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Tick, tock. Tick, tock…

Now that Walternate’s doomsday machine was activated last Friday night, the countdown is on and in two weeks, we’ll be seeing whether our universe or the alt-world makes it out of Fringe’s third season alive. Then again, who knows? Walter and company are pretty crafty, so maybe both will be OK. Or maybe the worlds will merge. One thing we do know for sure is that we should expect at least one fatality. ‘Cause that’s how finales roll, you know?

In a recent interview with TV Guide Magazine, producers Jeff Pinkner and Joel Wyman dropped an ominous tease that fans can expect “a character they love” to perish before the end of the season. And after the events of past episodes, especially Friday’s kick-ass hour, the list of possible DOAs seems to be taking an unsettling shape. Fauxlivia is in federal custody for traitorously trying to cross over to our world; Peter is in a coma following his ill-fated attempt to enter the big-bang machine; and Astrid remains the only cast regular without some sort of a link to Nina Sharp. That can’t be good. And let’s not forget Sam Weiss, who might have to pay for being so shady; Lincoln Lee, whose love for Fauxlivia could compromise his judgment; and Scarlie, although killing off Kirk Acevedo twice would just be rude.

So, start placing your bets in the comments below and let us know who you think will bite it by the May 6th season finale. And if you say Gene, we will report you to PETA.

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Who do you think it is? No one I love can die!

Fringe recap: It’s on

Posted by Annie on
April 25th, 2011

Happy Easter, “Fringe” fans. It’s that time of year when lapsed Christians like myself dig up the Google Map directions to that church we went to for Christmas. Then home for chocolate and ham.

“Fringe” is here to help get you in the Easter spirit with the most religious episode to date. There’s always been some Christian themes in “Fringe.” Mostly the looming reality that Peter, the son, may have to sacrifice himself for mankind. “6:02 AM EST” also gives a swarm of locusts, shepherds and Walter’s conversation with God. More religion than you can shake a stick at. A stick that will fall to the ground and become a snake.

6:02 AM EST refers to the moment Walternate activated the other universe’s version of the device. With the chromosomes AlterBrandon and Department of Defense scientists over there managed to pull from Fauxlivia and Peter’s child, they’ve started up the machine that will supposedly destroy one universe to save the other. This is what we’ve been building to all through Season Three. The wheels are in motion. Sure they’re taking a little time to get warmed up, but they’re moving.

Walternate starts the device with a heavy heart. AlterBrandon is all but giddy to be doing his part to help annihilate our universe to end the war we don’t know we’re having. Walternate thinks more of Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb who lived with the nightmares of those he killed in order to stop a war. Walternate even points out that Oppenheimer compared himself to the destroyer of worlds, but he’s going to actually do it.

Back in this universe, our device also clicks on when Walternate starts his. At the same time, weak points in the fabric of reality are starting to tear. Entire flocks of sheep and the men tending them are wiped out in a flash, vegetation is destroyed, Walter’s talking about mushrooms while naked. Well, that last one might not be a product of the device, but it is just as scary.

As the machine builds up steam to do whatever it is that it does, the characters move into their places to charge into this season’s finale.

Walter begins to understand why the Observer tested him earlier this year. “Give him the keys. Let him save the girl.” The Observer’s cryptic words weren’t simply instructions for the moment, they were telling Walter a larger truth. All the problems between the two universes sprung from Walter’s inability to let Peter go. He couldn’t allow the alternate universe Peter die like his son had, so he stepped over and kidnapped him. In order to undo the mess, Peter might have to get into the device and try to stop it. Whatever it does, the drawings of Peter with light bursting out of his eyes and mouth don’t make it look like it plays out very well for him.

While Peter and Walter bond over a drink, Olivia takes charge of the investigation. First thing she does is pick her brain for alternate universe Fringe Division info to put together early warning signals for potential, then she jumps on the train for anyone who knows about the device. Luckily she’s already met the man who seems to know more than anyone else: Sam Weiss. Sam got a haircut since we last saw him and he explained to Nina that whichever Olivia Peter loved would determine which universe got saved. Though now he’s vanished, because Nina Sharp spilled the beans on his connection to William Bell and because his executive desk toy started hammering out a funky rhythm. While Olivia searches through his apartment and the one bottle of cologne sitting on the fireplace, Sam’s out where the universe is falling apart, taking notes.

Even Fauxlivia is gearing up for the finale. It’s now been three weeks since she gave birth to the speedily developed Henry Bishop, named after the kind taxi driver who helped deliver him and helped the real Olivia escape their universe. When their Fringe Division gets a Level 10 Fringe alert, they go running to the source at the Department of Defense. The Department of Defense turns them away, which only makes Olivia more suspicious that they started their device, which she confirms in a face-to-face with Walternate.

Fauxlivia decides she needs to bring Peter back and show Walternate that neither universe needs to be destroyed. She makes a strong attempt to break on through to the other side, only to end up locked up through all the festivities. Somehow I doubt she’ll stay there long.

This was a movement episode. “Lost” used to have them every season right before the finale. They give an opportunity to get everyone into place for the big climax. In true “Fringe” fashion, they managed to slip in a little extra emotion as well. Now that everyone is where they need to be, we’re ready to charge in to the last two episodes. Show runner Jeff Pinkner let slip in a conference call last week that before the season ends, somebody we love deeply is going to die. With “Fringe,” that could be any of a bunch of great characters.

Misdirection -– Twice Friday night “Fringe” got me with a little sleight of hand. The first was Fauxlivia’s siege on the Department of Defense. She broke in, took AlterBrandon hostage and stole two cylinders that could transport people between universes (or rip their atoms apart). Then, right when she’s about to be captured, she activates the cylinder and … nothing. A dud.

The second, of course, was the beautifully executed moment when Peter touches the device. There had been such an emotional buildup to the moment. Peter had said goodbye to everyone, like Dorothy about to fly away with the Wizard of Oz. Then he climbs on the rising/extending platform that takes him right up to this frightening machine. (Do you think they built that just for the device, or do they have those sitting around for all their rising/extending needs?) When he reaches out to touch it, zap. Peter goes flying. “Fringe” got me there. I never would have expected that.

Astrid Action –- Astrid got to give one of those all-time great action movie likes. Right up there with “I’m getting to old for this [expletive]” or “that’s just crazy enough to work.” When Peter tried to give her a message to pass on to Olivia, Astrid said he could tell her himself when he gets back. She also got a good emotional moment, too, when she dove in for the hug. That’s how versatile Astrid is.

Spot the Observer – Did you see the Observer stroll by in the background while Fauxlivia pushed Henry in the park? For a second I thought he was walking on the edge of the fountain, goofing off. At this point, I could see if the Observer isn’t as concerned with hiding. There’s so much going on in both universes, no one is going to notice him. Maybe next week he’ll ride past on one of those penny-farthing bicycles with the big front wheel they still ride in the other universe (and they think they’re so advanced).

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Fringe exec: “Finale comes full circle”

Posted by Annie on
March 30th, 2011

***MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS***

Fringe producer Jeff Pinkner has claimed that the show’s third run “comes full circle” in the upcoming season finale.

He told IGN that ‘The Day We Died’ will link back to the season’s early episodes, which saw Olivia (Anna Torv) replaced by her doppelganger Fauxlivia.

“Very much, the season was designed as a chapter and it will play out that way,” he claimed. “And the very end of the season hopefully will make you sort of revisit and look at everything that’s happened all year through a fresh pair of glasses.”

Pinkner also revealed that the script for the finale had not been altered following the news of the show’s renewal.

“Not a word [has changed],” he insisted. “But to be fair, we wrote the episode, perhaps foolishly, assuming that we would be on for season four. We never for one second entertained that [the season finale] would be the end of the series.”

The showrunner added that he would “certainly hope” to be given notice when the time does come for Fringe to end.

“The studio and the network know that we have an ending [in mind] and that for a long time we have been building towards [that] ending,” he said. “So we anticipate getting to tell the story in the way and the manner that we want to.”

Fringe returns to Fox on April 15. The season finale will air on May 6.

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With the show officially renewed, what can we expect heading towards the season finale?

We pick up with the three of us in the midst of discussing Anna Torv and all she’s been asked to do on the show of late..

Wyman: Look at what she did with [William] Bell! It’s astounding. And we’ve got to tell you, that’s all her. She interpreted that character the way it was and for us, in our wildest dreams… It’s just transcended all our expectations.

IGN: It’s such a fun, interesting choice. When you decided Olivia would be taken over by William Bell, did you tell Anna at all, “We’d like you to act like Leonard Nimoy,” or was it not quite that specific?

Pinkner: We pitched the idea to her and as Joel said, she sort of took a silent beat and then said, “Okay… So what are you guys thinking? Are you thinking that you’ll put his voice in my mouth?” And we said, “No, no, no.” Our premise, always, is keep the show grounded. Play everything as real and as dramatically authentic as possible, from camera lens choices, to angles to set design and props and obviously performance, because the crazy only plays if everything else is real. And so we said to her, “No, no, no. He’s inside of you. But it’s his consciousness in your body.” And she said, “Oh, I think I understand. Let me play around with that.” And we’re incredibly fortunate, because our cast are actually friends and insanely dedicated to their craft and the show. And she and John [Noble] spent a Saturday practicing and sort of working out the character together, because of course Walter has a relationship with William. So the two of them worked it up on their own and presented it to us – from her arched eyebrow and the way she carries her body, to the way she controls her voice. And it’s really astounding.

One thing that is important to note is that it delights Leonard to no end! Of all of us, the one who’s the most proud and most impressed is Leonard.

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IGN.com Exclusive Fringe Producers Talk Renewal

Posted by Annie on
March 30th, 2011

With Season 4 now official, J.H. Wyman and Jeff Pinkner chat with IGN about the big news.

Fringe fans, myself included, got some very happy news Thursday night, as word broke that the show had been renewed for Season 4. In the wake of this announcement, I spoke to Fringe’s Executive Producers/Showrunners Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman, to get their reaction.

Because I’ve already seen tonight’s new episode of Fringe, “Bloodline,” I also was able to ask Pinkner and Wyman some questions about it and what’s to come on the series in the final four episodes of the season. But since this interview is running prior to “Bloodline” airing, look for the second part of our chat next week. Which is to say, don’t worry, there aren’t any spoilers here!

IGN TV: Were you surprised to get the renewal now? I think most of us assumed that we’d be waiting until May to find out.

Jeff Pinkner: It’s funny, because FOX has been so supportive, all year long. They were supportive prior to the move to Friday night. They put the move in context. They told us very clearly what we’ve been saying to everybody: “This is not a move on the way off the schedule. This is a move to see if your audience will follow you. We’re just trying to test the loyalty of the audience, because if the same audience comes back on Friday nights, we’re in awesome shape.” And of course, the audience did. And then ever since, FOX has been very upfront that there are lots of factors that go into the timing of pickups, but, “You guys are in great shape.” And then that started to get a little bit louder and a little bit more present over the last week or two, as we started to talk about what next year would look like. And then we both received the phone call from Peter Roth at Warner Bros. yesterday, who had just gotten off the phone with [FOX President] Kevin Reilly.

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Fringe renewed: Can fan passion trump ratings?

Posted by Annie on
March 29th, 2011

(CNN) — Not so long ago, TV shows like “Firefly,” “Wonderfalls,” “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” and “Dollhouse” were mourned by science fiction fans as having been canceled before their time, due — as it always is — to low ratings.

Another thing each had in common: They aired on Fox on Friday nights.

So observers of the TV world were surprised Thursday to learn of the network’s renewal of the series “Fringe” for a full fourth season after two months in a Friday timeslot.

Adding to the surprise: It was picked up in March, much earlier than many other shows with “on the bubble” status — an equal chance of cancellation or renewal — would traditionally find out their fates. (One week earlier, NBC renewed two of its “on the bubble” series with a passionate fanbase: “Community” and “Parks and Recreation.”)

Fans and many TV critics feared that the show’s cancellation was imminent when it was moved from a Thursday slot to Friday. Despite encouraging words from Fox, fans rallied support for the show on social media, and star Joshua Jackson even got involved, reminding the “Fringe” faithful not to rest on their laurels.

The show’s ratings started out on par with what they were on Thursday but then started to drop, eventually hitting a series low six days before it was renewed, which begs the question: Did fan support and other factors count for more than the show’s raw viewership?

Fox’s news release announcing the pick-up of the show, about a war between an alternate universe and our own, certainly gave the fans plenty of credit. “The series’ ingenious producers, amazingly talented cast and crew, as well as some of the most passionate and loyal fans on the planet, made this fourth-season pickup possible,” said the network’s entertainment president, Kevin Reilly.

“Ultimately, I think Fox is making a decision not based purely on ratings but based on (fan) commitment and dedication,” said Jovana Grbic, editor and creative director of ScriptPhD.com, who is contributing a chapter to an upcoming book examining the science behind the series. “This is an unprecedented level of support for a show with a small but dedicated fanbase, something that sci-fi in particular has had a very difficult time attaining on network television.”

Dennis Acevedo, creator of FringeTelevision.com, attributes it to DVR viewing, especially considering its current timeslot. “It consistently ranks as one of the highest shows in DVR viewing,” he said. “And people who like it really like it.”

Acevedo quoted a recent interview on TheDailyBeast.com in which Executive Producer Joel Wyman said, “Not everybody likes licorice, but people who like licorice really like licorice. We’re happy being that.”

But is being “licorice” really all it takes to make a show successful today?

” ‘Fringe’s’ ratings looked very decent for a Friday,” said Robert Seidman, who follows TV viewership very closely as co-founder of TVBytheNumbers.com and found the renewal’s timing “a little odd.”

“The ratings that matter most are ones nobody sees, the ‘C3’ rating that measure commercial viewing live plus three days of DVR viewing,” he said. “All that DVR viewing is great for Fox’s PR department, but it doesn’t add much extra advertising revenue.”

Indeed, the anonymous Twitter user who claims to work for Fox, known as the Masked Scheduler, recently tweeted about an improvement in “Fringe’s” ratings the night after its renewal: “Supporting shows by viewing live helps more than u know.”

Another possible factor: Science fiction shows typically bring in audiences with higher household incomes. “Seeing that kind of data was what got me interested in doing the website to begin with,” Seidman said. “However, that data does not flow freely at all.”

So, despite the advent of DVRs and full episodes streaming online, have there been any other major changes since the days of “Firefly” that would add more weight to the passion of a show’s fanbase?

“There are now more people watching cable instead of broadcast. The broadcast ratings are lower now than they were when ‘Firefly’ was on,” Seidman said, meaning that some shows do, in fact, stay on the air with ratings that might have gotten them canceled in years past.

As for whether fan efforts can consistently make the difference between cancellation and renewal — in the way it seemed for shows like “Chuck” and “Jericho” in the past — Seidman said, “It can’t hurt, but I’m not really sold on that. I am sold to some degree: Fans’ passion about a show does register with the networks. But I don’t think that’s enough to save a show if the ratings aren’t any good.”

No matter the reason, fans understand just how fortunate they are to have the show last this long.

“As a sci-fi fan, expert and writer, the renewal and network backing pleases me because it sends a message to writers and developers of future science fiction television that there is a place for intricate, intelligent shows with a multilayered plot on network television, that the risks are worth taking, and that networks are beginning to recognize the value of the niche as a fan base,” Grbic said.

“I think Fringe is just a really unique situation. It’s been this experimental show at Fox since the beginning,” Acevedo said. “And so far, it’s gotten through everything thrown at it.”

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Fringe recap: Baby, baby, sweet baby

Posted by Annie on
March 26th, 2011

This week’s Fringe should have come with an advisory: DO NOT WATCH IF YOU ARE PREGNANT. The harrowing pregnancy of the alternative-universe-Olivia was the coursing vein running through the episode titled “Bloodline.”

Early on, it was disclosed that Altivia was a likely carrier of “viral propagated eclampsia,” a condition, we were told, that usually resulted in the death at birth of either the mother or the child. (The other Olivia’s sister had died in childbirth from “VPE.”) Eclampsia is an acute complication of pregnancy; a propagated viral form of it is, thank goodness, something that exists in the minds of Fringe writers who know how to unnerve viewers effectively.

The kidnapping of Altivia, the needle injection that would speed up gestation of the fetus, the race to find her by Lincoln Lee, Charlie Francis, and our favorite cab driver, Henry (Andre Royo) — all of this made for a swift, tense episode. Once Altivia’s tracking device was removed, Lee suspected an “inside job,” a phrase that would be repeated later in the hour by Walternate, in an attempt to throw Lincoln off the trail of clues.

Fringe used this alt-universe episode to establish a strong new bond between Lincoln and Charlie. They’ve mutually acknowledged that Lincoln “has a thing for Liv” (he would later declare his love for her when he thought she was dying). And after Walternate told Lincoln that the baby is his grandchild, as well as a few mind-blowers about the “other” Olivia, they agreed they need to wonder “what else we don’t know.” It’s a good set-up, to have these two agents working together (with the alternate-Agent Farnsworth, unwittingly/wittingly/instinctively sussing out information they need). Once Altivia had been diagnosed with VPE, she was scheduled for “the procedure,” which I assumed was an abortion to save her life. Thus Walternate’s staged kidnapping (for that’s what it turned out to be) prevented yet another prime-time abortion, with all the controversy that can attend such an operation on network television, but with Fringe, this wasn’t a cop-out — it was a way to heighten the stakes for everyone involved, not only Altivia and her son (for that’s what it turned out the baby was).

“Bloodline” was a beautifully modulated hour, written by Alison Schapker and Monica Owusu-Breen, that took care to establish the anxiety felt by Altivia and her mother, Marilyn (Amy Madigan) about the pregnancy, freighted as it also is by the fact that the father is not the Alt-Olivia’s boyfriend Frank, but Peter Bishop. Marilyn’s barely-held-in-check disapproval, balanced by worry over her daughter’s health, was enacted well by Madigan.

So let’s tote up some of what we know. Walternate had forbidden any experimentation on children, which we’ve interpreted in previous episodes as a humanitarian impulse. Brandonate reminded us that “Peter is uniquely suited to power the machine”… but is that still true, if he has a son whose bloodline is potent enough to make the same connection to the machine? And why would Brandonate have phrased it this way, if the plan was already in motion to get the baby birthed and confirm its DNA potential? He and Walternate must have had a theory that Peter is not unique in this sense, that his heir could “power the machine,” no?

Indeed, we can still interpret Walternate as a not-evil man — after all, as alternate-O said, she and the baby’s lives were both saved because “the virus didn’t replicate as fast as the pregnancy.” But the elaborate kidnapping to gain the baby’s blood sample was necessary… why, exactly? To distance Walternate from whatever happens next in the assembling of the great machine?

I’m still so flushed with relief that Fringe has been renewed for a fourth season that I’m going to let you sort things out as far as the future is concerned (on our side, did Peter come down with sudden, inexplicable urge to go out and buy some cigars to pass around to his dad and the gang?). As far as this week’s episode is concerned, I was shaken and moved, as well as amused (Astrid’s reaction to Sec. Walter Bishop being grandfather to Agent Dunham’s baby: “Oh. I see.”). Have at it below, please.

Fringe benefits:

• The Observer, with his “It is happening” communication to his fellow Hairless Wonders, was busy standing still, witnessing history.

• The birth date of Altivia’s son on the blood-sample card is “14/02/11?; assuming over there they print dates in the European manner, flipping the month/day as we do it, that would make this… Valentine’s Day?

• In the alt-universe, Francis Ford Coppola directed Taxi Driver.

• Over there, a new season of The West Wing has started! I wonder how the ratings for Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip are these days…

• Charlie had a date with Mona, that cute “bug girl.”

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Fresh off the fourth season pickup from Fox, show runners Jeff Pinkner and Joel Wyman talk to THR about what it means, the show’s mediocre ratings and question whether Nielsen boxes actually exist.

Fresh off the fourth season renewal of sci-fi drama “Fringe,” which had the Internet buzzing Thursday night, executive producers Jeff Pinkner and Joel Wyman have a lot to be happy about. Despite disappointing ratings in recent Friday airings, the Fox series — which, until yesterday’s announcement, was widely viewed as a bubble show — will be back for another round.

With the Season 3 finale right around the corner, Pinkner and Wyman talked to The Hollywood Reporter about the surprising — though they’d beg to differ — full-season pickup.

The Hollywood Reporter: How surprised were you by the renewal?

Jeff Pinkner: We might be foolish but no, we were not surprised. [Laughs] Fox has been supportive throughout this process, from the beginning and certainly this season, wall-to-wall. They told us they were thrilled with the show creatively, the number wasn’t exactly what they would’ve hoped for but they know the audience is deep and loyal and returns, and that’s valuable to them. The critics have been so supportive and they were up front when they were moving us to Friday night that it wasn’t one step closer to the door, it was actually a, “Hey, if the audience follows us to Friday night, we’re in great shape.” And the audience did.

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#7 Fringe

Seriously, if someone who had never watched Fringe tuned in for the first time last week, well, that would be bad. Oh, it was a fun and fine episode (and more proof that Paula Malcomson should continue getting work), but newbies would have laughed their asses off while simultaneously being very confused. Let’s just say that having Anna Torv do a sustained impression of Leonard Nimoy is more than just risky — it’s ludicrous. And yet, it was kind of interesting to see in a surreal way. Oh, and new character alert? Hmmm. Anyway, as noted in prior Power Rankings!, Fringe is always entertaining. It’s never a wasted hour. And that’s a welcome gift on Fridays.

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Science-fiction shows have always faced an uphill battle at the Emmys. Monsters, spaceships and vampires who drink blood just don’t seem to excite Emmy voters in the same way as mobsters, courtrooms and ad men who down scotch. Sci-fi series rarely even get nominated, and when they do, they never win. None of this bodes well for TV’s hottest show in this genre — “Fringe” — but there is hope.

Over the first sixty-two years of the Emmy awards, one major exception to the sci-fi boycott was “Lost.” Nominated four times over six years, ABC’s sci-fi masterpiece about destiny, time travel, smoke monsters and moving islands took home the award for Best Drama Series in its inaugural season (2005). Series co-creator J.J. Abrams also prevailed that year for directing the pilot. And two of the show’s veteran performers would go on to win their Supporting Drama Actor bids: Terry O’Quinn in 2007 and Michael Emerson in 2009.

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