See… We Told You So. J.J. Abrams: “I’ll Start Drinking More,” No Upside To Fringe On Fridays

Fringe Returns on Friday January 21, 2011 at 9:00 p.m. on FOX

We did a piece back in December regarding the Fringe move to Friday nights in which – and we see no reason to sugar-coat this – we spent the majority of the piece, bashing (albeit justifiably) FOX for its treatment of scripted programming in general, its propensity to panic and banish a show to Friday nights for the purpose of letting it die and to, by virtue of their irresponsible programming decisions, cause the premature cancellation of quality programming.

We also explained that while were inclined to accept the fact that Fringe would be moving to Friday nights and this most likely signaled the end to the series (FOX or any other network can do whatever they want), what we could not tolerate was the self-righteous spin coming from FOX (specifically in the promo trailer below) which attacked other blogs and commentators far more reputable than The ‘Tastic who are well aware as we are of FOX’s history regarding scripted programming and in particular, genre programming, who dared to suggest the same thing that we did.

What particularly bothered us was not the issue of FOX calling out highly reputable sources such as Collider, Ain’t It Cool News, and IGN…  that’s fine.  When a media outlet is wrong or publishes commentary that is scurrilous with nothing to back it up, it’s completely justified.  The issue we had was that of FOX trying to pretend that they have no history of doing exactly what these outlets suggested and mocking them for the suggestion and leaving the false impression on the fans that they should pay no attention to the man behind the curtain because they of course are going to fully support Fringe on Friday night… just like they do all of their scripted programming they put there!

We took A LOT of heat for that piece by FOX gushers suggesting everything from we didn’t know what we were talking about, to we’re just making things up and our favorite, at least FOX gives Sci Fi and genre a chance as none of the other networks do (which is absolute nonsense).

So, as the weeks have progressed, there has been more and more propaganda spewed by FOX and by their willing accomplices in the media about how much support they are giving to Fringe. Outlets such as the folks at TV Line seem all to happy to not only believe FOX, but to promote their spin as if it should be believed, in particular Matt Webb Mitovich and Entertainment Weekly’s Michael Ausiello.  From Mitovich’s January 11th piece:

Fringe‘s move to Fridays, which takes hold on January 21, is looking more and more like a really terrific thing.

Not only has Fox been promoting the heck out of the time-slot change, but Fringe‘s new “under the radar” home apparently has opened the door for even freakier storytelling.

Noting that Fox “has always been pretty cool” about letting Fringe push the envelope, series creator J.J. Abrams tells TVLine that said envelope’s seams have achieved outrageous new levels of elasticity.

From Ausiello’s piece from January 18th:

In a major blow to the argument that Fox is banishing Fringe to Fridays to die, a new piece of evidence has emerged that strongly suggests the network very much wants the show to succeed in its new, challenging time slot: A fancy outdoor advertising campaign touting the show’s new Friday perch!

The fancy investment of $5,000.00 on a billboard which obviously means that FOX is fully supporting Fringe.

Well, we guess that completely shoots holes in our perspective and that of the rest of the other skeptics, right?  Well, not really.

You see, in an interview with Collider’s Christina Radish on January 12th, J.J. Abrams himself had a bit of  different take on the Friday move for Fringe than the FOX talking heads and the propaganda pushers at TV Line.

J.J. Abrams... He'll be drinking more.

Radish: How do you feel about the move to Friday nights for Fringe?

ABRAMS: Oh, I’m horrified beyond belief, but as a fan of the genre and the show, I’m hoping that fans will tune in. I certainly can promise that it will be worth their while. The episodes that are coming up are spectacular. I guess you can just be hopeful and say that, if the work is good enough, it will find the audience. I think they’re doing better work now, even in the second half of Season 3, than they’ve ever done on the series. I’m just crossing my fingers that fans of the show, show up.

Radish: Do you see any upside to the change in nights?

ABRAMS: Just in that I’ll start drinking more. No, I don’t see an upside because the audience on Friday nights is harder to find. But, that’s not to say that they aren’t there and that we might not be able to make it there. Certainly, I would be lying to you if I said I’m thrilled about the move. But, what I am thrilled about is that the network has been incredibly supportive and, despite its move to Friday, they’ve been nothing but encouraging of the show. It’s still on the air in its third season, and it’s not easy to do that. It’s not easy to get to Season 3 of anything. They’ve allowed the show to become truly great, I think. The question is, will audiences find a great show on Friday nights? I pray that they do.

Well, surprise, surprise!  J.J. Abrams has the exact same opinion of the move to Friday for Fringe that we do.  The only difference is that he’s more polite when discussing the show’s relationship with FOX than we are, because after all, they’re still paying the bills.  Like  J.J.,  we are also horrified and we see no upside to this move but we do sincerely pray that it does find success… but we doubt that it will.  The reality of it is, as Abrams knows, that if FOX truly had faith in Fringe and wanted to support it, they never would have moved it to Friday night to begin with.

5 comments on “See… We Told You So. J.J. Abrams: “I’ll Start Drinking More,” No Upside To Fringe On Fridays

  1. How can FOX have faith in a show that, despite years of promotion during the World Series, NFL games, and American Idol, gets a 1.8 after Bones? Fringe is lucky to have been renewed last year, as FOX had a SYTYCD-sized hole left in its schedule last Fall. As a fan, you should be grateful FOX didn’t cancel it anyway.

    • Here’s the thing: you’re confusing our trashing the crap out of FOX for being a bunch of liars and frauds about “supporting” shows that they have no intention of supporting (and this is a particular issue with shows that have a dedicated genre fanbase) and us trashing FOX for dumping Fringe or any other show into the Friday night deathslot. We have absolutely no complaints about the move, per se, nor do we even have a problem with them canceling the show. FOX can do whatever they want with their programming, and though we may not be thrilled about losing a specific show, the fact that FOX cancels it, in and of itself is not a reason to trash them. It’s the pattern of behavior going back over 20 years that we have a problem with and we wrote about that issue here. FOX lies to their audiences, plain and simple, and then when shows don’t succeed because they were left to die on Fridays, FOX puts on this big show of it to try to say, “See… look at all the support we gave this show and it still couldn’t find an audience!” when there was nil support to begin with. We, like Mr. Abrams are realistic about what the probable outcome of this move is and we believe that’s it’s only fair (unlike some outlets) to not perpetuate the spin and propaganda that comes from FOX and simply tell it like it is.

      Observationally speaking, the move to Friday night was a typical pants-pissing, short-sighted reaction by FOX for one of their better performing scripted shows over the past couple of years. The fact is that scripted mid-season offerings this year on the other networks are pretty weak and letting it ride out the season on Thursday night or any other night besides Friday allowing the chips to fall where they may wouldn’t have been a real big risk. Taking this a step forward, as noted in the first piece we did regarding the Fringe move, we believe FOX to be a second tier network (until proven otherwise) that simply doesn’t realize it’s a second tier network because of the handful of successes that they have milked to death for 20 years with the current and biggest monstrosity being American Idol. FOX needs to lower their expectations for their scripted programming, period, and there’s a trail of dead-before-their time shows that can attest to that. Again, this is the same network that canceled Family Guy after 49 episodes only to brink it back two years later because a children’s cable network had success with it at 11:30 p.m. in syndication.

      The other issue is that of lead-in which for some reason, you seem to think that if Fringe was any good, having Bones as a lead-in should be able to guarantee higher audience numbers. Wrong, and we’ll tell you why. Bones is dry, formulaic, procedural and episodic. Now, that’s not to say that we have anything against Bones, we just see no reason to comment on it or recommend it on this blog nor do we see a need to watch it on a regular basis. It’s a fine show that appeals to a much broader and more general audience because, frankly, that’s what most of this attention-span deficient generation of audiences want from their scripted television, but it is what it is and that particular audience isn’t sticking around for a complex, Sci-Fi serial that by the time they saw it, had already spent its first season in the Tuesday night 9:00 p.m. slot. Unfortunately, the end of Lost and 24 marked the death of the era of serialized television anywhere outside of basic or premium cable which is probably the main reason why Fringe‘s numbers have dropped so dramatically over the course of the last three seasons while the show itself continues to get better (and we’re certainly not the only critics who think that) whereas shows like Bones continue to find audiences. Again, it is what it is.

      This all being said, this all may be moot. FOX had its highest rated Friday night since 2008 on January 21st with Fringe leading the way with a 1.9. Now, we aren’t jumping out of our shoes just yet, but that is very promising because NO ONE expected Fringe to find ANY success on Friday and as FOX has noted, if Fringe can average a 1.9 on Fridays they would be thrilled. It’s still a little early to tell, but again, it is promising. This piece here explains the factors involved in order for Fringe to be safe for a fourth season. But if it’s not, that won’t be a big deal to us, either. TV shows come and go and the only thing that we would hope they do for Fringe if it were to be canceled is to give it an actual series finale and not a cliffhanger for a next season that will never come.

      Oh, and as an aside… So You Think You Can Dance cannot be discussed seriously in the same context of Fringe or any other Prime-Time, Regular-Season scripted programming. It’s completely apples to oranges and for the record FOX did have a show fill in the prime-time schedule; it was called The Other Guys and in true FOX fashion, that screwed that show as well.

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