Even before "Fringe" was moved to Fridays on Fox, it often bounced around on the network's schedule with varying degrees of promotional support. And while Fox initially stated that the traditional Friday death slot might allow "Fringe" to continue with reduced expectations, that doesn't seem to be the case anymore.
During last weekend's Television Critics Association press tour, Fox President Kevin Reilly said “We lose a lot of money on ['Fringe']. At that rating on that night it’s almost impossible for us to make money. We are not in the business of losing money, so we’re trying to figure out if there a number at which we can continue with the series. We haven’t even sat down with the producers yet.”
On a more positive note, Reilly also related that "'Fringe' has been a point of pride for me, I share the fans’ passion for the show. I love the fact that with it Fox put genre back on the network. I’m grateful to the fans who followed the show to Fridays, and with 'Fringe' there, we have a real Friday night for the first time.”
Over at TVLine, "Fringe" executive producers Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman addressed the uncertain fate of the show by stating that the fourth season finale might be planned as the final episode.
“Worst case scenario, if this were the last aired season of 'Fringe' — and as we’ve said before, there are other outlets where we could continue our stories, be they graphic novels or webisodes — we know what the end of this season is going to be, and it can function as a series finale."
Before we move on from this story, I want to offer some commentary on the fate of "Fringe." Regular Crave Online readers should know that we're big fans of the series, having named it as number 3 on our Top Ten TV Dramas of 2011.
Reilly's statement about "Fringe" losing money for the network on Fridays is extremely self-serving. He neglects to mention that the series pulled much higher numbers last season before the move to Fridays. To be fair, Fox does run a lot of promos for "Fringe," but pairing it with "Kitchen Nightmares" hasn't helped draw in new viewers on that night.
And if "Fringe" viewers are expecting Syfy to swoop in and save this show for a fifth season, then they might want to think again. Syfy favors lighter, low budget fare like "Warehouse 13;" making "Fringe" out of sync with Syfy's "Blue skies sci-fi" approach. And beyond Syfy (and the extremely remote possibility of FX or TNT), there don't seem to be many natural homes for the series. It's good to see that Wyman and Pinkner are committed to continuing the story, but comic books and web series are a poor substitute for the real thing.
One last note for Fox. "Fringe" is one of the most heavily DVR-ed shows on television; which proves that it has a sizable following. If you can't figure out a way to make a profit from that, then you don't deserve to be in the business of making network TV.