Somewhere in an alternate universe, Fringe is a ratings juggernaut, the crown jewel in Fox's programming slate that makes American Idol look like Lone Star.
Sadly, we do not live in that universe. In our reality, Fringe is struggling in the ratings despite the fact that it's enjoying its most critically acclaimed season to date — and sadly, it appears that strong reviews and a core fan base might not be enough to save the science fiction series from cancellation.
In news that isn't entirely unsurprising but is nonetheless wholly disappointing, Fox has decided to air Fringe on Friday nights starting in January. By moving into what is commonly referred to as "the Friday night death slot," Fringe saddles up alongside other ill-fated shows with devoted fans that got similarly booted to the Friday spot, including Dollhouse and Firefly, while simultaneously finding itself in competition with successful Friday night lineups that include The CW's winning Smallville and Supernatural combo.
For many, the move from Thursdays to Fridays is the beginning of the end for Fringe: at a current average viewership of less than 5 million, Fringe isn't likely to swing upwards in the ratings in its new time slot. That said, Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly brings up a fair point, telling Deadline that if Fringe can maintain its "current levels, we'll get a big trade-up on Friday and will solve our problem there."
So, is the move to Friday nights that big of a deal? For a program that gets most of its audience from DVR, DVDs and other assorted media, not to mention the fact that the most loyal Fringe fans aren't likely to go anywhere despite the show's move, it's possible that Fringe could flourish on Fridays, just as The X-Files once did. Besides, it's not as if Fringe ever stood much of a chance during its highly competitive Thursday night slot -- perhaps a move to another night, even Friday, is a step in the right direction.
But that's an optimistic viewpoint, to say the least; the track record for shows succeeding after a move to the Friday death slot, particularly on Fox, is far from great. The best advice I can give is pray for the best, prepare for the worst: after this latest development, it's entirely likely that Olivia Dunham's days of dealing with shape-shifters and bald-headed know-it-alls are inching closer to an end.
Head here for more on Fox's midseason scheduling decisions.