EmptyAirdate: 8-9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 9 (Fox).
Strange things are happening, which is what you'd expect in a new series from J.J. Abrams.
Each week, a small, elite government team races to save the world, or at least a small part of it. But unlike most "Mission: Impossible"-types, these folks do it with a dash of humor and a smidgen of romance.
Anna Torv stars as FBI agent Olivia Dunham, and Mark Valley is agent John Scott, colleagues at work and at play. In the premiere, they are assigned to investigate a plane that landed on autopilot at Boston's Logan Field, where inside, the passengers and crew somehow had suffered horrible and disfiguring deaths.
Clues lead the agents to a makeshift lab and, before you can say "kaboom," Scott gets what the people on the plane got, forcing Dunham to race against time for a cure.
It's an adrenalin-filled story but not the most crucial element here. In fact, at times it taxes credulity. It's hard to fathom, for example, why Olivia has to be in bra and panties for an experiment to work, though it's equally hard to protest those conditions.
What really makes "Fringe" so promising is that it is potentially reminiscent, in a small way, of the battle-of-the-sexes charm that once made "Moonlighting" the best hour of TV of its time.
To find an answer to agent Scott's problems, Olivia has to spring scientist Walter Bishop (John Noble) from a mental institution. That can only be done with the help of Bishop's wisecracking, genius son, Peter (Joshua Jackson). With just a little more banter between Peter and Olivia, there's no telling how far "Fringe" could go.
So "Fringe" has the action junkies and romantics on board. What next? Of course, the conspiracy buffs. Although episodes are self-contained, each has a clue that points to the overall involvement of a shadowy, giant corporation, Massive Dynamics.
Combine these elements with solid special effects and confident direction and you get some heavy-duty counterprogramming to ABC's "Dancing With the Stars."
Production: Bad Robot in association with Warner Bros.Television.
Cast: Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, Kirk Acevedo, Blair Brown, Jasika Nicole, Mark Valley, John Noble, Lance Reddick, Jason Butler Harner, Peter Outerbridge.
Executive producers: Alex Graves, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Bryan Burk, J.J. Abrams.
Producer: Robert M. Williams
Jr. Director: Alex Graves.
Writers: J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci.
Director of photography: Michael Bonvillain;
Production designer: Carol Spier;
Editor: Russell Denove;
Music: Michael Giacchino;
Set decorator: Peter Nicolakakos;
Casting: April Webster, Lonnie Hamerman.