Ask Matt – February 21
This year, I have discovered (and now passionately adore) Community and Fringe, both apparent bubble shows. While the general consensus appears to be hopeful for Community (YAY!), the sites I read are mixed on the future of Fringe. The Friday night spot is never ideal, and Fox executives will hopefully keep this in mind, but the drop in ratings for two consecutive weeks has me concerned. I wrote to you earlier, complaining about the procedural feel of Fringe early on — well they seem to have abandoned that element altogether! I know most might consider embracing the mythology a risky move, but I think it’s very smart; by catering to their rabid fan base, they ensure that while ratings may be low, they will be consistent (we genre fans are a dedicated bunch). Then again, last time I checked I wasn’t a TV executive, so who knows how this will go? What are your thoughts? Should we be cautiously optimistic? And should I feel like a terrible person for kind of liking Fauxlivia? (I feel like I’m betraying Olivia). Secondly, do you see hope for us fans of programs that don’t grab stellar ratings? Perhaps TV series on the Internet? I would love to see Joss Whedon do a show without network restrictions or interference. — Katelyn
Matt Roush: The good news is that Fringe’s numbers perked up a bit this week, so I wouldn’t sweat out every hiccup along the way. Fridays are not going to be easy for Fringe, but in this case, I do believe that the way the executives talk about it, that Fox truly is rooting for the show and believes in what the producers are doing, so I am cautiously optimistic. My hope is that Fringe will be Fox’s version of Chuck, an underdog that is allowed to survive for several more seasons because of its solid and unwavering fan base, as well as positive media buzz, which usually isn’t enough to save a show, but certainly can’t hurt. You’re right that Fringe has gone all-out with its mythology this season — it’s not a show for casual fans, if it ever was — which means it has gone for broke. No half-measures here, which makes the show almost dangerously exciting. (Much the way that Community is developing into one of the most adventurous and form-breaking sitcoms of recent years, and NBC isn’t about to drop it, especially as it tends to hold its small but devoted fan base even in the face of monster hits like American Idol and The Big Bang Theory.)
Regarding your big-picture question, I do think as TV and the way we watch it continue to evolve, the definition of success will change as well. The networks can’t concede all the creative high ground to cable, so I’m fairly hopeful that high-quality genre shows like Fringe will still be able to break through and find their niche, even on the mainstream networks.