A herd of cattle grazing in a parking lot probably isn't the weirdest thing I saw during Comic-Con, but it's not too far off. The dozen or so cows had a purpose, though, serving as a clue along the way during a Fringe-related scavenger hunt in San Diego.
If you've seen the Fringe pilot — which several thousand more people now have seen following the San Diego screenings — you'll get the cow thing, which also came up at TCA; if not, stay tuned for Fall. But cute (though smelly) as they were, the cows weren't the best thing I found in the parking lot. Nope, that would be Roberto Orci, Fringe (and Star Trek) writer and executive producer, who chatted with me briefly about what Comic-Con has meant for Fringe. The entire show actually has its roots in the convention, so to hear about that, just
Last year, when Orci, JJ Abrams, and Alex Kurtzman were at Comic-Con to launch Star Trek, they were also kicking around ideas for a new TV series they hoped to do together. "We actually ended up staying an extra night here because we were so close to figuring out the exact story for Fringe," Orci said. "We like to say that the show in a way was conceived here."
The timing wasn't the only reason: The three also combed Comic-Con booths looking for old '50s sci fi comics ("We grabbed a handful of them and realized they all cost like $20 and were like, 'Whoa! Actually, we'll charge it to Warner Bros, it's fine.'"), pulling out images that they could use as inspiration. On their last day in San Diego, they hammered out the outline for the show, writing it down on hotel stationery.
A year later, they were back to screen the completed pilot widely for the first time. They weren't worried about getting the Fringe name out there — the show already has a powerful advertising campaign from Fox, Orci said, along with a plum time slot after House. Instead, they were there for feedback from bloggers and other convention-goers who had seen the pilot and wanted to talk about it. "It used to be called focus groups," Orci said. Far from the types who claim not to read their own press, Orci and the Fringe team devour it. "You can always learn more," he said.
For those who have now seen the pilot, a few teasers from Orci to keep you coming back: We might find out more about Peter (Joshua Jackson) and his childhood — things maybe even Peter doesn't know. We might meet the head of Massive Dynamic, the maybe-good, maybe-evil corporation at the center of the story. And, despite Abrams's promises that Fringe won't be as confusing as, say, Alias, every episode will drop a little clue of some sort for the next.