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Fringe has been on fire since coming back for a third season, its first in the so-called “Friday death slot” on Fox, picking up a 1.9 rating in its first two weeks back and a 1.6 the week after. Showrunners Jeff Pinkner and Joel Wyman sat down yesterday with reporters to discuss the show’s success so far and their outlook on what’s to come. No spoilers, but there’s definitely some exciting stuff happening in the coming weeks for we fans to look forward to.
“We went into [Season 3] with the understanding there’s a number that would make [Fox] very happy, that’s like 1.2 to 1.4,” Pinkner said of the move to Friday. It didn’t faze him or his fellow showrunner, largely because of how supportive fans of the show are. “You guys, the media, have been so cool … and the network takes a lot of notice in your reviews. We felt good going into Friday nights knowing that we’re on a creative high and we know what the show is.
“A lot of shows that came before us that went to Fridays … for one reason or another, these shows weren’t on their creative upswing,” he continued. “So we were hoping that our fans would follow us, say ‘No. We’re loving what they’re doing.’ So we’re really happy. I mean, who can’t be happy with [the ratings we’ve received]? So we feel really good about it, and so does the network.”
Wyman echoed Pinkner’s comments, adding that the network’s vested interest in the show has been a great boon as well. “Fox are legitimately fans of the show. They told us that at the beginning, they’ve demonstrated it to us again and again,” he said. “They made the business decision that they wanted [American Idol] on Wednesday and Thursday this year. They had to move us somewhere. Our fans have been asking Fox to move us for a year off of Thursday night. They moved us to Friday night and our fans freaked out, understandably. People are afraid of change, we all are. But change can be good.”
Good is definitely where things have been lately on Fringe. Great, even — all because the show’s creative minds have had a plan since day one, and they follow that plan regardless of business-related changes beyond their control. “The story that we’re telling, we had written and filmed before we knew we were moving,” Wyman said. “So we’re not doing anything in reaction to the move, we’re just doing our jobs and telling the story in the best way that we can.”
One could make the argument that a great creative risk was taken with last season’s exploration of “over there,” the parallel universe that is at the heart of the conflict on the show. It’s a risk that’s paid off and then some, however. As Pinkner put it, “We get to do two shows about one show, and that really turns into a great thing.”
“Obviously when we said we were going to go ‘over there,’ there was some hesitancy because … the core viewers want to see what they know,” he added. “So it was a gamble. We did know this though: We wanted to tell a really compelling story over there and get the mythology really firing, and we became slowly in love with ‘over there’ when we were conceiving it. And we knew we couldn’t do it justice if we were going to do just a couple of scenes ‘over there.’
“So we really dove in full tilt with the different credits sequence and said, ‘Look, this is really what you’re going to get.’ As far as a pattern goes, the storytelling in our show — at the beginning of the year we know what we want to do and the story sort of dictates where we are going. If there’s a certain theme that we want to examine, that we find is really important to get across in several different episodes, it’ll be really interesting to tell a thematic element over here and see how our characters deal with it and then show a very different facet of that same theme Over There.”
Each season of Fringe has introduced a new surprise that changed the landscape of what fans were seeing. In Season 1, it was the revelation of this other, parallel universe. It Season 2, it was the switching of the two Olivias. And for this season … well, Pinkner and Wyman aren’t saying, but they promise more of the same.
“We’re full of wrinkles. We’re more like a pair of corduroy pants,” Wyman joked. “Largely, this season has sort of been a march to war and it will continue to be so, driven equally by the relationship between Peter and the two Olivias. But we’ve got more stuff coming. We’re going to complicate it, and like we’ve done in the past two years, as we drive to the end of this season it will be as much as anything about setting up next sesason.”
“This one we can definitely guarantee you, the last stretch of this is going to be very compelling because you’re going to turn the page on a new and you’re going to understand our show in a different capacity,” Pinkner added. “It’s going to stretch your mind and make you think ‘Oh, I never saw that coming.’ Nothing crazy that we don’t deserve and haven’t earned, but something that is definitely integrated into the storyline and you just hopefully didn’t see coming. And we have a few cards to lay down that hopefully nobody expect.”
The new episode of Fringe, “Immortality,” airs tonight at 9 ET/PT on Fox.