Coming off of a week full of personal hardships and frustrating distractions, there was one bright spot that shone through all the bullshit and cut a very promising light through the dark. I am talking of course, about the fact that FOX gave an early 4th season renewal (and a full 22 episodes at that) to it's ratings challenged science fiction-cum-horror-batshit-crazy-fantasia, Fringe. Elsewhere on The October Country, we had urged you dear readers, to get your (read: anybody with a television set) heads out of your collective asses and start paying this amazing, challenging show some attention. Did that happen? I'm thinking no. After moving to it's new night and time on Fridays (a move that spelled certain death for the series), it premiered strongly (well, for a Friday night) but as February became March, it's ratings continued to slide deeper into numbers that even the most diehard fan struggled to excuse as acceptable and the writing was seemingly on the wall; Fringe was most certainly a goner. Every Saturday morning at The October Country headquarters was mess of anxiety and apprehension as we reluctantly crawled out of bed and made researching Fringe's numbers from the previous evening our first order of business. At first, we were elated with those numbers. Show runners Jeff Pinker and J.H. Wyman (in addition to FOX president Kevin Reilly) had previously stated that if Fringe retained it's previous Thursday night audience (direly low already) after it's migration, then it would be considered a win for the network, as they would have not seen numbers like that on a Friday in ages. Of course this argument was always dismissed as public relations BS (as was any hopeful notions of the show's renewal) and countered by some "ratings expert" that in no way could this be considered a "win" as Fringe is insanely expensive to produce, and with numbers in that region, FOX would be losing money on this show, not gaining it or even breaking even. Every argument for the show was curtailed by these "experts" in one way or the other. It usually went something like this:
Fan: "But Fringe has a very high DVR audience!"
Expert: "It matters not you silly sod" would come their rebuttal "Advertisers don't care about your DVR numbers."
Fan: "But it sells well on DVD as do all the other profitable merchandise related to it's name."
Expert: "It matters not you fetus. They can milk more money out of you nerdy twits by throwing conventions for the show and hosting cast reunions for years down the line."
Fan: "But it's two years away from being able to be bought up for syndication!"
Expert: "It matters not you nunce, two years is two years too long for your geeky show to stay on the air. Plus it's hard to follow.
Fan: "But it's spring! All shows across the board slip in their ratings this time of year. People want to go outside and watch it later at their convenience."
Expert: "It matters not you titted idiot. Your show sucks and it is still hard to follow." And so on.
However, at first it did retain it's Thursday audience, despite the nay-saying and negativity that it couldn't (hence our elation). Then those ratings begin to slip and we the fans, began to sweat. Then those ratings slipped even further (culminating two weeks ago in it's lowest audience share in it's entire history, though it has since rebounded) and we the fans resorted to outright panic and nail biting and in many cases, delusional outpourings arguing for a continuation of our beloved show. The prospect of waiting until the end of May, to hear that FOX was officially cancelling Fringe (up until last week, a certain foregone conclusion) was more than most of us faithful viewers could bear. Then just a few days ago, the unexpected (understatement of the highest order) happened. FOX surprised everyone but coming out two months ahead of the time they had to deliberate on Fringe's fate and announced that indeed, they were picking it up for another full season. Say what?
I've certainly been too busy counting my blessings to spend an inordinate amount of time sitting around wondering why Fringe experienced this unlikely turn of luck. If I think on it too hard, it boggles my mind into nonsensical oblivion really (like three toke's from Walter's special blend of Brown Betty). Taking into account it's ratings, which 99.9% of the time are the only thing that matters to a network, this shouldn't have been it's fate. This despite the rabid fans. This despite the near-universal critical acclaim. It should have been kapoot. Done. Gone. Finito. Yet, here we are closing in on season 3's conclusion and happily (second understatement of the highest order) anticipating it's 4th. Whatever the reason is that Fringe will be returning to us is the fall, I'm too busy still celebrating to get too caught up in the speculation. But lets not yet put our fears aside and rest. When dealing with a show this dense and complex, we're very likely to be right back here again next year; second guessing it's future and bemoaning the fact that most people would rather watch Jersey Shore than devote 40 minutes of their time to having their brain flexed. But until that time does or does not arrive, I would like to take a moment to thank the writers, the producers, the amazingly talented cast (some of whom have been playing no less than three characters this season) and crew for delivering what has been not only my favorite season yet, full of colliding universes at war, vortexes swallowing American cities whole, inexplicably floating corpses, evil shape-shifters, an awesome shout-out to Twin Peaks' Doctor Lawrence Jacoby (not to mention casting Twin Peak's Joan Chen as Walternate's mistress, kudos), the most moving character development to date and more weirdness than I have the time to detail in this sentence, but for also delivering what has become one of my all time favorite genre serials to grace the small screen, ever. Congrats you guys! For once, it appears as though substance and quality triumphed over the all mighty dollar and rating's shares.
Herein lies FOX's official press release for Fringe's 4th season renewal and Fringe's executive producers Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman reactions to said announcement.
FOX RENEWS “FRINGE” FOR FOURTH SEASON – IN BOTH UNIVERSES
FOX has renewed critically acclaimed thrilling drama Fringe for a fourth season, it was announced today by Kevin Reilly, President, Entertainment for FOX Broadcasting Company.
“Fringe has truly hit a creative stride and has distinguished itself as one of television’s most original programs. The series’ ingenious producers, amazingly talented cast and crew, as well as some of the most passionate and loyal fans on the planet, made this fourth-season pickup possible,” said Reilly. “When we moved the show to Fridays, we asked the fans to follow and they did. We’re thrilled to bring it back for another full season and keep it part of the FOX family.”
Fringe co-creator and executive producer J.J. Abrams said, “We could not be happier that the fans of Fringe (and our most excellent partners at FOX) have allowed us to continue telling stories from the fringe for another season!”
“This early pickup comes at a perfect time as we start production on the Season Three finale,” added Fringe showrunners and executive producers Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman. “We join the cast and crew in thanking our loyal fans and FOX for allowing us to have this much fun telling stories we love.”
Since moving to Fridays (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) in January, Fringe is averaging a 2.2/7 among Adults 18-49 and has established itself as Friday’s No. 1 series in the core adult demographic.
Created by J.J. Abrams & Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci, Fringe is produced by Bad Robot Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Jeff Pinkner, J.H. Wyman and Joe Chappelle serve as executive producers, while Kurtzman, Orci and Akiva Goldsman are consulting producers. Additionally, Pinkner and Wyman serve as the series’ showrunners. Become a fan of the series on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fringe and follow the series on Twitter at www.twitter.com/fringeonfox (@fringeonfox).
The best bits of Jeff Pinkner's and J.H. Wyman's reactions via The Hollywood Reporter:
The Hollywood Reporter: How surprised were you by the renewal?
Jeff Pinkner: We might be foolish but no, we were not surprised. [Laughs] FOX has been supportive throughout this process, from the beginning and certainly this season, wall-to-wall. They told us they were thrilled with the show creatively, the number wasn’t exactly what they would’ve hoped for but they know the audience is deep and loyal and returns, and that’s valuable to them. The critics have been so supportive and they were up front when they were moving us to Friday night that it wasn’t one step closer to the door, it was actually a, “Hey, if the audience follows us to Friday night, we’re in great shape.” And the audience did.
We started to hear word back and forth between FOX and Warner Bros. What would the show look like next year over the past couple of weeks? So when a literal call came in yesterday, we were thrilled, but not necessarily surprised.
THR: How did the cast react when they were told?
Pinkner: The cast, they were thrilled. Ecstatic.
J.H. Wyman: When you get to this point, so many people have been saying since we moved [from Tuesdays] to Thursdays — the initial move — “That’s the end. That’s it. They’re done. It’s over.” FOX kept saying, “Well wait a minute, we’re trying some stuff out here. We believe in this show.” So every single step along the way, people have been killing the show before it was dead and I think that [the cast] became a little bit immune to those types of things and realized, “OK, we believe in what we’re doing and we’re going to just consistently do the best work we can and the chips will fall where they may.” They’re saying, “I would love to not have to give up these characters, but I’m living for today.” They were very appreciative.
Pinkner: No matter what, you create a role for a moment in time. That moment in time could be 10 years or it could be three episodes or it could be a stage play or a movie that lasts; the character lives on but the role doesn’t. No one was mourning the patient. Everybody had the highest expectation that they were coming back. Yet, the call is still thrilling.
THR: It helps that [Fox entertainment chief] Kevin Reilly is a big supporter of the show …
Pinkner: It’s the Sally Field moment: “They like me!”
Wyman: Kevin has been a supporter and a believer in the program since the get-go. Like Jeff said, they’ve been completely up front and straight the entire time about what their plans are strategically, what they’re trying to do. It’s not an easy place to be in their positions. A lot of fans have supported this program, the press has been so incredibly kind. Without that, who knows? I don’t think that we wouldn’t be here, but the truth is, they did exactly as they said they were going to do and kept us informed the entire way. I’m sure they get tons of phone calls all the time about, “Hey man, you know you did the wrong thing this one time but we believe you did the right thing.” People should call them and say, “Nice job!”
THR: Can you talk about the big DVR numbers that the show gets?
Wyman: Jeff and I both felt at the beginning, when we start to see what was happening on Thursday nights, we realized a lot of people want to watch Fringe, they just don’t want to watch on Thursday nights. We start to talk about conceptually what does Thursday night mean to the viewer. We landed sort of on, well, it’s sort of a romantic comedy night. People are watching Bones and then they’re going over to Grey's [Anatomy]. It’s sort of a heavy pill to sit down and watch a science-fiction show in the middle of that. They were watching, they just told us when they wanted to watch it so we were confident that the fans would follow us to Friday.
The DVRs now, we’re in a weird evolution when it comes to how are we tracking shows and who’s watching them and advertisers, I’m sure they’re also asking, “How do we track this? How do we sell now? What does this look like?” I know for sure that the DVRs were definitely a part of the decision, they would have to be.
THR: Now that the season is wrapping up, what can viewers be expecting leading up to the finale?
Wyman: Consistently, we’ve tried to have a new chapter begin at the end of the seasons. The first season was the Twin Towers and the second season was Olivia over there. This one will have the same effect that, sort of the beginning of a new understanding of the program.
THR: Has there been a plan in place story-wise for Season 4?
Pinkner: We don’t have all the episodes written but we have the framework of a plan for the next series.
THR: Can you tell us anything about what you see happening in Season 4?
Pinkner: [Laughs] We can’t, sorry. We have to let Season 3 finish first.
You can read the full article at THR.
Fringe airs Fridays on FOX AT 9PM.