When Fox decided to move “American Idol” to the Wednesday and Thursday slots on its schedule, “Fringe” had to go somewhere.
But instead of joining “Glee” on Tuesdays, the X-Files-style program is going to hell instead — Friday hell.
Although Fridays is where “The X-Files” itself enjoyed a rather long life on Fox, the same likely won’t be true for “Fringe,” which looks to be almost in a burn-off mode beginning in late January, pairing up with “Kitchen Nightmares.”
Kevin Reilly head of Fox Entertainment, says fans shouldn’t look at this move as putting “Fringe” out to pasture, however, according to Ace Showbiz. Instead, he feels “Fringe’s” loyal audience will follow the show wherever it goes, including Friday nights. Also, coupling “Fringe” with a “solid” reality show like “Kitchen Nightmares” could only help it in the ratings.
“Fringe” earned a 3.1 rating/5 share in Fast National overnight ratings from The Nielsen Co. Thursday, finishing just below its season average of a 3.2/5. “Fringe” has suffered in the ratings since Fox decided to put the show against powerhouses like “Grey’s Anatomy” on ABC and “CSI” on CBS, at the beginning of its second season. Both have more than twice “Fringe’s” audience on average.
However, the third season has been even tougher for “Fringe” despite some positive critical response to its see-sawing between this and an alternate universe. “Fringe” is 18 percent behind last year’s average in the Thursday at 9 p.m. ET timeslot, and on average is losing 44 percent of its lead-in audience from “Bones.”
This isn’t the first genre show in the last few years to make the move to Fridays. After a solid series debut after playoff football, “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” suffered huge audience erosion before moving to Fridays and then cancellation. The most recent Joss Whedon series, “Dollhouse,” actually premiered on Fridays, and lasted two seasons before getting cancelled itself. Its second season renewal was a surprise to most news outlets because of its ratings, although Airlock Alpha was the first to announce it would get a second season at the time.
“Kitchen Nightmares” finished last season with a 4.1/7, tied with similarly named “Hell’s Kitchen” for Fox, while “Fringe” averaged a 4.3/7. “Kitchen Nightmares” was all over Fox’s schedule last year. It aired one episode in February as a lead-out from “American Idol,” losing 59 percent of its “American Idol” lead-in despite getting its best rating of the season.
It then made the move to Thursdays to occupy “Fringe’s” timeslot for three episodes in February and March, averaging a 4.7/8 — 21 percent better than what “Fringe” was doing. However, it didn’t hurt that “Kitchen Nightmares” had “American Idol” as a lead-in, and not “Bones.” “Kitchen Nightmares” lost 56 percent of its lead-in on average, while “Fringe” was losing just 36 percent from “Bones.”
“Kitchen Nightmares” eventually ended up on Fridays between January and May, but averaged only a 2.2/4. However, it was the network’s best-rated show on Fridays with “Dollhouse” averaging a 1.5/3 in the 8 p.m. slot, “Brothers” a 1.6/3 at 8, “Til Death” a 1.4/3 at 8:30, and “Dollhouse” again a 1.4/3 at 9.
This season, CBS has heavily dominated Fridays, showing that the night is not completely dead. “CSI: New York” ratings at 9 p.m. are 29 percent ahead of last year’s in that timeslot, while the freshman drama “Blue Bloods” starring Tom Selleck, is 41 percent ahead of last year’s. While that might indicate the potential audience for Fridays is larger than many thought, most are heading to CBS that night. Most other shows — except the “Smallville” and “Supernatural” combination on The CW — are down or flat year-over-year.
While there still might be hope for “Fringe” if its audience does indeed follow up it from Thursdays, it is now looking more and more likely that this will be the show’s final season.