Fringe is having a moment lately. You could thank HBO's The Last of Us for jumpstarting an Anna Torv renaissance online, but it helps that Fringe seems like an even rarer gift now than it did when it was airing. It's a relic from the days when network TV procedurals could be bolder. The cult favorite sci-fi drama, which aired on Fox from 2008 to 2013, stars Torv as Olivia Dunham, an agent with the FBI's Fringe Division, who investigates strange cases with the help of scientist Walter Bishop (John Noble) and his son, Peter (Joshua Jackson). It's a simple enough premise to start with, but as Fringe embraced its dense mythology about parallel universes, it evolved into one of the most ambitious broadcast shows of its era. It's hard to imagine we'll see anything like it again.
If you've wrapped up your latest (or maybe your first) Fringe watch, you might be looking for similar shows to keep the thrill alive (or reanimate it, even). Whether you're hunting for similarly gutsy broadcast dramas, provocative sci-fi, stories about the destructive power of a parent's love, or just more series featuring the stars of Fringe, these are the shows you should check out next.
Those X-Files comparisons can wait — for my money, Fringe is like no other show as much as it's like Alias. Before J.J. Abrams teamed up with Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci to create Fringe, he created Alias (which Kurtzman and Orci also produced), a rollicking ABC spy drama with sci-fi underdones (call it spy-fi). Jennifer Garner's Sydney Bristow, a grad student leading a triple life as a double agent for the CIA who's working undercover for the bad guys, is a lot like Fringe's Olivia Dunham: a woman who's roped into using her special skills to save the world after she discovers she's been lied to. Both Fringe and Alias involve experimental training programs for kids, dead boyfriends, nice people replaced by identical evil doppelgängers, fathers trying to make up for a lifetime of disappointing their adult children, doomsday devices, prophecies conveyed through an ancient drawing of the protagonist's face, and the lead telling a therapist, "Of course I have problems. The problems I have, I can handle." It's a turn-of-the-millennium thrill ride that balances out its wild plot with emotionally grounded character work, and it's glorious. If you like Walter Bishop, you'll love Victor Garber as taciturn spy dad Jack Bristow.
If you're looking for another oddball show that isn't afraid to get weird, watch Evil, a supernatural procedural that's having more fun than anything else on TV. The sublime series, which premiered on CBS before moving to Paramount+, is anchored in a familiar skeptic-and-believer setup: Psychologist Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers) teams up with priest David Acosta (Mike Colter) and tech expert Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi) to investigate claims of demonic possession on behalf of the Catholic Church. But in the hands of creators Robert and Michelle King, the boundary-pushing minds behind The Good Wife and The Good Fight, it's anything but formulaic. Evil can be fantastically dark and playfully self-aware, underpinned by a sense of the-world-is-falling-apart doom that fans of Fringe should find familiar. It's also, like Fringe, fascinated by the lengths parents will go to save their children.
Stranger Things wants you to know that it's a loving homage to all your favorite '80s movies, but never forget that it's also classic Fringe: It's got a 1980s lab where children with special abilities are experimented on in order to open a portal to another world. Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), a psychokinetic girl who escapes the lab, is kind of like a teenage Olivia Dunham, fighting monsters and uncovering government conspiracies with the help of her friends. Stranger Things starts as a small-town sci-fi horror with a cool throwback vibe; it's evolved into a globe-spanning adventure that lacks some of the first season's electric thrill, but that doesn't change how flat-out fun this show is at its best. It captures the feeling of seeing those 1980s Fringe credits for the first time.
Like Fringe, Person of Interest was a smarter show than it let on; early promotion of Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman's series made it seem like another "bustin' bad guys" primetime procedural. But Person of Interest — called a "grounded sci-fi series" by its producers — would become one the smartest broadcast dramas of the decade and a prescient examination of artificial intelligence and surveillance. Starring Jim Caviezel as a washed-up CIA special op and Michael Emerson as the tech genius who created a program that could predict crimes before they happened, POI was a bromance-fueled crime show that blended the standalone procedural familiar to CBS with the larger mythology of a series like Lost. It predicted Edward Snowden in Season 1, added a queer shipper's dream with a pair of instrumental characters played by Amy Acker and Sarah Shahi, and ended as a war between two rival AIs, all while playing with its own format, sending its characters on epic arcs, and being laugh-out-loud funny when it wanted to be. Ever see Michael Emerson dance to a microwave's whirr while on ecstasy? –Tim Surette
Across Fringe's alternate universes and multiple timelines, Anna Torv plays Olivia, Altlivia, Altlivia pretending to be Olivia, Olivia brainwashed into believing she's Altlivia, and Olivia with a new set of memories. If you like a sci-fi show that lets its lead share scenes with herself, check out Orphan Black, which stars Tatiana Maslany as multiple clones created by an illegal experimental program. Maslany's commanding performance gave the show its buzz — and won her an Emmy — but a star who adeptly plays multiple parts isn't the only thing Orphan Black has in common with Fringe. It's rooted in (what else?) a parent's attempt to protect her child, all while digging into the ethical limits of scientific progress.
You knew this list would get here eventually. Fringe pulled from plenty of other sci-fi touchstones — including The Twilight Zone and J.J. Abrams' own Lost — but it's best known as a spin on The X-Files, the original spooky Fox drama about a pair of agents investigating the unknown. There are shades of the '90s classic in Fringe's moody Vancouver visuals and its monster-of-the-week cases, not to mention Fringe's wink at "the old X designation." The X-Files is one of the all-time great TV procedurals; its mythology might not be as well planned as Fringe's, but its best standalone episodes are works of art, and the simmering chemistry between Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) has never been duplicated. Its rage at the American government's abuses of power has kept The X-Files relevant for decades, and so has its soulful blend of horror and wonder.
Severance is the coolest new sci-fi show we've seen in years. Dan Erickson's exquisitely unsettling drama takes a concept that feels like it's straight out of a Twilight Zone episode and stretches it into a series: What if your memories of work were wiped every time you left the office and your memories of your life outside work were wiped every time you arrived? The supposed fantasy of work-life balance, achieved via a controversial medical procedure known as "severance," is a nightmare for the employees at Lumon Industries, who start to question the company's culture of cult-like devotion. Severance is a bitter takedown of corporate life and a twisted psychological thriller that explores the relationship between work and identity. And Fringe fans should take note: In Season 2, John Noble joins the cast.
In HBO's hit video game adaptation, Anna Torv plays a tough woman who lives in a dystopian version of Boston. It's very Fringe Season 5 of her. Set in a world overrun by a zombie-like fungal infection, The Last of Us follows smuggler Joel (Pedro Pascal) on a cross-country journey with teenager Ellie (Bella Ramsey), who's immune to the infection and could be the key to finding a cure. On top of the Anna Torv connection — her character, Tess, is Joel's partner — The Last of Us is like Fringe because it's about the deadly consequences of a father's love (a real theme on this list). As Joel, who lost his own daughter 20 years ago, starts to care for Ellie, his violent protectiveness drives the story. Plus, The Last of Us was basically foreshadowed by the Fringe episode "Alone in the World," in which the Cordyceps fungus starts killing everyone except one kid.
Anna Torv, American television's favorite Australian Bostonian, goes back to Boston in Mindhunter. David Fincher's chilling psychological crime drama, one of Netflix's best original series, is set in the early days of criminal profiling in the '70s and '80s and focuses on the creation of the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit. Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany star as FBI agents Holden Ford and Bill Tench, a mismatched duo who dig into the brand-new concept of serial killers by interviewing them. Torv plays Dr. Wendy Carr, a psychology professor (initially based in Boston) who joins the team. Fincher has confirmed that the drama's first two seasons are all we'll ever get, but everyone involved in Mindhunter — including the lineup of stellar character actors cast as real-life serial killers — made it count.