There are a few new shows this TV season that take the scientific view of strange situations, as opposed to the supernatural that has dominated TV networks the last few years. While I don’t mind a little supernatural in my TV, it’s supposed to be for entertainment after all, I don’t care for shows that pretend to be based on fact, when they are really fantasy. There are two shows this season that exemplify this, and people are taking the side of the wrong show.
The shows of which I speak are Fringe, on FOX, and Eleventh Hour on CBS. Fringe is co-created by J.J. Abrams. It is about FBI agent Olivia Dunham who becomes involved with a special unit that investigates seemingly impossible crimes. She is helped by a committed research scientist Walter Bishop and his son (and handler) Peter. The crimes they have investigated include human cloning, bio-electricity, and bio-chemistry. And tying all these crimes together is a worldwide conspiracy called The Pattern, that the investigative team can only get tantilizing glimpses of and that seemly have a connection to Walter Bishop’s research in the 70s and the CEO of a ficitional mulit-national company called Massive Dynamics. All of this makes for a good drama, but not good science, as I’ve heard some people say. The science featured in this show is spectulative at best. The methods they use to solve the crimes always seem to rely on past information from Walter. That’s not exactly what I would call the scientific method. There is little to none actual skepticism, as the speculative science is believed to quickly, and like the new Scooby Doo, the monsters are real. And what makes this show worse for science and skepticism is that science is always made out to be the villain. In one or two episodes we have seen a rogue scientist captured, but the overall work of The Pattern, the science itself is never stopped. Walter’s work does usually save the day, but he is one lone “crackpot” doing all the work on things most rational, skeptical minds would never accept. It’s not exactly the image of science that we need the general public to see.
Eleventh Hour, on the other hand, is based on a mini-series from the BBC. Jerry Bruckheimer’s production company is co-producing the US series. The original starred Patrick Stewart of Start Trek: The Next Generation/X-Men fame. Eleventh Hour is about Dr. Jacob Hood, a special scientific advisor to the FBI, and his handler Special Agent Rachel Young. Hood is a brilliant biophysicist who is called on by the FBI to investigate crimes that are seemingly impossible, but through Hood’s deductions, which we see throughout the show, the crime is solved, and the solution is a logical explanation. This show has a lot more going for it skeptically than Fringe. The crimes are based on actual science being practiced today, and not on highly speculative notions. Throughout the episode, we see all the same clues and are walked through the solution. There are no massive suspension of disbelief moments to make the solution work. But what really makes this show really work for me are the social issues that come up in the course of the investigations. In the second episode, Cardiac, not only is the crime solved, but through the criminal’s confession, there is some social commentary about the American educational system and the No Child Left Behind Act. Just looking at the way science is treated, Eleventh Hour is the better of the two shows. By far.
I watched the original series of Eleventh Hour, and I like this new rendition of the show better than the original. This is unusual for me. I usually like the original version of a show over any remakes, especially with BBC shows. But honestly, Patrick Stewart was the wrong person to put in the role of Hood. He was too wooden, and didn’t come off as a genius at all. I think some of the hate this new show is getting is because Patrick Stewart isn’t in it. Sorry guys, but he’s NOT the god of acting. Eleventh Hour is better without Stewart. Rufus Sewell is doing a great job as Hood. He’s actually believable in the role. I also think CBS made a big mistake with leading off Resurrection. This story was a story from the original series, and it wasn’t the best at that. Agro, which was just shown this week was a much better story and made a better introduction, as it was made as a second pilot.
On TV.com, Eleventh Hour has been described as Fringe-Lite, but it’s far from that. It’s superior to Fringe, and needs no comparison. If you actually care about skepticism and how it’s portrayed on TV, you’ll watch Eleventh Hour and give it it’s due.