee supposedly in short supply in the Fringe altverse, Cooper might need something else to wash down the pie and donuts.)
  • Even moreso than Twin Peaks, paranormal activity was the bread and butter of The X-Files, the show which Fringe gets compared to most often; presumably, with a publically active Fringe division in “real life,” characters like Mulder and Scully wouldn’t be conceived of as investigating bizarre happenings out of the basement. Their work would be commonplace… they’d be government-agent rock stars, more like Jack Bauer, fighting plausible (okay, maybe in later seasons of 24 that’s debatable) instances of terrorist threats. That’s a very, very different show.
  • I suppose some genre shows with more distantly-conceived settings might not be affected – something like Battlestar Galactica, for example, with epic space battles and humanoid Cylons is still out of their realm of possibility. (At least for now.) But how would a show like that, which integrates a heavy undercurrent of theology into a science fiction text, be received by a much more technologically advanced society?; the Fringe altverse hasn’t fully explained its stance on religion yet, but I have a feeling their scientific advances have rendered many of discussions of spirituality, shall we say, out of fashion. (For the record, I’m not one of the BSG/religion haters; I’m an agnostic and a skeptic, but most of the time I thought it worked.)

What say you all, how else could so many of our beloved shows fare in the aggressive, techno-lovin’ parallel Fringe world? I’ll say this much – if Firefly is still on the air, I’m outta here. Catch you on the flip side. (Bonus if Two And A Half Men was cancelled after five episodes. No one over there thought that shit was funny.)

Image: Fox

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  2. Nicole Campos says:

    @ Jim D
    That comment just made my month. And it is only the 2nd. YOU = WIN.

  3. Jim D says:

    Buckaroo Banzai is a documentary.

  4. Jeff says:

    In the alt-verse G4 2 and G4 3 come on your digital tier from the cable company. And of course, we can’t forget the hilarious spoof channel G4 8 “The Ocho” from Dodgeball starring Janeane Garofalo.

    You have to get pretty high up in the channel guide to get to this “sports network” business.

  5. Blakes 7 by Ronald Moore. Thanks Nicole.

  6. indie says:

    Freaks & Geeks and Undeclared

  7. Isaiah says:

    My Two Moms – starring Robin Williams & Eddie Murphy, both in drag because their apartment building doesn’t allow men.

  8. Andrea says:

    The ideal show in the alternative world would be ‘Farscape’,where real people are played by puppets and vice versa.
    If Dollhouse wasn’t good,what is good on TV ?

  9. Asta says:

    In the alt verse, ‘The X-Files’ would be a docudrama with David and Gillian hosting dramatic recreations of actual paranormal events investigated by the real Mulder and Scully…..who eventually married and had three children.

    Bruce Campbell, after five highly rated seasons of ‘The Adventures of Brisco County Jr’, went on to become an action movie star.

    Buffy died (really died) at the end of Season 5. The show is renamed ‘Faith: The Vampire Slayer’ and runs for three more seasons. Shippers argue weather Spike loved Buffy or Faith more.

  10. Nicole Campos says:

    @ Grady Magnifico:
    “Woman From A.U.N.T” – Well done!!

    “He and Mavis have 2 kids, and he collects rare books.” – BRB, DYING.

  11. Sarita says:

    Letterman took over the tonight show after Johnny Carson retired, while Leno took over Dave’s old timeslot on NBC without protest (it was that or continue to be Doritos spokesman). But after his first year NBC decides to let him out of his contract early due to poor ratings. They replace him with Conan who goes on to have a very successful show which is still on the air. Andy is still co-host.

    Leno continues to tour with his standup shtick and eventually lands many gigs in vegas, where he’s built a house with the settlement money he got from NBC when he was fired. He and Mavis have 2 kids, and he collects rare books.

    Around the same time that Dave takes over for Johnny, Arsinio Hall’s show gets picked up by CBS because they are trying to attract more young folk to their network. They run it against the Tonight Show with much success (it’s still on the air). The two shows are very close in ratings with Arsinio taking a slight lead. Craig Fergusen still has the 12:30 timeslot on CBS but he’s in a slightly bigger studio with much better lighting, and a bigger budget to do more silliness.

    Oh and Doctor Who has always been just as big here as it has been in the UK. Daleks are popular halloween costumes for 9 year olds.

  12. Lisa G says:

    “Probe” is the longest-running murder mystery show on television, whereas “CSI” and “Law & Order” lasted only 1 season each and had no franchises. Of course, that means Parker Stevenson wins all the awards and Dr. Gregory House is seen as derivative so Fox doesn’t pick up the “House MD” pilot.

    Luckily, Hugh Laurie is brilliant in any universe, so he’s busy with his own long-running “Blackadder Goes Forth” spinoff. The sitcom, called “Flapper George”, follows his character through the roaring 20s in Berlin. He and Hitler become bachelor roommates and go job-hunting together. Hilarity ensues.

  13. jimmy smits says:

    Fringe is still on the air?!?

  14. Dollhouse, but good.

  15. IRObotDave says:

    How ’bout Firefly? It’s even funnier since Fox is the network that cancelled it. Stick it to ’em J.J.

  16. Marie says:

    I like the idea of alt-verse Mythbusters! I’m sure they have all their own urban legends and pop culture pseudo science just ripe for the testing! And maybe alt-Jamie wears a different kind of hat.

  17. Rhogart says:

    “Quark: The Next Generation.”
    And, no, I’m not referring to the Ferengi from ST:DS9.

  18. Sara says:

    Doctor Who starring Ringo Starr.

  19. Amasea says:

    But I hope Sliders isn’t still on the air, despite the nice synchronicity. I enjoyed it when I was little, but it wasn’t good.

  20. Rachel says:

    Pushing Daisies.

  21. Amasea says:

    Other than those already mentioned above:
    Arrested Development
    Tru Calling
    Dark Angel
    Red Dwarf
    Pushing Daisies

    And for the lovely amusement of it:
    Harsh Realm

  22. Chris says:

    I have a few options. The first is Alias, because there were plenty of other Rambaldi devices. Second option might be that Christopher Eccleston didn’t quit after one year as the Doctor. The third choice might be that American Idol is hosted by Joel McHale. Haha!

  23. Aimee says:

    Even better than ‘Web Soup’…’Singled Out’ is still on the air, in fact it’s the ONLY non-music show on MTV! Could you imagine?!?!?!

  24. VelcoKing says:

    The Tonight Show, with Conan O’Brien.

  25. Aleah says:

    If Firefly is still on the air, you are going to have to take me with you. We can carpool.

  26. Damn, Grady Magnifico, you beat me to it.

  27. Connie says:

    This is easy… Price is Right! Still Bob Barker with a great shiny black hair do!

  28. Forgot one… Web Soup. Sorry someone had to say it.

  29. Great post and question. Dance Fever, Alien Nation, Electro Woman and Dyna Girl, Spiral Zone, and Kung Fu starring Bruce Lee.

    Woman from A.U.N.T.

  30. Jason Eaton says:

    YES to Twin Peaks.
    YES to X-File if Altchovny hadn’t ever wanted off.
    BSG (Ron Moore).
    The Wire.
    Buffy & Angel.
    Star Trek TNG.
    Futurama (harrr).
    Otherworld (morbid curiosity to see if that family ever got home).

    And… I’m gonna NOT say “Firefly” because I’m tired of those whiny ass Browncoats.

  31. Bradley says:

    Power Rangers is a tele-drama ala Smallville.

  32. Dan Telfer says:

    I really love this show. I get so geeked about how it ties a major plot in with great episodic stand-alone plots. It’s some of the best sci-fi to hit TV in a long time.

  33. smartbunny says:

    Buffy. X-Files. MST3K. My So-Called Life. Bosom Buddies.

  34. Dansull123 says:

    A quantum leap where Dr. Sam Beckett made it home!

  35. The Ragi says:

    If you like detailed alternate worlds, you should listen to this masterpiece:

    It goes on great length about what movies you could find in an alternative dimension. And it also won the 2007 Hugo award for best Short Story.

  36. Fred says:

    (Sorry about the grammar thing. I *am* being medicated for it. At times, tho’, I just can’t help myself.)



  37. JungheadinPA says:

    Great article, Nicole!

    Haven’t seen a single episode, but knew I would eventually pick up the seasons in chunk form.

    Your article just convinced me even more than the wonderfully spooky promo spot where the WTC towers are still standing.

    Maybe Michio Kaku should get a job writing for TV GUIDE.

    Because the guy’s, like, eminently qualified for this.

  38. Fred says:

    Great post! I’d hope that “Titus” was still on.


    PS: “‘More so’ should always be spelled as two distinct words. It is also overused and misused. Wherever possible, stick with plain ‘more.'”

  39. Marie says:

    YAY FRINGE! this show doesn’t get enough credit and in my eyes is way better than abrams’ more popular show lost…it’s more science fueled, plus it has pacey from dawson’s creek!! *sigh*

  40. Tim says:

    I’ve been one-man campaigning for West Wing 2 for several months now. My plan is to make Sorkin reboot the show with Sam Seaborn as president (my friend has started a splinter faction that is campaigning for CJ Craig).

    I love the idea of extending Twin Peaks. Easily one of my all-time favorites. If Better Off Ted is as popular in that world as Everyone Loves Raymond is here, consider me gone. I’d also appreciate living in a world with 3 or so more seasons of Veronica Mars, more Flash Forward and a lot less Heroes.

    But what about the dark side? What if in this world Pixar makes movies filled with pop-culture references, potty jokes and smash mouth songs? What if Christopher Nolan’s new Batman movie stars Eddie Murphy in all the leading roles? What if Ryan Seacrest isn’t annoying?

    This is getting a little scary. If anyone needs me, I’ll be in my panic room.