Picks and Pans Review: Fringe

updated 09/15/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/15/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

FOX, Sept. 9, 8 p.m. ET

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The two-hour pilot of this fantasy-suspense series from executive producer JJ Abrams (Lost) starts with a gruesome punch: All the passengers and crew up in a plane are killed by an unknown pathogen that causes their skin to slide off in a bloody stream. The investigation into this yuckastrophe is handled by an FBI agent, Olivia Dunham, played with a near-perfect mix of hard sense and puzzled sensitivity by an Australian actress named Anna Torv—she's the real discovery here. I'm just worried about her long hair: It could be a magnet for mutant germs. Shower cap!

Dunham's first step is to secure the release of a mentally unstable genius (John Noble), who years ago was tinkering around with just such science in his Harvard lab. He's reunited with his musty old Frankenstein equipment and with his estranged son (Joshua Jackson, who—speaking of weird science—is starting to look like a young clone of Larry Hagman). By the end of the premiere, Dunham learns that the melting passengers are part of a larger, global pattern of bizarre experiments. The show slithers along with nasty potential.

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