'Fringe' exclusive: The producers on tonight's new episode, the future of the parallel world storyline, and the move to Friday

FRINGE-309Image Credit: Liane Hentscher/FoxTonight’s winter finale of Fringe brings the show to a turning point in more ways than one. In the wake of last week’s stand-out installment “Entrada,” in which the two parallel world Olivia Dunhams returned to their respective home realities, “Marionette” focuses squarely on “over here” Olivia and how she transitions back to normal life… or at least, as “normal” as life can be for an FBI agent who works out of a secret lab at Harvard University with a pastry-fixated, drug-addicted genius and his son investigating the breakdown in the physical universe and other fringe science horrors. Complicating factors: Dealing with the post-traumatic stress of being a physically and psychically abused hostage in the over there world, not mention learning that Fauxlivia made a mess of her developing relationship with Peter Bishop. In an interview with Fringe masterminds Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman, Pinkner summed up “Marionette” thusly: “The headline here is ‘Picking up the pieces.’ Olivia’s had this real Rip Van Winkle experience; while she was away, life went on without her. Now she’s back and she’s going to find out what happened while she was gone. It’s going to shatter her.”

Now that the Olivias are back where they belong, Fringe will focus on the drama in Earth Prime; no more alternating one episode “over here”/one episode “over there” storytelling… for now. “You definitely haven’t seen the last of the ‘over there’ world,” says Wyman. “We’ve established that both of these worlds are linked in a profound way. We are going to attend to that. We are going back ‘over there.’ It’s not going to be forgotten about, but we’re not going to be ‘one on, one off’ right now.” By the way, in case you’re looking at the photo and wondering “Who the hell is that guy?!” know that the episode also involves a dude who likes to swipe organs from people’s bodies because… well, that would be spoiling, but let’s just say the dude must have learned romance from either this book or that movie.

Critics have praised the season’s parallel world premise for bringing out the best in Fringe and producing a consistency of high quality stories. Pinkner says the producers’ desire to toggle between worlds with alternating episodes was “met some initial resistance“ at Fox. “They were really concerned that if the episodes didn’t have [‘over here’] Walter or Peter in them, it wouldn’t feel like our show anymore,” he says. “We said that not unlike a show like Lost, Fringe has to constantly evolve, to move and grow and go forward, otherwise we’ll get bored, the cast will get bored, the audience will get bored.” Pinkner adds that after the first several episodes, that resistance turned to affirmation from both Fox and the show’s studio, Warner Bros. Television. Adds Wyman: “The alternate world storyline really allowed us to explore the characters deeper via their doppelgängers, to illuminate characters we already know. It’s been a real gas for all of us involved in making the show.”

After tonight’s episode, Fringe will vanish from the space-time continuum for a few weeks, as most TV shows do during the holidays. When it presents itself again in our reality, it will do so on Jan. 21 (one week earlier than originally announced) in a new timeslot: Fridays at 9 p.m. What to expect when Fringe returns in January? To start, you’ll get an episode devoted to The Observers. (Back To The Future’s Christopher Lloyd will also appear in the episode as old buddy of Walter Bishop.) The producers also confirm that the mystery of The First People will get a lot of attention during the second half of the season. The move to Friday has caused many fans to worry that Fox has given up on the series, given the recent history of sci-fi programming on the night. Joss Whedon’s space western Firefly failed to find the requisite audience, and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles failed to thrive when Friday became its new home during its second, last season. (Fun Fact! The Jan. 21 episode is entitled… “Firefly.” Yes, it’s sly nod, but the irony is that the episode was written before the producers knew about the timeslot change.) The great, glorious Friday night exception, The X-Files, was a long time ago. Fringe, however, is different from Firefly, in that it is an established brand with a dedicated, mobilized fanbase. And unlike Terminator, Fringe is more of a critics/media darling and will be making the move while on a creative roll. Hopefully, those factors will make a difference. Hopefully. The producers insist they’re not sweating the situation.

“It doesn’t feel loaded to us,” says Pinkner. “It’s not like Fox is saying to us: ‘We’re falling out of love with the show. We’re burning it off by moving it to Friday.’” Pinkner says that Fox execs explained the move as part of a strategic rethink of its schedule precipitated by the midseason arrival of American Idol, which now airs on Wednesday and Thursdays. In principle, the producers had no problem with being moved (“For a year and half now, we’ve been asking — and our fans have been asking — to take us off Thursday because the landscape is crowded,” Pinkner says), and the producers are confident that Fringe loyalists will move with them. “The research shows that people love the show, but they don’t really want to watch it on Thursday night. Thursday is more of a romantic comedy kind of night, not a hard science fiction night,” says Wyman. “We hope our fans follow us to Friday night. It’s a much easier marketplace, and Fox is going to really support it; they think there’s a real opportunity to reinvent the night.” Adds Pinkner: “If this felt like a vote of no confidence from Fox, I’d be concerned. But they’ve verbalized the opposite. They think we have a better chance at staying on the air for years to come, which, of course, is what we want, because by design, we have years of story left to tell.”

Look for more weekly Fringe scoop when the show returns next month — and be sure to come back tomorrow for Ken Tucker’s recap of “Marionette.” In the meantime, we’d love to hear your thoughts on these burning questions for Fringe fans, especially those who watch the show in real time on Thursday night: Will you be watching on Friday? And does the move to Friday worry you enough to stop watching the show altogether because of fear of cancellation?

Read more:
‘Fringe’ recap: ‘Entrada’ and exits, lives saved and lost
‘Fringe’ exclusive: See the movie-style trailer for Thursday’s epic ep ‘Entrada’

Comments (290 total) Add your comment
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  • daviddavid

    Best show on TV right now … Friday is not a great idea … but, this viewer will still watch it … in real time if I can!

    • whereisit

      My DVR works on Friday night, so I am OK.

    • elr

      I feel the same way as you daviddavid. I will follow and watch wherever they put it.

      • Daniel

        I just really hope this isn’t the first step toward cancellation. This is one of the most original shows I’ve seen. I really enjoy it and the Characters. I will definately be watching the show regardless of the time slot.

    • tjj50

      Same here!

    • Rush

      Sarah Connor, Dollhouse, and Firefly were just not strong enough shows to gain a Friday night following. Sorry Whedon fanboys, but it’s time for a reality check. I loved Firefly on Netflix but in retrospect I can see its flaws. Sarah Connor and Dollhouse never fully started firing on all cylinders. Also remember tha X-Files was good enough to build a loyal following through the years. Fringe is just a stronger show than others that have failed on Fridays.

    • Deb

      Will be watching…especially since SyFy channel messed up the Friday night line up with wrestling. (ick)

    • JAM

      Same here as well. Maybe they could follow it with Terriers ;)

    • jeff m

      it the new sci fi friday

    • Stef

      i agree. wish it would go back to tuesdays but i’ll watch it any night of the week!

    • Jailyss

      I am all for the Friday move!! Between Grey’s Anatomy and The Office, I can’t DVR Fringe! I always have to find them online! Now I can just watch it!!

    • Melissa

      I will continue to watch it regardless what day it ends up. Because itis one of the most original shows out. And it makes you think any thing is possible given the right circumstances and belief in what is possible.

  • Mark

    This show could be airing saturday morning at 4.am. i’d still watch it live.

    • Ed

      You and me both.

      • Nic.

        me, too :)

    • Efrem

      Don’t give the network suits any ideas! They might put it there and give us two more hours of American Idol. Boring…

    • La

      HaHa me too! My mother and I watch this show and wouldn’t miss it for Armeggedon!

  • John

    Definitely will watch on Friday!! Best way to start the weekend.

    • Eric

      I concur John.

  • Dicazi

    Whither Fringe goest, I will go.

    • martisco

      Whither Fringe goest, I will go as well…

      • Ed

        I will be thither as well!

    • Bryan

      Whether hither or thither, if I don’t go, I’ll wither. DVR prepared…

  • commentor

    The X-Files started and FLOURISHED on Fridays. No reason Fringe can’t do it too! I’m glad to see it move from the Thursday programming log jam! I actually wish this was on Monday or Tuesday though.

    • cassopeia

      Monday would be perfect. *sigh*

  • Dicazi

    Nothing on Earth (short of death) could keep me from watching Fringe, whatever time it’s on. And why all the secrecy about tonight’s plotline? It was in the previews after “Entrada”.

  • cassopeia

    No, I’ll have to find another way to watch it. I hope the show is on itunes or online. I love Fringe but now it’s again a decision between ‘Supernatural’ and ‘Fringe’ and I’ll always go with SPN.

  • RYan

    I love this show, but friday is going to be tough. After a long work week, i am usually out and about celebrating the weekend. I hope they take into account all the people who DVR the show. One of the best shows on tv right now, and i would be devestated to see the show even take a small dive. Writing is great, Characters are great, Plot is thick, mysteries are there, Actors can act, keeps me coming back! I would like to see a wednesday night lineup with fringe at 9 or 10!

    • RYan

      Also, love the fact that a new monster every week keeps the audience interested, then there’s the slow build up of what’s to come. There is so much story to tell and i cant wait to see it play out!

      • Grumpster

        I hated the “monster of the week” theme. That turned me off and I only started rewatching when they got rid of that crap of self-contained idiocy.

  • MSR

    Once the new online ratings system goes into effect I’ll be watching within 3 days for sure (so my view actually counts in the ratings)

    • davey

      I haven’t heard about this new rating system – you mean the nielsen ratings?

  • Alp Beck

    I’m dropping cable, but there’s no way I will drop Fringe. The show is engagingly brilliant – consistently written and one of the few shows I lool=k forward to every week. If it was broadcast on a building in Times Square only, I’d make sure to be there. Keep up the great work. Let Fox see that Friday’s have weight.

    • gamemastor

      if you drop cable you can still watch Fringe.. It is on Fox and is awesome. there are many alternatives to see Fringe.. I haven’t had cable in over 3 years but still watch Fringe faithfully since day one! I won’t miss an episode.. I love this show!

  • Elizabeth

    Ok, move it to Fridays, but don’t keep switching it all over the place.
    Here’s hoping Doc Brown & Walter take a spin in the DeLorean…

  • Glen

    I will certainly watch Fringe on Fridays, I watch it live and recorded. This is very well written show and the actors are great especially Anna Torv who really showed her acting chop with the having to portray two Olivia’s.

    • tracy bluth

      Everyone in the cast is so, so good. Even Astrid, who used to be a kind of pointless character, has been amazing this season. It’s a shame none of the cast members will probably be Emmy recognized.

    • martisco

      acting chop? Is that like a karate chop? (“Hayyyyyy-YAH!”)

      She should “acting-chop” the Emmy voters in revenge for John Noble not getting nominated last time.

      • Casey

        Lol, I completely agree with that sentiment. And she should acting-chop them another time for herself, because she won’t get recognized either. This comment and the wither/thither exchange going up there gave me a good laugh.

    • davey

      I aso watch it live and once again on the weekend after I have read EW’s recap since I always miss something on the first viewing :)

  • Chase Dunnette

    Since Lost has been off the air, Fringe has been my main show. But, in all sincerity, I have never had that drive that I HAD to watch Fringe live (as opposed to Lost, which I would take off work to make sure I would not miss it). Maybe this is due to the fact that I am always busy Thursday nights, but basically ALL of my Thursday night, and coincidentally Friday night, shows are watched during the weekend (either Saturday or Sunday). So the move does not bother me except for the first reaction of OH NO IT’S BEING CANCELLED! I love me some Fringe. And I love Smallville. So I may actually start making it the norm to watch live on Fridays from 8-10. Kind of like a rekindled TGIF approach (minus Sabrina thankfully).

    • fireflyfan

      does that mean we get Boy Meets World back? I could deal with that!

      “Feeny….Feeny!…. Fee-eee-eee-eeny!”

  • Jay

    Oh, Fringe…. I will follow you wherever you go.
    Here’s to Fringe Fridays!!!! :)

  • JC

    I’m going to have to get myself a DVR for Christmas so I’ll be able to watch Fringe next year. Stupid American Idol.

    • tana

      Idol will conflict fringe..is this what ur saying??

      • Jay

        No, he is pissed that because of “stupid American Idol” that Fringe had to move to Fridays

    • Ed

      Or you can watch them on Fox.com

    • nj

      Yes, I agree. Stupid american idol! LOVE Fringe and I will watch it Fridays.

    • Carla

      How can we get American Idol cancelled. I hate that show.

      • Jay

        Just do your part…. dont watch FOX on Wednesdays or Thursdays.

      • Amber

        with the new judges I’m sure AI will get itself cancelled.

    • Cult of Heather

      Hulu shows it next day. I don’t have cable and that’s where I see it when I miss it live.

      • Gil

        I agree with you Carla 100%

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