Throwdown: Which J.J. Abrams Show is Better, Lost or Fringe?

By Tim Surette

Jan 19, 2012

Sometimes the people speak up and demand things, and once every 4,000 years, we listen. Earlier this week, in my review of J.J. Abrams' Alcatraz, I naturally drew comparisons to his most popular work, Lost. But given that Alcatraz has a procedural vibe, I suggested that the better comparison might be to another Abrams show: Fringe.

As I'm prone to go off on tangents, which by the way I was really great at in trigonometry because I have a natural inclination for mathematics—I don't want to promote stereotypes but maybe it's because I'm bi-racial and my Asian side took over? I don't know. Anyway, where was I? Oh, right. As I'm prone to go off on tangents, I casually floated the question of which show is better, Lost or Fringe? Several of you requested the topic get its own TV. Throwdown. And so we ask you:

Which J.J. Abrams show is better: Lost or Fringe?

Now, before you complain about the fact that Lost is over and Fringe is not, take a deep breath and use that energy to formulate a reasonable thought you can use while answering the question. We're all in the same boat here: None of us know how Fringe will end. But we do have enough of a body of work from the series to gauge its quality up to this point. This is a hypothetical question. If you like, we can ask it again when Fringe finishes its run, which hopefully won't be this May.

Okay! With that pesky fine print out of the way, let's take a look at the combatants:


Personal feelings on the ending aside, don't even try to pretend you weren't one-million percent interested in this show at one point. A mini-movie each week, Lost changed the way we watched television, thought about television, and talked about television. Heck, I cut short my participation in a good friend's bachelor party in Vegas just so I could watch the finale and write about it. The show's characters, who we came to know and love so quickly, really made Lost stand out. And no show has used the flashback device better.

Pros: Sci-fi elements that were enhanced by an ensemble of fantastic actors playing compelling characters; Michael Giacchino's riveting score; serialized television at its best; "We have to go baaaaack!"; Michael Emerson and Terry O'Quinn; the episodes "Walkabout" and "Through the Looking Glass."

Cons: The show's main mystery (how will it end?) was polarizing and put off many fans; several questions were left unanswered or answered unsatisfactorily; the series' second half wasn't nearly as good as its first; all the temple stuff from Season 6.


Fringe may be struggling in the ratings department and hanging on to its spot on Fox's schedule by a pinky, but it's currently network TV's best sci-fi show by a long shot and one of the best the genre has seen in the last decade. Fringe borrows several of Lost's themes, including the ideas of fate and destiny, but skips over Lost's pamphlet mysticism in favor of more left-brained theoretical science and philosophy that's almost within our grasp. Fringe has expanded on Lost's excellent storytelling by polishing the idea of "mythalone" episodes: segments that feature open-and-shut cases with parallels to the series' overarching mythology. As was the case with Lost, the show's characters are of chief importance, and the award-worthy cast brings them to life.

Pros: Though some fans haven't been thrilled with Season 4, the show seems to improve as it goes along; Michael Giacchino's riveting score; procedural elements that are actually interesting; John Noble and Anna Torv; a cool multi-universe device that allows the cast to impress us with different incarnations of their characters; unexpected humor.

Cons: Character resets have left some fans feeling emotionally detached; low viewership means lonely days around the water cooler for those looking to discuss last night's episode; the constant danger of cancellation; a slow start to Season 1.

Think it over, prepare your argument, and tell us which show you think is better in the comments. I won't often do this, but in this particular Throwdown I will allow you to answer "both." Felicity is also an acceptable answer. But Undercovers isn't.

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  • Tobo747 Feb 18, 2015

    Fringe is an amazing show. It has the nessasary romance, comedy, action, and plot twists. This show has a great cast and enough plot twists to keep viewers engaged. I give this show a 10/10.

  • RobLangleyJr Jul 25, 2014

    Fringe is a very close second to Lost. The defining factor is the discontinuity of the characters from season 3 to season 4 on Fringe. While many felt the ending of Lost was a let down, it was the end and I believe the end was suitable to the way Lost began. The ending of Fringe, on the other hand, was a strange collage of completing a storyline about the "Observers". My feeling is that Fringe finally lost it's battle with network executives as to the viability of the show and Season 5, being only 13 episodes is a testament to it's falling out of favor. The writers did what they could to complete the story-line with the "Observers" in the time left.

    Lost had issues with the continuity of time and the obscure development of the overall story-line. Fringe had the same issue. While the writers want to keep you guessing, the "golden" blend of mystery and magnetism of the show to it's fan base is delicate, at best. Give too much away and you lose the mystery, become to disconnected with the audience and you lost the magnetism. By using flashes of past and future and some obvious timeline mistakes (Jack saving a child and his mother because he himself causes the accident....during his interview with the attending physician he talks about his father being drunker than him. His father was already dead). Some could say this was the past, but he was obviously reading the obituary about Jeremy Bentham and yet his ex-wife comes to see about him in the hospital. Why not Kate because she would be his "current" interest.

    Fringe had problems not with mystery, but with magnetism. Season 3 and the ending of "Peter Bishop" is a great finale. It culminates all the theory around alternate time-lines and the "interference" of the Observers. Season 4 had problems giving "Peter" back to the audience. Even when he finally arrives, the revival is strained and tortured. I would have been more enticed had a phenomenon similar to Desmond's "gift" in Season 6 of lost where as Desmond "nudged" the other characters, they became fully aware of their identity and the identity of their group. Peter was rejected and isolated to a point that it's easy to lose interest.

    It would be difficult to pick one show over the other; however, Lost, had the best plot sequence and everything, no matter now weird, had some basis for how it happened. Mind you, watching Lost a second time gave insight into "The man in black" that I did not catch the first time around. I realized that "black" had was better than Ben at predicting the outcome of events and creating the situations to "convince" the pawns to do their part. I say better only because he had the power to "shape-shift" into characters important to the decision making process. Interesting how shape-shifting and time theory are very prominent in both Fringe and Lost.

    Fringe had the benefit of science and not faith to move the audience forward. Oddly, in our world, faith should be more prominent, but as God fades into obscurity, we are doomed by our on science and technology. That belief that technology can unravel the mysteries of time and space and breaking rules that are imposed by Newton and Einstein is intriguing and give the mind a way to grasp for more. The loss of character magnetism threw the show off balance more than "Peter" being brought to our universe. In the end, this is what killed Fringe. The characters were awesome. Anna Torv gave riveting performances of Pheux-Livia and "Belly". Peter was a rock, an anchor for the complete series. Walter was absolutely perfect in his "Mad" scientist/Secratary of Defence roll. This is what kept the show going, not the plot. The plot was too disjointed to give parity to the characters. I'm sure if you were to ask the cast, they would rather the series had gone a different direction. Just as Terry O'Quinn said that he wanted the old John Locke back (referring to John Locke as "The man in black").

    Hope you enjoyed my critique and my theory as to the "end" of both series. I believe we will see a new "Lost" in the near future and I'm guessing it will be after the passing of the Torch to Hugo. It wouldn't make sense to do it any other way. As for Fringe, I believe the magic is lost and can't be conjured again. I would like to see Joshua Jackson in a future J.J. Abrams production, and Anna Torv is likable and has something more to give. On the Lost cast, I would like to see some work from Mathew Fox and Evangeline Lilly. Other cast members of both series have moved on to other success. I think we are missing out by not seeing the a fore mentioned before they become too far out of favor.

  • roleyanderson Oct 31, 2013

    Fringe is the best TV show I've ever seen in my life...period. It's the only show where I don't mind rewatching any one of the 100+ episodes. Fringe is just too good to top...even by Lost...even by Dexter...even by Breaking Bad or Sons of Anarchy...even by all the other shows I've seen including Dr. Who, Sherlock, Burn Notice, 4400, Continuum, etc., etc. I'd even take Fringe over X-Files...

    Dr. Bishop is my favorite TV character ever. The Mad Scientist has never been personified better by anyone...

  • Nickylucas Apr 22, 2012

    Best Lost seasons are 1, 4, and 6. (Season 6 would've been my favorite but the finale sucked). Season 4 was fast paced, exciting, and gamechanging. Season 2 and 5 are my least favorite. 2 only gets good towards the end, while 5 gets worse towards the end but is awesome in the beginning.

  • qpsmommo Jan 30, 2012


  • SpencerErnst Jan 29, 2012

    Both LOST and FRINGE are great shows, but to judge true quality you gotta look at the facts.

    LOST was groundbreaking because no one saw a mystery show captivating tens of millions of viewers every week for six years. LOST knocked out other greats dramas in the 2005 Emmy awards for "Outstanding Drama Series". It was nominated again for it's last four seasons back-to-back. Because of this, LOST became a household name. Terry O'Quinn and Michael Emerson both won Emmy awards for their excellent acting.

    What's my point? LOST is the better Drama in quality because of the accolades, the fan base, the attention in the media and social media. I'm not dissing Fringe, I love the show and I think the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences are dissing John Noble, who totally deserves three Emmys right now, but the facts is- judges don't like sci fi. But, the academy did appreciate LOST because of ITS QUALITY.

    Fringe isn't as popular and hasn't won anything, or has gotten big attention. Does this make it a worse show, absolutely not. But in the television sphere- premium shows get attention and win awards and Fringe hasn't yet.

    Bottom Line, based on the facts: LOST is superior.

  • absolute6991 Jan 28, 2012

    Fringe all the way. Tried lost 1 episode and never watched again

  • JodieCasey Jan 28, 2012


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