A war is coming
Yesterday (Friday, November 19), at the very tail end of a long press release from Fox, it was announced that effective January 28, Fringe will be moved to Fridays at 9 p.m. (In the PR business they call this a “Friday news dump.” It’s done when an organization decides to announce or admit to something negative that they’d rather didn’t get any press, since traditionally newspapers didn’t publish a lot of news on Saturdays. This strategy makes little sense in an age of 24-hour cable and Internet news, but the old flacks still stick to tradition.)
Fringe‘s movement to Friday is not good news for the show’s future. Here’s a list of shows that Fox cancelled after moving them to Friday. Other networks have done the same with their “struggling” sci-fi shows — most famously, NBC did it in 1968 with the most famous sci-fi show of them all, Star Trek. (A landmark show that no one should feel embarrassed being compared to.)
Let’s not sugar-coat it: the Friday move is a grim development. On paper, Fringe has at least a few more months on the air, but in reality, there may be just weeks for viewers to make whatever impact they can make on its future. The holidays are approaching, when most people are otherwise distracted and occupied, and then the show will be tried out in its new time slot and expected to perform. Fox seems to want it to merely retain its current audience, but there’s the whole new wrinkle of it being scheduled against Supernatural, another sci-fi niche show with its own following. How do you convince SPN fans to DVR that show and watch Fringe live… and will it have any effect on Nielsens? (That’s one aspect of a “war” to save Fringe that people might not have the stomach for.)
Fox has acknowledge a “certain core audience” in its further remarks about the move, and the reaction to the rescheduling has produced an unsurprising amount of vocally expressed anger and trepidation among viewers and TV writers alike. Most people who watch the show would probably agree that Fringe went into the creative stratosphere in 2010, and Thursday’s episode (“The Abducted”) was much talked-about as a new high point for the season.
So TV Overmind has recommended some things that viewers should do, and at least one group of viewers has decided to re-organize and do what they can to promote the show as hard as they can.
A war is coming: so what are viewers fighting for?
In the immediate short term, it’s about retaining current viewers and encouraging new ones. It seems a gargantuan task, given the odds against shows that have been moved to Fridays, but the TV Overmind article has some very good advice about how viewers can promote a show online and off. Seek out new viewers on any online forum, any platform, and engage them about the show. Turn off your anger and dismay at Fox and embrace Fringe as a Friday show, and create conversation about it.
And many other things can be done. (Viewers are getting together to discuss this as you read this.)
In the long term, however, it’s about much more. It’s about showing the flag for science fiction, showing the flag for quality television, and showing the flag for Fringe as an enduring concept. What viewers do right now in the short-term — over the next several weeks — will make the long-term difference. Not just to the possibility of the show remaining on the air for the short term, but for the story and characters and amazing worlds of Fringe remaining alive for the long term – whether on network television or in other media.
When Star Trek “died” in 1969, that wasn’t the end of it. Its fans changed the game. Even though it ceased to be an NBC television program after just three seasons, they refused to let the show and its vision die.
So did Walter Bishop when Peter died in 1985.
So can Fringe fans change the game? What would it take? Let’s find out.
A short, intense effort aimed at making the move to Friday as least damaging as possible to the show’s ratings is the top priority. This effort will not be open-ended; it will be spread out over a few weeks, maybe a couple of months, and there is no guarantee of the show’s renewal.
However, while viewer passion may not save the show for another season, this passion is the only thing that can save Fringe for the future. What viewers do in response, over the next few all-too-short weeks, to Fox’s announcement could have an effect for years to come. They could create another universe – even beyond Fox Television – where there still is a Fringe.
As Walter said in a recent episode:
“‘Only those that risk going too far can possibly know how far they can go.’ That’s what Belly used to say.”