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FRINGE’s Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman to Fans: Don’t Worry About the Ratings

After a few solid weeks where FRINGE kicked ratings butt, this past Friday’s numbers (3.7 million viewers and a 1.4 in the important demo) sent Twitter into a tizzy with people declaring that the “death slot” had claimed another victim.

But is the show really that bad off?

When I talked with FRINGE showrunners Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman earlier today, we discussed their passionate fanbase and why the ratings aren’t as bad as some people think they are…

With the latest ratings freaking out many of the fans, what can you tell them about the reality of the situation?
J.H. Wyman:
When CSI goes down 20% and every single show on the night goes down and they [all] had their lowest postings and FRINGE is one of those shows, you can’t single out FRINGE and say, “Oh no.” And we’ve been told, as long as we’re getting a 1.2 [in the important demo] or whatever, that’s okay for Friday nights, man! That [first week demo rating of] 1.9…nobody in any way shape or form, from the top of Fox to the top of Warner Bros., nobody expected us to do a 1.9 in any of their deepest fantasies.

But we did post a 1.9 and it was miraculous. And then it went down and we went, okay, there’s a hit that we’re taking, but our DVR [numbers] brought us back up, so they were just as pleased. So that’s the status quo.

When things go down across the board, the viewers need to understand that that’s okay. That’s when people can rationalize [the ratings decrease]. When they can’t rationalize it is when everything goes up or posts even and your show is going down. That’s the problem. Friday nights…traditionally, nothing has worked [on Fox]. But if we’re continuing with a 1.4, a 1.5 and the DVRs are going up and we’re still posting a 2.3 or 2.4 with the DVRs, that’s good.

Jeff Pinkner: Our message is at the end of the day, we don’t lose a lot of sleep over [the ratings] because there’s nothing we can do about it except make the best show that we can and hope the fans continue to watch. And thus far, they are. And thank you. All we can do is make the best show we know how. Our message to our fans would be please don’t fret, watch the show, don’t be anxious and enjoy the story.

JW: It’s the fan support and obviously…the media, being so fantastic to our show and being so kind and wanting to give great reviews and supporting [the show] by trying to convince people to watch it if they’re missing it — it’s because of you guys and the fans we’re still here. We’re like, “We have the greatest fans in the world and the greatest support from the media, that’s fantastic, and we’re lucky, so let’s just keep on making these great shows.” If the viewer can, watch the show live. If they can’t, DVR it. That’s the message. That’s the only thing people will respond to over at Fox. They’re not going to say, “It’s critically acclaimed and the fans really like it but nobody’s watching it.” We’ve seen things like that with ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT and shows that have done really well creatively and review-wise but didn’t have the viewers [so they got canceled].

Right now, [for our] Friday night [spot], this is how it went: when we got moved to Thursdays, everybody said we were getting canceled. Fox said, no, they’re not getting canceled, we’re going to try and do this and we got clobbered. And everybody said, okay, now they’re really get canceled. And Fox said, no, no, no, we believe in this show, we’re not going to cancel them, we promise we’re not going to cancel them, everything will be okay. And then our numbers went down even further and everybody said, okay, they’re getting canceled. And then everybody kept saying, move nights, move nights, get off that night! And then we got moved to Fridays [and] everybody said, they’re getting canceled.

There are always going to be naysayers, there’s always going to be people who bring things down and I understand because I, myself, am one of those people that’s been let down when one of my favorite shows has been [canceled] and I’m like, “Aww, come on, you did that?” And I’ve created shows I’ve felt [should have lasted] longer. I understand why people are nervous, but with all the support we’re getting from the fans and the media, that’s a good thing. Friday can be reinvented. And [Fox] can realize that Friday can actually be a revenue night for them, [where they can] gain a foothold and gain some purchase on that night and realize, wait a minute, Friday night is a viable night.

I just want everyone to be rational when they look at the numbers. Everything went down. A lot of the guys who should know better, a lot of these people who do those commentaries, when they look at those numbers and say, “Oh, that’s not a good thing for FRINGE.” It’s like, what? CSI went down 20%! Everything posted its lowest numbers! Why are you singling out FRINGE?

It’s possible dire headlines can equal site traffic.
I guess that’s it. So I just don’t want our fans to feel bad. I want our fans to realize this is a great show and we’re going to keep on supporting it. Story wise, we aren’t going to let anybody down and the only way we can have a mutual symbiotic relationship is if [fans] say they’ll keep watching, we’re invested in it and we love it. If the show eventually one day gets canceled, it’s not going to be because [that fan stopped watching].

JP: FRINGE is a show that by design is not for everyone. It requires a different degree of passion, it requires a different degree of investment, it requires a different degree of attention. And we always said not everybody likes licorice, but the people who like licorice really like licorice and are passionate about it. So we’re making the show for those people.

JW: It’s no accident that Walter loves licorice. I know that CHUCK did that campaign where they had their fans buy Subway [sandwiches] to show the network that there was an army of consumers behind that show. So everybody, go buy licorice.

JP: Twizzlers is not one of our supporters, so it’s not commercialism. But the message is if our fans remain passionate, we will remain invested and we will continue make this show the best we can for the fans we have. Because we know we have great fans.



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