It never fails. Now that Fringe has become the best television show in two universes, it's getting moved to the Friday-night slot that claimed Firefly and Terminator. How can we save Fringe from Fox's Friday-night curse? A few ideas below.
Fox execs say they don't want to cancel Fringe, and we believe them. It's probably true that the show only has to maintain the ratings level it's at now (hovering around 5 million) to stay secure on Friday nights. That's easier said than done, however — when Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles moved to Fridays, the show's ratings saw an automatic 30 percent drop.
It's not like there are enough thought-provoking, intense, brilliantly acted shows out there — in any genre — for us to sit by and wait for Fringe to become a "bubble show" before we mobilize. We can't just be Observers — we have to act.
So here are some suggestions for strategies that might actually make a difference:
1) Take a hint from Chuck fans.
It used to be that fans wanting to keep a show on the air would send crap to the studio — peanuts, toys, whatever. Chuck fans went one better: They mounted a campaign to eat at Subway restaurants, one of the show's main sponsors, and proved the fast-food chain's support for the show achieved more than just getting Subway ads in front of five million-odd eyeballs. Subway's loyalty to Chuck translated into fans' loyalty to the sandwich chain, and fans proved willing to sit through even the most blatant product promotion. Major Fringe advertisers, judging from the latest episodes, include Sprint — which has been doing some pretty heavy product-placement and running sneak peek clips for its customers — plus Target, Macy's, Best Buy, Victoria's Secret, Burger King, Nikon, Lincoln Mercury, Chili's, Radio Shack, Men's Wearhouse, Mucinex... and Subway. The obvious choice here is Sprint, which seems to be the show's main sponsor and is running ads every few minutes, including Fringe-branded Sprint ads. So maybe a campaign for Fringe fans to show that they use Sprint as their cellphone carrier?
2) Evangelize over the holidays.
Many of us are about to spend a significant amount of time stuck with our families, with nothing to talk about. So why not talk about one of television's best family-oriented shows, whose main plot stems from a father's love for his son? Plus if you're looking for last-minute gifts for the people in your life, box sets of the show's second season go for just $23 on Amazon right now. Fill those endless hours of family time by showing your loved ones episodes like "Peter" and "Jacksonville," and they'll soon be hooked.
3) Organize a Fringe-watching night
at your local watering hole, and make it high-profile. Television studios know that they're not really able to track who's watching their shows live with the incredibly fudgey Nielsen data, as I discovered when I did an investigative piece on the Nielsen ratings. Just recently, Nielsen was investing in a project that gave people pager-like devices that recorded random snippets of ambient audio and tried to figure out what television program was playing from those audio bites. The idea was that if someone was in a bar or public place where a television on, Nielsen wanted to be able to record that. So yes, anecdotal evidence that a few dozen (or more) people are gathering in a bar to watch Fringe — and sit through the commercials — will carry some weight, especially if it's nationwide. (If anybody organizes this in San Francisco, I'll show up for sure.)
4) Write/email your local newspaper.
Every single daily newspaper has a daily/weekly "what's on television" section. (I often glance at these when I'm doing io9's weekly "what to watch" feature, and they seem to be different for every newspaper around the country.) They always list highlights to watch out for. Also, many newspapers still have a TV critic. Figure out who your local newspaper's editor in charge of television coverage is, and write to this person. Be mellow and collegial. Let him/her know that "J.J. Abrams' weird FBI show" has grown into something really special and groundbreaking, and if they haven't checked it out lately, it's time to take another look. Now's a great time to write (politely) and help get Fringe back on these folks' radar, so when it returns in January, they'll think of making it a weekly pick, or giving it a writeup.
5) Reach out to other fandoms.
The Whedon fans were willing to stay home for Dollhouse on Fridays (some of them, anyway). The BSG fans made Friday nights an event. And so on. I have a feeling a lot of fans of these other universes and creators would be seriously hooked on Fringe — staying home on Friday nights-level hooked — if they saw some of the recent episodes. (Tell your Star Trek-fan friends that this is a mirror universe portrayal that makes "Mirror Mirror" look like a school play — then run away while you still have all your limbs. But also challenge them to see for themselves.)
Bottom line: We have to make Fringe Fridays an event, something on the level of staying home to watch BSG in its prime. And we need to find ways to reach new viewers, and prove that the show is reaching more people — and more valuable people — than the Nielsen numbers could possibly reflect. These are just a few ideas for doing that — feel free to share yours in the comments!