Year after year, “Fringe” fans have rallied behind the show — and one of them has been FOX President of Entertainment Kevin Reilly. In January, Reilly told the press that “Fringe” has lost money for the network — and yet, he renewed it for a thirteen-episode fifth and final season this year.
At Comic-Con last week, Showrunner Joel Wyman expressed gratitude to Reilly and FOX for supporting the show despite its less-than-ideal Nielsen data. Indeed, it’s rare for a series to get a “final season” to wrap up its stories, and the entire “Fringe” team (as well as the fans) appreciate the opportunity to bow out gracefully.
On Monday, Reilly noted that he hopes the network’s support of “Fringe” helps shift attitudes about FOX among the genre fans. After canceling series like “Firefly,” “Dollhouse,” And “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” FOX has developed a negative reputation among genre fans.
“Fringe has had a particular fanbase,” Reilly says. “We have a checkered history with genre at best, because we’re one of the only networks that has consistently tried genre. Genre is hard. The Fringe producers have delivered a fantastic show that we are as passionate about today as we were the day we put it on.”
Despite the lack of profit, Reilly doesn’t discount “Fringe’s” place in FOX history. “It’s done a job for us on Friday,” he agrees. “As I’ve said before, a few seasons ago, we had a test pattern on Friday. With ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ and ‘Fringe,’ we’ve won most Fridays. It’s been a really contemporary show in that most fans are there but they’re there on DVRs. This year at one point we had a 73% lift over a live +7 number. People watch it. If they don’t catch it live they definitely catch it on the DVR.”
The question is whether fans will be more willing to invest time in future genre series on FOX now that it’s given “Fringe” the final season it has earned through brilliant writing and commendable performances. “I’m hoping this puts to bed our ‘ghost of Comic-Con’ if you will, which is ‘Argh, damn you, FOX! You put these shows on and then break our hearts!'” Reilly laughs. “I think, at least hopefully, we’ve got a little bit of cred for seeing [it] through.”
Though there aren’t any genre shows on FOX’s Fall 2012 schedule, Reilly hopes to continue to explore sci-fi in the future — and he does mention their mid-season stunner, “The Following,” with a horror edge that will most definitely appeal to “Fringe” fans.
“If you look back to obviously ‘The X-Files’ being one of the tentpoles of making the contemporary FOX what it is today, we’re attracted to genre,” he says. “People do expect the unexpected at FOX. They want to see something a little bit bolder, on the edge, and that quite often leads to genre.”
He’ll continue to tread lightly, though. “Every television show is hard to do, but when you’re in genre and you’re recreating worlds and mythology, they’re particularly hard.”
Weigh in below in the comments section, sci-fi/fantasy fans. Will you continue to watch genre series on FOX now that the network has shown its support by renewing “Fringe”? Or are you still holding a grudge after “Firefly’s” untimely demise?