We all know the knock on FOX — they have the guts to greenlight off-kilter and truly interesting shows but they haven’t had the patience to let them find an audience, letting the axe swing freely while lopping off the heads of genre and nerdtastic shows like Firefly, Dollhouse, and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Times though, may be changing.
Fringe, despite all logic and practicality, will return for an abbreviated 5th and final season, allowing one of televisions most complex shows to resolve naturally and in full for the benefit of it’s many, many rabid fans.
Why would FOX do this? Why would they all of a sudden start caring about us? At this point everything is back-slaps and praise, so it is unclear. Fringe‘s ratings are nothing impressive, and the show has been marooned in the Friday night “death slot” since last seasons brush with death, but at this winter’s TCA presentation FOX Entertainment President Kevin Riley seemed to indicate that the network was dedicated to earning back genre fan love:
“Fringe has been a point of pride. I share the passion for the show the fans have. I love that Fox, after letting down genre fans over the years [came through with Fringe]. I love that fans stuck with it after it moved to Friday. It has vastly improved our Friday night.”
Now while that is all well and good, and while the network has improved, giving Fringe countless previous chances and both Dollhouse and Human Target second seasons despite anemic ratings, the bottom line is the bottom line and Reilly also echoed that at the TCAs.
“We lose a lot of money on the show (Fringe). But with that rating on that night it’s almost impossible for us to make money on it. We’re not in the business of losing money. We need to figure out if there’s a [deal with studio Warner Bros. that] will make sense or will this be it.”
So while the chorus of Fringe fans are likely singing “we did it!”, the reality of the situation may be that their effort and the shows quality exist as secondary considerations in the deal to bring back Fringe. What is more likely, is that Warner Bros (the studio behind Fringe) cut FOX a hell of a deal that allowed the show to sail into syndication (which matters greatly to the Warner Bros) after next season.
I know what you’re thinking, “Why do I care, Fringe is back!”, well, a cheaper Fringe may mean noticeable differences in the way the shows final season is presented. Will cast members be rationed? Will the quality of the CG or the writing staff diminish? Will the scope of the show be forced to shrink down? Right now everyone is happy about more Fringe, me included, but what I want to know is, how did this sorta-miracle occur and will we pay the cost for it with a lackluster end to a show that deserves more?
UPDATE: There was a comment on our Facebook that noted, properly, that Terra Nova was a recent genre show that FOX gave up on. I countered with the following, feel free to comment below if you feel I’m being too harsh — you can also comment if you agree with me, though in my experience, that isn’t how this whole “we write/you comment” thing works.
On Terra Nova: One could argue, and I would, that Terra Nova suffered from impossibly high costs that couldn’t be easily tamped down, already lackluster effects, terrible writing, and a boring, tired background story that all failed to live up to it’s (the show’s) terrific main plot. It was a failure in every way, and so while it may have been genre, it was bad genre and it deserved to die. You’re goona call me all sorts of bad things now, I just know it.