If you’re still a fan of “Fringe” after two and a half seasons and didn’t realize that the show is moving to Fridays at 9 starting tonight, well… you are less info/tech-savvy than the stereotype of a “Fringe” fan would suggest.
Either way, the show is back tonight, on a night where (since “The X-Files” moved to Sundays more than a decade ago) FOX sci-fi shows have gone to die. (It’s also, frankly, a night where many other kinds of FOX shows have gone to die, including Fienberg’s all-time favorite sitcom, “Brothers.” So it’s not just the skiffy that suffers.) The night’s reputation for killing shows dead is so well-known, in fact, that it’s kind of hilarious that the first “Fringe” episode to air there shares a name with one of those dead series: “Firefly.”
I’ve written before that I don’t think this is FOX doing wrong by the show. It’s in its third season, and at various points has gotten lead-ins from “House,” “American Idol” and “Bones.” And if we’re being honest, it wasn’t all that great in its first year-plus. Its audience is its audience at this point, and as Kevin Reilly said at press tour, if most of that audience follows the show from Thursday to Friday, it could run for years. And if not, the show had its shot – had a bunch of them – and either didn’t have broad enough appeal or wasn’t good enough early on to hold onto its initial, larger audience.
I’ve seen tonight’s episode, which guest stars Christopher Lloyd as one of Walter Bishop’s favorite musicians, and features the return of Michael Cerveris as The Observer. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that it’s a terrific showcase for John Noble (and for Lloyd, who’s so well-known for comedy that you forget sometimes what a good dramatic actor he can be), and one that points the way toward what should be a pretty epic season-ending arc.
So make sure you’re on the couch at 9 (or at least that your DVR is functioning properly), and sometime after it’s done, Ryan McGee will have a review up on our Monkeys as Critics blog. (Friday nights and weekends have become all but impossible for me to write on, so I’m likely going to take a break from weekly coverage of this show for a while, and if something’s really extraordinary – or if I have an angle that’s notably different from what Ryan wrote – I’ll write it up the Monday after.)
I’m glad that the show accepted what it was, and decided to be about what it was about. As JJ Abrams told me at press tour, better to fail on their own terms than on someone else’s. And with any luck, failure won’t be something we talk about with this show for quite some time to come.