Genre fans don’t really have a big place in their hearts for Fox, and it’s probably rightfully so.
Fox would order great science-fiction, only to never give it a chance, canceling it after mere episodes.
“Firefly” was the biggest one that sticks out in most people’s minds, and to some extent, “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” and maybe even “Virtuality.” The relationship between Fox and genre fans couldn’t be called “rocky,” that would be too nice. It was more like Kai Winn and Benjamin Sisko from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” — both acknowledged their existence and their reason for being there, but neither liked it one bit.
But there was one show that Fox held onto, even when everyone stacked the odds against it (usually because of a bonehead move by Fox itself): “Fringe.” Every single time fandom, critics and observers started a candlelight vigil outside of “Fringe’s” Vancouver studios, the network would step in and surprise everyone by renewing the show.
Sure, 13 episodes doesn’t sound like a lot. But right now, I think it’s safe to say that “Fringe” is on borrowed time anyway, and 13 is much better than anyone would ever expect. In fact, it’s probably part of 30 or so episodes that we probably should have never seen.
Remember last year? “Fringe” aired Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Fox, up against shows like “The Office” on NBC, “CSI” on CBS, “Grey’s Anatomy” on ABC and “Nikita” on The CW. Back then, “Fringe” averaged a respectable 3.2 rating/5 share, losing about half the lead-in audience from “Bones,” two shows that really didn’t match up well. That made it competitive with “The Office,” but really, “Fringe” only beat “Nikita,” and my unlisted YouTube channel can beat “Nikita.”
At the beginning of December, Fox made a decision. It had to put “American Idol” on Friday nights, and it had to choose between “Bones” and “Fringe” as the lead-out. “Fringe” lost, and Fox had nowhere else to put it except Fridays, replacing “The Good Guys” which managed just a 1.6/3 in 11 episodes.
“Fringe” took over the slot in January 2011, and immediately made an impact. Its premiere episode earned a 2.7/5, only slightly down from what it was doing on Thursdays, and 93 percent better than the series finale of “Good Guys.” What looked like a move to burn off episodes almost seemed like the best thing that could happen for “Fringe.”
But sadly, the honeymoon didn’t last long.
By the end of the season, “Fringe” was pulling in 2.1 household ratings and it looked like it was on the fast-track to cancellation.
Fox, however, wasn’t going to give up. It believed in the show, and while the audience was smaller, the network felt it almost owed something to the people who stuck it out — even when many believed Fox would never let it see past the first season — and decided to keep it going for a fourth season.
Sure, it would remain on Fridays, but Fox said it knew what that meant, and it would do everything it could to not hold those lower ratings against the series.
We’ve heard promises from Fox before, but for some reason many of us felt that Fox might actually keep this promise. Maybe it was more desperation to give “Fringe” a chance to end the way it wants to end. To give us one franchise that we don’t have to sit back and wonder what might have been.
And Fox came through. They fulfilled their promise. And now we will get to see “Fringe” end the way it was meant to.
It will be hard to forgive Fox for what happened in the past. And really, moving “Fringe” to Fridays wasn’t the most cool thing they could do. But moving it to Fridays was better than moving it off the schedule completely. And despite the fact that “Fringe” is a money-loser for Fox, Fox is going to give us more “Fringe.”
This isn’t an effort to line the pockets of Fox. They really mean it when they say they won’t see any money from this. Future DVD sales as well as iTunes and Netflix sales will benefit “Fringe’s” production companies — Warner Bros. Television and Bad Robot — not Fox.
This was a move meant purely for the fans. It was a move to show that Fox really does care what its audience thinks. And it is not afraid to say, “Hey, maybe we acted a little too hasty in the past. Take this olive branch, and believe that in the future, we’ll try to think things through a little more.”
Thank you, Fox. You don’t hear that enough, I’m sure. But thank you. “Fringe” is an extraordinary show, and all of us fans can now enjoy it for a little longer.