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Is Fringe In Its Final Season? Studio Boss Surveys the Far-Out Series' Future

Peter Bishop might want to think about not existing again, because the ratings for Fringe are getting kinda scary — and not in a cool translucent skin, third-arm-sticking-out-of-my-collided-selves’-chest kind of way. And yet another Peter — Warner Bros. TV president Peter Roth — says it’s too early for fans of the far-out series to freak out.

During its first season, when it aired on Tuesdays (sometimes leading out of a little show called American Idol), Fringe averaged 10 million total viewers and was known to score a 4.0 rating, if not higher, with the coveted 18-49 crowd. But in the show’s third year, Fox relocated the sci-fier from Thursdays to Fridays, and, well, we all know how that goes. The Season 4 opener this September drew 3.5 million viewers and a 1.5 rating, and at last count, heading into its winter hiatus, Fringe fell below the 3-million viewer threshold for the first time, while matching its all-time low rating of 1.1 (set a week earlier).

TVLine’s Guide to Fall Finale and Winter Return Dates

Still, Roth, whose Warner Bros. TV produces Fringe, tells TVLine, “It’s too soon to tell” if fans should brace for this being the final season.

Rather, Roth is holding out hope that one of the “x” factors that kept Fringe Division’s doors open last spring at renewal time comes into play again — that being the Friday night drama’s unparalleled increases through Live+7 DVR playback. This season-to-date, Fringe is averaging a 54-percent bump in the demo once everyone’s DVRs are cleared, and a 50-percent gain in total audience (a surge only edged out by Chuck, which happens to be another  WBTV property.)

“This is a show on Friday nights that audiences love to DVR, and as such we shoot up anywhere from 40 to 63 percent, when you calculate the Live+7,” Roth points out. “Hopefully that will be good enough for us to continue.”

Fringe‘s Joshua Jackson Discusses Peter’s Wrong World Dilemma: ‘He’s Got to Get Out of Dodge!’

However, Fringe‘s laudable Live+7 performance — which by the way is of not much consequence to advertisers whose commercials are being fast-forwarded during playback — was but one of the reasons it eked out a Season 4 pick-up last May. There was also the matter of WBTV reportedly reducing the licensing fee for the show, and the fact that come decision time Fox had other underperforming hour-longs (Human Target, Lie to Me, The Good Guys) to eye for the chopping block. But next time around, unless the Bones spin-off The Finder or Kiefer Sutherland’s Touch open very soft at midseason, only an extremely sweet deal from WBTV might keep Fox’s scythe from swinging Fringe’s way.

As Robert Seidman, co-founder of TVByTheNumbers.com, explains, “Last year Warner Bros.’ wheeling and dealing to get Fringe to 88 episodes for stripped syndication was surely a much bigger factor than DVR viewing or that Fox had a Friday scripted show (The Good Guys) that performed much worse, so there’ll be a higher degree of difficulty for a fifth-season renewal.”

Even the temptation to order a 13-episode fifth and final season for Fringe — if only to get the show past the 100-episode mark — might not be enticing enough for either party. As Seidman notes, “Serialized shows don’t do well in syndication.”

That said, Seidman (who last season was bearish on the show’s renewal prospects, only to be proven wrong) must allow, “It is Fringe, so anything is possible, even in this universe” — especially should the show scare up a ratings bump when it comes back Jan. 13 with the arrival/return of a very big baddie. “But for the fans’ sake, if this is to be the final season, I hope the producers are given enough lead-time to wrap things up nicely.”

Watch a new promo for Fringe‘s winter return, airing Jan. 13:

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120 Comments
  1. mmartian says:

    Sadly there is not much hope since the prerequesit for being in the neilson family is they must first love reality shows- love of dancing is a plus and second dispise science fiction in any form. If for any reason there is a tie among canidates the tie breaker goes to whomever is the oldest.

  2. Ali says:

    Noooooo…….Fringe cant leave, i wouldnt know what to do with myself since Chuck is in its last season.

  3. Claire says:

    FOX should keep Fringe and get rid of Terra Nova,and Allen Gregory. Problem solved,quality over crap.

  4. Davis says:

    Dancing with the Stars, Jersey Shore, all the other crap adds up to Obama voters. That is why this country, the educational system and the voters are a lost cause. The next 4 years are going to be more of the same, and probably worse.

  5. dana says:

    I love Fringe! It is the only network show I watch as well, the rest are cable. I watch live, DVR, and buy each ep. on Itunes, I own all seasons, I twitter about it and blog, and Facebook. I am doing everything I can think of to keep this show on! I even take food to work on Fridays to “bribe” people into watching. Pleas Fox, don’t cancel this show! Give it more support, change the time slot, look at the DVR #’s and how many people are watching from other countries! We even try to support the advertisers by thanking them for supporting Fringe, and by buying their products. Please don’t cancel the only decent tv show on Network television!

  6. JeremyK says:

    I don’t watch any shows live these days. It’s sad that the ratings system is such a mess. Completely behind the times for where we are at technology wise. How many people even have Nielsen boxes? 25,000? What a joke.

  7. AngelMoonGirl says:

    Dear God, if Fringe gets cancelled, I am going to be one devastated fan! Doesn’t Fox realize that Fridays at 9pm is NOT an ideal time to have shows air!? SO many people DVR Fringe rather than watch live- that doesn’t mean people don’t love it and aren’t tuning in, it’s just that they’re doing it at a more convenient time. Argh. WHYYY. Fringe is so quality :( I DO NOT want to see it cancelled! I say give it a fifth season to wrap everything up for fans! And PLEASE TPTB, send Peter home to his universe? Maybe that will help. Some people are having trouble connecting with these “new” versions of our favorite characters.

  8. Dan K says:

    The writer’s should write a one-off episode introducing a third alternate universe where Peter, Olivia and Walter are judges on an over produced over watched singing contest.

  9. Lauren says:

    I can deal with it being cancelled, as long as the writers are warned and wrap the show up. Imagine if they had ended it at the end of last season!
    I would love a fifth season that was said to be the last though, since the writers said they had a five-season plan for the show. I wish it was a prerequisite that shows were given notice that they were cancelled and had to finish the show.

  10. realisjustamatterofperception says:

    At this point I don’t think it would be the worst thing to happen to this show. Dont’ get me wrong, I love this show with all my heart but…it’s not what it used to be anymore. S3 remains my favorite and if you look at the first 6 episodes of s3 and the the first 6 episodes of s4…Well, I don’t know you but I honestly can’t even think: WHAT HAPPENED? First half of s3 always managed to give you “heart attacks” and they were all so exciting and even here it deal with a different universe, different people and storylines. The difference was that the core of the show was still time same: Walter/Peter/Olivia, the war between the 2 universes and the mithology. It was all there. This season? I bet they don’t even know what they are doing. Looking at the ratings at the end of s3 they couldn’t just possibly think a peter-less start would make the show any good, his return wasn’t even that big of a deal and they are putting in the spotlight a character that we barely know (Lincoln Lee) for reasons I still need to understand. What is it that they are trying to accomplish here? The “let’s see if the main problem of the war between the 2 universes (peter) was never really there would have changed anything?” It’s a brilliant storyarch but with the worst timing ever. Sadly a show it’s all about ratings (money) and they couldn’t really believe people would sitck around with a completely different show and with one of the fan favorite being treated like garbage. Truth is it wouldn’t be ‘powerful’ by doing this in s2 because the relationship Peter had with Walter wasn’t so strong and he and Olivia still weren’t in Love BUT it’s not something they could think it would bring new viewers and having old viewers sticking around. It’s been very difficult for me to follow this season so far, as much as i love the plot my heart now belongs to the characters and the relationships they’ve built with each other which is what is moving the show forward. I like new characters, I like changes but what I don’t like are resets. Make all the chages you want but keep the core of the show intact.I honestly cannto blame people for tuning off or losing interests. I didnt’ wait 4 months for an improved version of S1. Writers tried to get the attention of new viewers but didn’t consider their formers. Of course Fox schedule and consideration for this show it’s CRAP, nevermind this is a show that should air on cable (syfy maybe. I hope that they know this show might not survive and give it a good ending because to me that’s all that matters. I don’t care if it has 6/7/8 seasons I just want a show to end well and give justice to the story.

  11. Xon says:

    It is no surprise that the Fringe numbers have declined.
    You cannot jackrabbit the schedule around like Fox has done,
    and expect such a complex show to last. Too cerebral, I guess.
    I’d hoped that the DVR numbers would give Fringe some
    breathing room, but it doesn’t look good…
    Like many of the Fringe Fans, I’d love to see Fringe be given
    enough time for a proper conclusion, and I think a two hour
    conclusion sounds like a good send-off.
    Hell, sell Fringe as a Mini-Series and be done with it.

  12. Linda Lee says:

    I love this show. I rarely make a note to myself to watch anything on TV these days but I do for this show. I am furious for FOX for treating this show like a piece of garbage. Every Friday I check if it is on and today I finally saw that it is not returning until Jan 13th? You have got to be kidding me??? I am so mad. Way to kill a show FOX-Thanks.
    I recently found the old show Sliders on Netflix, and really enjoyed the first two seasons and then wondered what the heck happened after season two. It was a great and interesting sci fi idea and another show that had potential. Then I read the history of how FOX destroyed that show too.
    I would have to say Fox has no respect for Sci Fi and really trash these kind of shows with no regard for the fans.

  13. donna says:

    Fringe has been so mediocre this season, that if it doesn’t pick up, I’m gone anyway. I miss Lie to Me and The Good Guys.

  14. Heath says:

    Well said. Let’s look at the BBC model in England where multiple seasons are ordered for new shows (to actually build an audience initially) and then keeping consistent with the timeslot (it’s the only way for audiences to avoid missing the show, having to tape it and reduces the advertiser issues of audiences not watching ads).
    Australia follows the same American TV model of showing something twice, moving it because it has no audience and then canceling it due to poor viewing.

    Sorry, rant over.

  15. Heath says:

    Opinion noted Donna. But I disagree. Fringe has only gotten better and its narrative momentum is actually noteworthy. The series has found its identity and its distinction from other sci-fi shows.

  16. Tom McLon says:

    Im afraid to say that the series has started to drift away and become more a run of individual stories which seem to be filling up the time. We only get small advances now in the main plot, when in full swing was compulsive viewing.

    The poor scheduling and advertising does not help, I am in UK and did not know it was off again till January.

    I sincerley hope that the series picks up again, at its best, it was unmissable!

  17. MD says:

    Be patient the new season will rock your parallel world ……. ;)

  18. Prof Psi says:

    Triple concur

  19. Prof Psi says:

    Trupke concur

  20. Sheenqueen says:

    I am sad that the shows has to have a good rating in order to air.

  21. Rebk says:

    This is the best show ever!!! Im addicted, but i watch in Mexico so please USA viewers watch it LIVE!

  22. Rebel4akauz says:

    There hasn’t been a show like Fringe since X Files. I see movie potential if Fox Execs could get it together. Don’t blow it guys. Get on the advertising & get more people hooked!

  23. Observer says:

    NOOOOO, FRINGE DESERVES 9 SERIES AT LEAST! IN THE OTHER UNIVERSE THEY’RE GONNA MAKE 20! Oops, i should only observe -_-.

  24. fringe addict says:

    i just started watching fringe in australia , im hooked plz plz plz dont can fringe , i need more.

  25. Jon Wyant says:

    I’m an over the road truck driver and am NEVER home on fridays,but I buy every season on dvd the DAY it comes out and I watch the whole season in 2 or 3 days,so those who can watch live for all us suckers that gotta be a season behind for a paycheck!

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