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Fringe Producers Discuss Show’s Future and ‘The End of All Things’

From tonight's episode of "Fringe," "The End of All Things"

With a title like “The End of All Things,” it’s difficult to look at tonight’s episode of Fringe without thinking about behind-the-scenes negotiations to bring the Fox sci-fi drama back for a fifth season. But while cancellation isn’t far from their minds, executive producers Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman confess they can’t afford to dwell on the possibility.

“This is God’s honest truth: Jeff and I just do what we do. You have no control,” Wyman said Thursday in a conference call with reporters. “We didn’t have control last year or the year before or the year before. We can only do what we do, which is make the show that we love, continue to follow the path of the stories we want to tell — great, compelling stories week to week that interest our fans and really hope for the best. I think that any show that doesn’t have huge ratings, that’s kind of what you’re always up against. Meanwhile, conversations are ongoing. Everything’s running the way that things usually run in these types of situations and I guess we’ll find out like everybody else. We don’t fret about it because really it’s out of our control. We can only step back and do our work and therein lies the path to serenity. We’re hoping for the best and doing what we love.”

“I think we’re the Little Engine That Could,” Pinkner added. “We’re always struggling and struggling and hoping and hoping, but we just keep making the show we love. We can never rest on our laurels of knowing we’re going to be on forever. We’re constantly challenged to write the best story we can week in and week out and hoping they’ll let us continue to tell more of them.”

Never exactly a ratings powerhouse in either its original Thursday or current Friday time slots, Fringe is an expensive series that Fox entertainment chief Kevin Reilly admitted last month loses money for the network. “At that rating, on that night, it’s almost impossible to make money on it,” he told reporters at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour. “That’s been the case now over the last season. You know, we’re not in the business of losing money. So we really have to sit down and figure out, ‘Is there a number at which it makes sense?’” Some saw the comments as a message to Warner Bros. Television executives to cut the show’s licensing fees if they had any hopes for a fifth season.

From tonight's episode of "Fringe," "The End of All Things"

But on Thursday Wyman highlighted what an accomplishment it is just for a science fiction series to complete four seasons, and stressed that there’s a satisfying end prepared for Fringe, should it not be renewed.

“It’s a strange thing because it’s a sci-fi show on network television. Everybody knows that in and of itself is an amazing feat that we’ve been on for so many years,” he said. “You guys have been so incredibly kind and so incredibly supportive that we feel like it’s a success in any way, shape or form. It’s an expensive canvas, everybody knows it. To do what we do every week, it costs a lot of money and you have to have a return on it. That’s show business and you’ve got to do it. We just hope the dollars and cents continue to make sense and we can continue doing it. If this is the last season, I would feel obviously incredibly sad because I know how much of the stories I’d love to tell and we’d love to tell. In the same breath, I would feel I could take care of the fans and that’s most important to us. We have an ending that would leave people feeling sad but satiated and feel like it was definitely worth their four years of investment. … That’s what we’re concerned about, that the fans don’t feel like, ‘Wait, what? What happened?'”

Tonight’s episode, the last before the show goes on a month-long hiatus, is described by Pinkner as “a game changer” that lays the groundwork for the rest of the season.

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“Our characters learn a lot more and the audience is going to learn a lot more about the uber-plot of the season’s bad guys,” he said. “The character journey for Peter, Olivia and Walter is going to start to unfold in ways that hopefully will be both satisfying and challenging to our characters. It’s the 14th out of 22 episodes, and it’s very much a hinge episode that’s going to launch us into the back half of the season.”

Wyman said the enigmatic Observers play a key role in “The End of All Things,” much to the showrunners’ delight.

“We always said you would find out about the Observers this season and we were going to investigate them a lot more,” he said. “We’re excited about it all. That’s a highlight — the Observers are a highlight. For us to constantly break what you know and reset and have people go, ‘Wow, I didn’t see that coming!’ That’s why we get up in the morning is to take people along for the ride. We’re excited about what’s coming up, too.”

According to Pinkner, the producers had been under the impression that next week’s episode, rather than tonight’s, would herald the show’s four-week break (it returns March 23). However, because of where they were in the season’s arc, the shift didn’t pose a problem.

“We’re sort of in a zone of episodes where each one is amazing and each one either turns the story or resolves something important or there’s a cliffhanger — several episodes where each one is pretty awesome in itself and is also important to the overall patchwork of the season,” he said. “We were very happy this ended up being one before we went on a little break. I think the fans are going to be well satisfied to come back and watch the next one as well.”

Although the season, and possibly series, finale hasn’t been written, Pinkner said, “We do know what it is and we’ve known the shape of our season before it started.”

“At the end of every season we sort of close a chapter and start anew,” Wyman added. “That’s sort of the language of the series. It can just organically come to a conclusion that we love.”

With that conclusion, whether temporary or permanent, fast approaching, they’re trying not to pay too much attention to ratings, and instead remain focused on simply producing a good series.

“There are TV producers that spend a lot of time analyzing numbers and analyzing the competition and knocking on the doors of the people who are working at the studios saying, ‘Change our night, change our time. Don’t you see what you’re doing to us by having us at this time?'” Pinkner said. “We don’t do that. Our approach has always been, maybe to our determent, that the best thing we can do for our show is to write the best show possible. […] We leave these questions and issues we can’t control to the people who can and we just make the best version of Fringe we know how — one that satisfies us, one that makes us excited to go into work every day, the one that makes us feel something. And we’ve been really, really gratified that people who watch the show respond to it in the way that they do. Beyond that, we just leave it to the gods.”

Fringe airs tonight at 9 ET/PT on Fox.


  •!/ David R. Schmitt

    I reall do hope they shop it to another network if it folds on FOX. It recently worked for Torchwood and it’s going to work for a Toronto based show called Murdoch Mysteries (Victorian sleuth show) which will change hands at the end of it’s next season.

  • Dave Maltman

    One of the best shows on television. It kills me how little support it gets; the FOX execs set it up for failure when they moved it to the Friday death slot. I’d love one more season (even if it’s only 13 episodes), so they can at least give us a proper, satisfying ending.

  • Demoncat4

    i hope fox gets the guts and okays fringe  for one  more season but knowing fox and sci fi shows. odds are fans might as well enjoy the ride of fringe to the end of this season for doubt ful given the cost to produce some other network unless its the sci fi channel would buy  fringe and make another season.though the xfiles lasted eight season s

  • Anonymous

    Hmm, show moves from Thursday last season to Friday this season and its ratings drop.  Coincidence?

  • nestegg66

    Yup, it also worked for Southland, it’s worked great, too, I might add !!

  • Ian

    I am reminded again of season 4 of Farscape, that series also had a 4th season that for a large chunk simply DRAGGED & was a reminder just how far superior it’s preceding 3rd season was in comparison; same thing here with the mostly dragging 4th season of Fringe.

    The showrunners only have themselves to blame for taking 2/3rd’s of the 4th season to both create and have the viewers come to try to care for alt-timeline versions of the one’s we came to love in seasons 1-3.  The “real” characters except for Peter have been MIA since the end of the 3rd season and it wasn’t until just a few episodes ago that I came to care even a little about these alternate versions of the Fringe team.

  • Ian

    The same Sci-Fi channel that promised Farscape a 2 season deal and then reneged on the 2nd year at the end of the 4th season leading to it’s quite sudden right in the middle of production cancellation, THAT Sy-Fy channel?

  • Victor

    This is a truly quality show with characters that are not caricatures and story lines that are compelling, fresh, and interesting. Quality writing, acting, directing in a network show happens too rarely–especially as concerns SF. I hope it survives to a fifth season or, failing that, that it is picked up by cable. It deserves to continue.

  • Wayfarer001

    Networks schedule Fringe, Supernatural & Grimm at the SAME time on a low-viewer night & wonder why they don’t perform better.  And they’re well-paid for that insight.

  • Fringe4ever

    I really hope we get another season

  • Julie

    I love this show and even when I thought it couldn’t get better than last season, they came out with the last 2 episodes.. so awesome!

  • Brian Marino

    Then again, at least Farscape got a miniseries to wrap up its loose ends (and what I hear is a pretty decent comic that continues its story).

  • Lori Golden2

    Best show ever!! I have been a fan since episode one. The writers are amazing; the actors are amazing!! I will, like all other fans of this show, be extremely sad when this television show ends. This is the most captivating, intelligent sci-fi show i have ever watched. It is sad more people don’t appreciate intelligent shows like “Fringe” and are more interested in “American Idol” or “Jersey Shore.”

  • Billqs

    I think if it were to move, it would have to be to CW.  It’s too expensive for cable right now and really only Warner Bros has a stake in getting the show to 100 episodes for syndication purposes.  Of course it’s not teen angsty enough to really fit CW’s demographic which is ironic as Joshua Jackson cut his teeth on the prototypical CW-WB teen angsty show, Dawson’s Creek.  But CW lives with ratings worse than what Fox is getting for Fringe on Fridays.  If Supernatural were to move Nikita would be a pretty kicking lead-in for Fringe.

  • Friya

    So many questions to be answered and so many great stories left. Lets hope this show continues.

    Ques1: i just saw the epi…So as shown in epi,, Peter is not important
    because “he is born by the actions of humans from the future” rather he
    was already important and thats the reason september wanted to watch
    walternate make a cure, cause that would save “already important” peter.
    So totally agreeing with RIVERS the interesting question that i look
    forward being answered is “WHY IS PETER IMPORTANT”.
    2: And Tony has a valid point and i would love to see shows writer answer
    that “Without Septembers mistake, if Peter is from “over there”, then he
    SHOULD be with Fauxliva having a family because he should have never
    crossed over, right”. I find this quite mind boggling hoping it would be
    answered soon.
    3: Third thing is i dont think the show should revert back to original
    timeline because in coming to this timeline mistake of Henry being born
    is corrected and thats the improved version of already distracted
    timeline due to observers mistake. And observer never said that this
    timelines Olivia isnt the rite one, infact he helped Peter in saving
    this timeline’s OLIVIA.

  • Sonny Crockett

    GREAT show…..compelling and heartwarming as it is frustrating and cold. Touches on all emotions with great character development….and just when you’re ready to throw your remote though your HI DEF screen because YOU weren’t in the right universe… can’t wait for the next episode.

  • Derek

    I think they should make the deal to put previous seasons on Netflix streaming. They will get lots of money from Netflix to make the content available and they will draw in a huge number of new fans. One of the difficulties with shows like Fringe is there isn’t much of jumping on point if you’ve missed the first season or two. Let people watch the first 4 seasons and you’ll have fans. But I guess I’m of the belief that shows will do well if they’re of good quality (like Fringe) and people get the opportunity to watch them.

  • Paul S

    Amen to this one! i hope more intellectual people show their support here so that we get a season 6 and 7! I will be missing this series when it ends