Frank Micelotta, Fox
"Fringe" executive producer and co-creator J.J. Abrams.

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. — The new Fox drama "Fringe" doesn't premiere until September, but a whole lot of people have seen it already online.

Actually, they've seen a version of this sci fi/drama/action series about people involved in so-called fringe science that was, well, stolen. And the producers of the show are NOT happy about it.

"It was something we all freaked out about, especially once it got to that peer-to-peer (online sharing) thing, where it was just unstoppable," said "Fringe" creator/executive producer J.J. Abrams. "The good news is that the response has been much more positive than not, especially for something that wasn't completed yet."

"It's hard to believe, but we didn't put the pilot online ... Unfortunately someone leaked it," said executive producer Bryan Burk. "We hate putting anything out there until it's done, and that's really the reason why you guys didn't get any advance copies."

Yes, that worked well. Fox and the producers didn't send critics the "Fringe" pilot, at least partly because they feared it would end up online ... This obviously wasn't our fault — it had to be someone within the production company.

Critics got to see a more-finished version of the pilot, which was close-circuited in the hotel where the Television Critics Association press tour is taking place.

If you've watched that stolen "Fringe" pilot online, what you'll see when the show premieres will be somewhat different. It's the sort of thing critics are accustomed to — sometimes pilots are completely revamped before the shows air; sometimes there are minor changes.

There have already been a bunch of changes to the "Fringe" pilot that was leaked — new scenes were added, other scenes were deleted, there was "tightening and moving some moments here and there," according to Abrams. And there's an entirely different ending.

"Also our composer, Michael Giacchino, didn't get a chance to finish his score, so what leaked online was a lot of temp music," Burk said.

Abrams — who also directed the upcoming "Star Trek" movie — is glad that if something got released early on the Internet, at least it was one episode of a TV show.

"I'm thrilled that it wasn't a movie that got out," he said.

There's a cow in the "Fringe" pilot that's a better actor than a lot of humans we've seen on TV.

"The cow stole the show a couple of times," said one critic, "and is the cow a regular?"

"We can still hear you," said Joshua Jackson, who is one of the stars of the show and could hear the question via satellite link. (He was in New York; critics and producers were in Beverly Hills.) "No respect!"

As it turns out, the cow will be a regular in "Fringe." But not the cow we saw in the pilot. Because the pilot was filmed in Toronto. And the series is filming in New York.

"Had we known we were going to lose the cow, we wouldn't have done it," Abrams joked.

"We now have a new cow because we weren't allowed to travel our cow from Canada," said executive producer Jeff Pinkner. "So this one was recast from the pilot."

And that's not the craziest part of it.

"Literally, there have been conversations about making up the cow in case anybody realizes it has slightly different spots."

He wasn't kidding.


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