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If It’s Friday, It MUST Be ‘Fringe’

Great Scott! It's Christopher Lloyd, John Noble and Jasika Nicole in Fringe: "Firefly"

Tonight is the night. The night that could effectively change everything…The night that in genre-TV-nerd terms would be the equivalent of the 2004 Boston Red Sox victory. (And I am sure there are some baseball fanatics out there who resent that comparison, but whatever. Cool yer jets, jocks!) If an uncharacteristic demonstration of commitment on the part of a network, coupled with staunch fan dedication and the power of the internets have their way,  tonight signals Fringe’s real shot at kicking the Friday night death-slot curse. (For those who click that link, be sure to grok the exceptionally long subheading under Fox. Even if you already know the history, it’s dire to see it all laid out in black and white…)

There’s a lot to recommend in tonight’s installment of, for this nerd’s money, the best show currently on TV; as if we weren’t right in the middle of a near-flawless, utterly gripping third season, tonight Fringe offers us special guest star Dr. Emmett frakking Brown as a burned-out rock ‘n’ roll hero of Walter’s. (If you aren’t giggle-happy with glee at the idea of Christopher Lloyd and John Noble sharing screen time, turn in your “Mad Scientists Fan Club” badge)  Meanwhile, the episode is also, as The Daily Beast’s Jace Lacob pointed out a while back, somewhat ominously entitled “Firefly” – obviously having no real connection to Joss Whedon’s wildly-beloved 2002 space epic, but way eerie in that Fringe’s first Friday venture evokes the title of the most notorious Friday/Fox casualty of all time. </shudder>


Plenty of Fringe fans, and lovers of good genre television in general, are antsy with dread about the prospect of yet another superlative series being consigned to early retirement via its network moving it to what is popularly an out-on-the-town evening. Me? Call me crazy, but I’m remaining optimistic… for a handful of key reasons:

  • The TCA Promise-plication: At this month’s Television Critics Association press event, Fox president Kevin Reilly declared right out of the gate that if Fringe were ever canceled, he’d be “heartbroken.” He also begged against “eulogizing” the show prematurely, and noted that the not-hot-for-Thursday numbers it was pulling would in fact be great Friday numbers. Essentially, Reilly’s talking points may fall short of an outright promise of unwavering support, but they seem to imply that if Fringe’s base sticks with the show – and given that the Friday move is happening after 2 1/2 seasons of densely plotted show so attracting new viewers is a daunting prospect – then Fox has no reason to consider cancellation. At this point, I’m taking him at his word, although I would also point out that ridiculing the Friday Night death slot phenomenon might not be the best use of marketing time – why not throw some of those dollars into seriously playing up the strengths of the show, and its acclaim? Remember, Kev, back in 1993 your network properly nurtured The X-Files into a hit on Fridays for its first three years.
  • Enough Fan Love For Two Universes: Truly, most of the shows J.J. Abrams has had a hand in have engendered their own loyal fan bases.  Given Fox’s reputation for swiftly canceling acclaimed genre stuff, however, it’s almost as though Team Fringe has struck a defensive pose from the get-go, periodically holding their breath in between bouts of cataloging Observer appearances and cracking the glyph code. Earlier in this current season, as the show kept turning up on TV writers’ “on the bubble” lists, the fandom’s grass-roots effort to drum up support actually preceded November’s Friday move announcement. Since then, however, it’s been as passionate as ever… and remarkably optimistic in tone. I highly recommend checking out the gang over at The Fringe Movement, who have so far conducted about as exemplary a fan campaign as I’ve ever seen.
  • The DVR Factor: At the end of the day, many Fox Friday cancellations pre-dated the DVR era and so the wide-reaching option for folks to have their Friday night cake and eat it wasn’t part of the equation.  If TiVo had penetrated the market a little faster, we might be enjoying the ninth season of Firefly right now. (Settle down, Browncoats… no tears…)  In addition, indications are that at long last, despite the frustrating-for-ad-suits option to fast forward commercials, networks are beginning to weigh DVR numbers more heavily alongside broadcast ratings – a practice so many have been advocating for some time now, and one that perhaps could have saved shows like The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Dollhouse if it had been taken seriously sooner.  How big a role DVR numbers will play in Fringe retaining its current audience is yet to be determined, but the show would really be adrift in Reiden Lake without a paddle without them.

Sound off below! Who’s excited about curse-breaking?! Who is really relying on their DVRs? Other thoughts on Friday casualties of the past?

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15 comments

  • The last point is key to understanding how out-of-touch the tv networks are with their audience. They still think that people watch the commercials. My brother only recently moved to a DVR, but before that he muted the tv and specifically would not watch commercials. Now that he has a DVR, he follows my lead in tv watching: WATCH NOTHING LIVE. I record EVERYTHING on my DVR and watch it later. If it’s 8:00 and a show I want to watch is on at 8:00 (I’ll have already set the DVR to record), I wait until 8:15 to start watching so I can fast-forward commercials. I don’t watch them. Advertisers have to realize, you get maybe 1 second of my attention with your commericals, not the 31 seconds you’re paying for. Deal with it.

  • while the episode might not have anything to do with “Firefly” the show, the title certainly does. JJ Abrams mentioned in an interview recently that titling this Friday night episode that was without a doubt a tongue-in-cheek reference to the ill fated Whedon show. wish i could find the interview though….

  • What if you are a nerdy Fringe fan, AND a Boston Red Sox fan?

    I was at Northeastern (Campus less than a mile from Fenway) living in Boston in 2004. I remember the victory, but not much else for the following month of celebration.

    I was brought up on ST:TNG AND Boston Red Sox Baseball! Sci-Fi jock wanna be nerdling. And no offence taken 2004 was a game changer in the history of the world, not just for us Sox Fans!

  • I’m a total geek for genre shows like Fringe, so I’ve been watching it from the beginning, and this season is better than ever! I hope if doesn’t languish and die in the dreaded death spot. I still consider Firefly one of the all time greatest shows in the history of ever, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss it…well, maybe the occasional day. Anyway, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for Fringe, because it truly is an awesome show.

  • I agree with Space Monkey. I watched the first season of Fringe on Hulu before throwing it on my DVR’s to-do list. And the networks should prefer Hulu over a DVR. You might not be watching the show on their network, but you also can’t fast-forward commercials on Hulu (then again, I don’t know if networks get a cut from commercials shown in Hulu, and a commercial break on Hulu is 1-2 spots vs. the 5-6 on TV). You wanna get new fans hooked on a ‘densely plotted show’ that’s already been on for a few seasons? Make those seasons available on Hulu and Netflix instant view.

  • @SpaceMonkeyX: An excellent point, which I should have included in that last paragraph; yes, Hulu absolutely counts. I honestly am not sure if they are prioritized above/below DVR numbers, but I’m sure they’re looking at Hulu traffic numbers too..

    @BigeE926: Netflix, too.

  • Thanks for bringing attention to this, Nicole! (Tonight’s episode title was actually changed to The Firefly, BTW).

    I’ve been watching Fringe since the beginning, and it’s come the closest to replacing X-Files for me. In many ways it’s better, because it knows what it’s doing (sorry, X-Files).

    I can feel Fox’s support on this, though. As someone who invested in Dollhouse, I can absolutely tell you that there was nowhere near this kind of reassurance about their love for it. And that involved the fucking Whedonverse.

    So everyone – stay home tonight! DVR it. Watch it on Hulu tomorrow. We need a good show like Fringe; it’s the best show on TV and it doesn’t talk down to you.

  • I’m super duper uber freaking excited about Fringe. My husband works out of town during the week. When the show was on Thursdays we would have to wait and watch it on Hulu later when he got home. He’s typically home by Friday night. We have a year-old daughter so we don’t have much of a Friday night social life … So this works out perfectly!

  • Did anyone else literally squeal like an excited 1st grader getting her first Malibu Stacy Collector’s Edition when it was mentioned that the “Doc’s” character’s son died in…. wait for it… 1985?!?! (That totally merited superfluous punctuation.) Oh, and the episode dealt with *spoiler alert!* frakkin’ time travel! I half expected the lab cow to be replaced by a DeLorean-shaped tarp.

    Oh, yea… I need a cigarette after that geekgasm. (By which I mean, I need to start smoking.)

  • Its articles like this is why I read Nerdist.com everyday! Thank you Nicole, you know your stuff!

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Fringe gets canceled, all my favorite shows do. Remember Rubicon?