I have been watching them as a matter of fact and the more I watch those old TNG episodes I've seen dozens of times just reminds me of what quality television, especially sff, was like even moreso watching it alongside all the contemporary shows--TNG was far more consistent in terms of episode quality, the characters were ones you could invest in and TNG showed you could do original interesting standalone sci-fi stories with no arc at all. I have no issue with standalones but they need to be entertaining. Give me "Cause and Effect", "Remember Me", "Future Imperfect", "Night Terrors", "Clues", "The Minds Eye", "Timescape", "Disaster", "The Survivors", "The Bonding", "The Enemy", "Conundrum", "Power Play", "The Next Phase" etc over *any" Fringe standalone.
Actually there isn't anything wrong with standalone plots ... But if you can't be inspired telling standalones then do arcs
I'll grant you that Fringe
's standalone episodes can't hold a candle to TNG. They (the Fringe
standalones) just aren't very good. But it's been a long while since Fringe
told a purely standalone story -- episode 2.14 "The Bishop Revival," to be exact (I suppose one could argue 2.17 "Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver" was also a standalone, but it did have elements that tied in to the overall arc).
Since then, every episode has, in some way, tied in to the overall arc of the series. Even the utterly ridiculous "Brown Betty" was fundamentally a character piece. "Northwest Passage" was very close to a standalone, but even its story deliberately fit into Peter's arc. And every episode this season has, essentially, been linked to the main series arc.
has been doing exactly as you suggest and the results this season are very much improved over this many episodes last season. I'd even go so far as to say that the strength of Fringe
*is* its characters. Walter has always been the main attraction, but Olivia and Peter have been given solid development since mid-Season 2. And the chemistry between them has been a real strength (which is why they need to get Olivia home before too long).