Bubble Watch 2011-12: Fringe: Does Move to Friday Night Spell Doom?

Categories: 1-Featured,Bubble Watch

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November 21st, 2010

When it comes to bubble status, like the Renew/Cancel Index we're focusing on the likelihood that a show will be renewed for next season.  Certain shows are toss-ups where based on the ratings, the renewal decisions could go either way and not be surprising.

Did the past week shed any light on which shows would be renewed for next season?  Perhaps, particularly if you're into reading tea leaves.  Fox dropped a bombshell late Friday announcing it's mid-season schedule.  The big story was American Idol is moving to Wednesdays and Thursdays, but the bigger story in terms of Bubble Watch was Fringe moving to Fridays.

I did strongly consider removing Fringe from the Bubble contenders and changing its designation to "likely to be canceled" because that really does seem the most likely outcome to me at this point.  But I'll wait for at least one Friday ratings data point.

First a recap of shows already canceled, certain to be canceled or likely to be canceled, and then much more discussion about Fringe as well as a little discussion of Lie To Me and Human Target:

Show Network Status
The Whole Truth ABC Already Canceled
My Generation ABC Already Canceled
Detroit 1-8-7 ABC Likely to be Canceled
Medium CBS Canceled
The Defenders CBS Likely to be Canceled
Life Unexpected CW No back order
Outlaw NBC Canceled
Undercovers NBC No back order
Chase NBC Likely to be Canceled
The Good Guys FOX Certain to be Canceled
Lone Star FOX Already Canceled
Running Wilde FOX Certain to be Canceled

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With only one airing, Human Target debuted on the bubble show contenders list.  While like Fringe, I really think that "likely to be canceled" is Human Target's appropriate designation, no harm in waiting for another data point.

I was surprised by the number of comments and e-mails assuming that based on Fox's mid-season schedule that Human Target and Lie To Me were in much better shape than Fringe.   While I think Lie To Me's prospects are a little bit better than Fringe, we're talking a little bit.

The real "advantage"  Lie To Me and Human Target had from a scheduling perspective is that they had fewer episodes left than FringeLie To Me will be off the schedule after January, and Human Target goes away after the middle of February.

Though I was not exactly pummeled with e-mail, I've probably never received more e-mail about an executive quote than I got resulting from Fox entertainment chief Kevin Reilly's comment about Fringe in a story on Deadline Hollywood:

"Fringe has a very particular, loyal audience," Reilly said. With the show picking up almost half of its viewership via DVR, he doesn't expect the sci-fi series to take a big ratings hit in moving to Fridays where it will be paired with solid reality performer Kitchen Nightmares. "If (Fringe) could stay near the current levels, we'll get a big  trade-up on Friday and will solve our problem there."

Network chief's are masters of PR.   A very particular audience indeed.  Those keeping score at home can translate "particular" to their particular synonym of choice for small.  Realistically you can't have expected Reilly to say, "We had three mediocre performers we planned to air all the episodes of, and Fringe had more episodes than the other two so we stuck it on Friday."

There's been a lot of discussion about "If (Fringe) could stay near the current levels" once it moves to Fridays.  Perhaps in Fringe's "over there" universe that will happen, but in this universe it doesn't seem  likely.  Indeed, if Fringe can consistently pull a 1.9 rating with adults 18-49 (or even a 1.8, or a 1.7) it will have outperformed every other show Fox has banished to Fridays by a wide margin, and I think it would definitely get strong consideration for renewal.  But I'd expect it to be in the 1.3 range after a few Friday episodes and heading downward.

Fox won't keep Fringe around with a 1.2 rating, even on Fridays and though there was a lot of talk it would've have kept Dollhouse had Dollhouse been able to achieve those kind of numbers,  Dollhouse was reportedly produced at near cable budgets, plus the Fox mothership benefited from any DVD or licensing revenues.  That's not the case with Fringe.

I'm a fan of the show, but I'm not expecting good things on Friday.  If I'm wrong, I'll be pleasantly surprised.  I don't see the Friday move as pure "doom," as the writing was on the wall with a 1.9 rating on Thursday. If it can maintain that level on Friday, it has a much better chance for survival.  But in any universe, that's a gigantic "if."

Bubble Show Contenders:

Show Net
Better With You ABC
No Ordinary Family ABC
CSI: NY CBS
Blue Bloods CBS
$#*! My Dad Says CBS
The Good Wife CBS
Fringe FOX
Human Target FOX
Lie to Me FOX
Community NBC
Chuck NBC
The Event NBC
Law & Order: LA NBC
Parenthood NBC
 
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