9-10 PM · Fox · Debuts Sept. 9
As a struggling young actor trying to find work in his hometown of Vancouver in the early '90s, Joshua Jackson daydreamed of getting a part on the city's most famous production, The X-Files. '''Daydreamed'? I lobbied for it!'' says the 30-year-old former Dawson's Creek star and self-proclaimed ''massive X-Files fan.'' How massive? ''Remember the episode where those inbred mutants kept their mother under the bed and were using her as a breeding animal? I would have liked to have been one of those guys,'' says Jackson, with a (somewhat frightening) laugh.
Now, five years after the Creek ceased trickling, Jackson is finally getting to play freaky with Fox's Fringe, a blend of X-Files and Bones from Alias and Lost maven J.J. Abrams. Jackson plays Peter Bishop, the gambling-challenged, genius-level son of ethically challenged, beyond-genius scientist Walter Bishop (John Noble of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), who's locked in a loony bin as the series begins. Apparently, Walter's '70s-era secret research into ''fringe'' science mind control, psychic powers, teleportation fried his grid. Together with a tragedy-touched FBI agent (newcomer Anna Torv), the bickering Bishops are recruited to investigate an outbreak of paranormal intrigue known as the Pattern. Abrams says his newest cult-pop concept is an unabashed fusion of The Twilight Zone, Altered States, and David Cronenberg films. ''But it's not about ripping something off,'' says the producer. ''It's about doing something that feels like our inspirations, but is special in its own right.''
Co-created by the Transformers screenwriting team of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (who actually pitched their services to help free up Abrams to direct their other joint project, Star Trek), Fringe will launch with a 95-minute, $10 million pilot involving a toxin that turns people into translucent goo. Abrams who remains closely involved in the show's day-to-day operations believes the pilot, though entertaining, doesn't quite nail his character-driven series vision: ''In many ways, the first episodes that follow are better. They're much more focused.'' All involved promise a show that won't get bogged down in its own mythology, meaning plenty of stand-alone episodes that cater to the casual viewer. Beyond that, secrecy abounds. Says Jackson: ''The weirdest thing so far? All I can say is that it involves umbilical cords.'' Pacey, your mutant-mother dreams have finally come true.