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.
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.
If you haven’t heard already, Fox has moved the J.J. Abrams fan-favorite Sci Fi thriller, Fringe, from the Thursday at 9:00 p.m. slot to the dreaded Friday at 9:00 p.m. slot. Now as much as we here at The ‘Tastic love Fringe (to the point where we consider it to be one of the top five shows on television), we weren’t necessarily surprised by this because as we’ve pointed out, FOX pisses their pants every time they see a ratings drop.
We also noted that while the other major networks are starting to take Friday nights seriously once again, FOX has decidedly NOT taken this approach, designating the night for reality shows and as a dumping ground for shows that haven’t done as well as they had hoped which is usually the fault of FOX to begin with (see: The Good Guys for the most recent example of this and our analysis here). So, we’ve come to accept that no show is ever safe on FOX and that without fail, if a show is designated for Friday night it will not be renewed at the end of the season or if it is, it will wither pretty quickly the following season. Now, with Fringe, there’s been a bit of a twist in this whole saga this week, which we’ll get to shortly, but first, it is necessary to address a fact of life that we’ve really been holding off on admitting for a long time but here it is:
FOX is an awful network and quite possibly the worst network ever… period. End of discussion. FOX is worse than The CW and it may possibly be worse than UPN or The WB ever was. The network is poorly run, they make terrible, amateurish decisions regarding their programming, they have absolutely no idea how to market quality programming in order to pique interest and they don’t give shows a chance to build an audience or even maintain a modest one. We will remind you that this is the same network that canceled Family Guy and the only reason it came back after a three-year hiatus is because The Cartoon Network aired the 49 episodes it had acquired the syndication rights to at 11:00 p.m. nightly and it gave THAT network the highest ratings in its history. So, to make this clear, a show FOX cancelled after only 49 episodes put another network on the map when they aired them… at 11:00 p.m.
The only reason FOX has had any success is because they have had a handful of successful shows that they have MILKED TO DEATH. Here’s the thing about that: a successful show should be able to give a network a lot of leeway with their programming and give a lot of other shows a chance to build an audience and become successful. What this means is that a show, for example, such as American Idol, can make enough money to basically support the growth of shows that are critically acclaimed however struggle in the ratings. This is not a new concept in either film or cinema.
Think of it like this: why do major studios invest money in relatively low-budget films with little-to-no anticipated payoff? Well, that’s because the film industry although motivated by profit like any other industry, still sees the value in the art they produce for the sake of the art itself and they believe that every now and then, the quality of the art for art’s sake may just turn into gold. A prime example of this is Paranormal Activity which Paramount/Dreamworks picked up the rights to for $300,000. Why would a major studio throw $300,000 away on a low-budget ($15,000), genre film that had little-to-no chance of making them any money? Well, first, because Stephen Spielberg REALLLLLLY liked it and second (and probably more importantly), because between G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Star Trek, Paramount grossed $1.5 billion domestically at the box office in 2009 on just those three films. So what it comes down to is that studios can afford to take more risks when they have money makers like that. Of course, with Paranormal Activity, that risk paid off nicely, grossing $194 million globally. Not a bad bet for a lousy $300,000, eh?
The same principle applies to television and even FOX has actually had success with this principle when they’ve applied it but they’ve only attempted it once and that was with 24 and that was nearly a decade ago. They stuck with that show early on despite the fact that the ratings had slipped in the first season and they even used American Idol as the lead-in and it worked.
FOX simply has no foresight or vision when it comes to the potential value of good TV, despite slipping ratings and quite frankly they are missing a much bigger point and that is that due to their 20 year history of reckless programming decisions, generally speaking, audiences don’t want to give FOX a chance any more when it comes to scripted programming. Why would they bother to ever consider getting invested in a scripted show on FOX when it’s more than likely not going to last for any significant amount of time? It’s a vicious cycle. FOX cancels shows (or dumps them into Friday) because the ratings slide, the ratings slide because the audiences don’t have any faith that FOX won’t cancel their show.
Now, back to the big twist in the news this week regarding the moving of Fringe to Friday…
Last week a whole bunch of blogs and entertainment news sites a lot more reputable than The ‘Tastic all had basically the same thing to say about the move. To put it simply: they all contend that the move marked the beginning of the end for the series which certainly isn’t a stretch, particularly with FOX.
Well, the FOX execs didn’t like that too much so they came up with this little trailer that addresses (and quotes) the cynical (albeit realistic) commentary from the writers at Collider, Ain’t It Cool News, IGN, TV Overmind, and Fringe Bloggers who for some bizarre reason just don’t seem to have any faith in FOX’s support of this show.
How cute is that, right? We’re convinced. Aren’t you?
Entertainment Weekly, who apparently has no problem being a corporate shill for FOX and perpetuating B.S., did a nice little puff-piece where they quote FOX’s senior VP of marketing and special projects, Dean Norris, explaining what prompted the trailer:
We started getting feedback from the viewers that basically said, ‘How could Fox do something so cool for a show they’re going to kill?’ We started reading these things and said, ‘Wait! We have to address this!’” The mission was to produce a piece of communication that dealt with the situation in a self-deprecating fashion, yet also assuaged fan fears. The message, spelled out in the promo: “You May Think Friday Is Dead… But We’re Gonna Reanimate It.”
Well, that sounds great because after all if there is one thing FOX is good at it’s animation… and RE-animation for that matter (see: Family Guy).
Now, standby in 3… 2… 1… for the big lie:
The promo is the beginning of a larger effort by Fox to shore up Fringe’s existing fanbase and hopefully grow the audience by targeting teen viewers who might be at home Friday night… “We are trying to rebrand Friday, and what we’re trying to do with this show specifically is make it kind of like forbidden fruit,” says Norris. “We want that teen demographic that might not be our audience right now to say, ‘That this is a show my parents might not want me to watch — but I’m going to watch it, anyway.’”
…And this is exactly why we don’t trust FOX and neither should you. First, and foremost let’s just examine this entire quote, shall we?
Mr. Norris, please explain to us how FOX plans to “shore up” its existing fanbase by alienating it, yet again. The problem that we pointed out earlier is that it’s not even necessarily the fact that it’s on a Friday night… the problem is that it’s on FOX on a Friday night and their history with television shows – ESPECIALLY Sci Fi shows! – on that night.
Our first hint of skepticism regarding this sudden change of heart was in that dopey little promo itself. It’s the quote from Roco at Fringe Blogger that they cite:
This is indeed the night… others were cast out to die.
Anytime we see a quote cited and there is ellipsis in the middle of the quote, we always research the actual source to find out exactly what the quoter wanted to leave out in order to advance their agenda. Here’s the actual quote by Roco:
This is indeed the night the likes of Dollhouse, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Firefly and others were cast out to die.
And there it is, folks; what FOX wants you to forget about. The fact is that not only has FOX been brutal to Sci Fi shows that they’ve abandoned to Friday night, they’ve also spun similar stories about support and similar clever promo campaigns that REALLY made people think they gave a crap. I refer you to the Dollhouse/Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles promos from spring of 2009.
Here’s our favorite… when Summer Glau and Eliza Dushku actually hosted the “Double Feature Friday” of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and the series premiere of Dollhouse.
Three months later Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was canceled and six months after that Dollhouse was canceled. Obviously, this is an example of FOX fully supporting their friday night Sci Fi shows.
To add more salt into that particular wound and prove the point about the total lack of vision at FOX, in May of 2009 those two shows had identical audience numbers, but FOX, in their infinite wisdom and foresight, decided to cancel Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles which had 11.4 million viewers during its first season before being dumped into Friday, was incredibly well-received by critics, had an established franchise brand-name and a built-in audience in favor of renewing the Joss Whedon mess called Dollhouse that had none of these attributes going for it. Once again, nice job, FOX.
We won’t even discuss what they did to one of the greatest and regrettably short-lived series of all time, Firefly (also a Joss Whedon show).
As for the last big lie in that quote… who are they kidding? Are we really supposed to believe that teenagers are going to stay in on a Friday night to watch a Sci Fi serial? Furthermore, the reality is that it’s nearly impossible to expand the base for a show like this.
We know exactly what they’re thinking or at least the premise that they are going for in trying to promote this big lie and that is that Fringe is like The X-Files (as it’s been compared to that hit series since it debuted) and that it can appeal to everyone on that level. Wrong. They aren’t the same show at all and the reason why it doesn’t work is that roughly 2/3 of the 202 episodes of The X-Files were standalone, “monster-of-the-week” type episodes that were literally disconnected from the main storyline arc of Mulder’s quest for the proof of alien abduction so he could find his sister.
Fringe’s main story arc is omnipresent in every single episode whether it’s integral to the story of that particular episode or not and as much as we love The X-Files, Fringe’s main arc is a helluva lot more complicated than The X-Files alien arc ever was. As a viewer, you cannot just jump into a show like Fringe halfway through its third season. It would be the equivalent of jumping into Lost halfway through the third season. You’d be lost and Norris must know this and if he doesn’t he’s completely incompetent.
So that’s what we’re left with. TPTB at FOX are either completely incompetent or completely dishonest and what’s ridiculous is how many other bloggers and various media outlets are falling for this sudden change of heart by FOX regarding their dedication to a Sci Fi show that they have parked on Friday night. Seriously, how dumb are they? This is “battered viewer syndrome” (…and I’m not going to explain that particular metaphor) if we’ve ever seen it. Do not trust FOX and their claims of unmitigated support for Fringe or any other show they move to Friday until they can be proven to be trustworthy. The first step in doing that would be for them to order the remaining episodes for this season and order an entire fourth season and promise to air all of the episodes. At this point, that would be the only way we would ever trust them and that’s not going to happen, so all we can do is hope for the best but plan for the worst which means expect Fringe to be canceled in May. Let’s just hope that they bring some closure to this great series.
And, by the way… we really hope we’re wrong but we doubt that we are.