'Fringe' exclusive: Fox execs on its 'deathslot'-spoofing promo and plans to attract new viewers

Fringe-time-slotEver since Fox announced it was moving its acclaimed but ratings-challenged sci-fi saga Fringe to Fridays from its current home on Thursday, fans have been blogging and tweeting much pessimism about the show’s chances for survival beyond this season. Friday is one of the least watched TV nights of the week, and in recent years, it hasn’t been too kind to sci-fi series — or at least Fox’s sci-fi series. See: Joss Whedon’s Firefly; Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Fox execs and Fringe’s exec producers have tried to get the word out that the network remains committed to the series, but fans remain nervous that Friday = Death for Fringe. So to further combat the perception that Fox has basically issued a “no confidence” vote in Fringe, the network did something unusual: It created a cheeky promo that tackles the fear-mongering head-on, spliced with darkly comic death-themed clips from the show and even spiked with quotes from a variety of Chicken Little bloggers. (“…a Friday air date is usually the beginning of the end for any series…” – Ethan Anderton / Collider.) Take a look: 

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According to Fox’s senior VP of marketing and special projects Dean Norris, the network began thinking about creating the provocative spot after making a Web splash with its movie-style trailer for “Entrada,” the Dec. 2 episode that marked a turning point in Fringe’s parallel world storyline. “We started getting feedback from the viewers that basically said, ‘How could Fox do something so cool for a show they’re going to kill?’ We started reading these things and said, ‘Wait! We have to address this!’” The mission was to produce a piece of communication that dealt with the situation in a self-deprecating fashion, yet also assuaged fan fears. The message, spelled out in the promo: “You May Think Friday Is Dead… But We’re Gonna Reanimate It.” (The reanimation idea is a coy reference to last week’s creepy episode “Marionette.”) The promo — cut by Ari Margolis in Fox’s “Special Ops” department (do they get to work in a secret underground bunker, too?) — took two days to produce. It was pitched last Thursday and finished on Monday and released first to the outlets quoted in the promo, thereby going right after those most likely to have been impacted by Geekdom’s town criers.

The promo is the beginning of a larger effort by Fox to shore up Fringe’s existing fanbase and hopefully grow the audience by targeting teen viewers who might be at home Friday night. (The show returns on Jan. 21) Fox will continue posting “pre-caps” (as opposed to “recaps”) at Fox.com featuring cast members and producers setting up each new episode. For viewers, they’re a more entertaining and personal approach to “Previously on…” rehashes. Additionally, Norris also says future on-air promos will emphasize Fringe’s horror elements, albeit not right away, as the first episodes on the new year are relatively light on Fringe-style gore.  “We are trying to rebrand Friday, and what we’re trying to do with this show specifically is make it kind of like forbidden fruit,” says Norris. “We want that teen demographic that might not be our audience right now to say, ‘That this is a show my parents might not want me to watch — but I’m going to watch it, anyway.’”

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  • Michael Sacal

    It could be worse… IT COULD BE ON TUESDAYS ON SYFY!!

    • Tim Lade

      Sadly the first of my predictions regarding the order of cancellations: SGU, then the Event, followed by V, then most likely Fringe has come true. The shape of things to come no doubt. So sad…

      • j

        First of all – who cares what day a show is “actually” on tv? I have not cared about the air date or time of any show since I got my DVR. Oh, it plays at 2am on Tuesday – big deal – the DVR stays awake for me 24/7. Also, I have not heard that Friday = Death for Supernatural. C’mon. I think that people talking about cancelling something makes it happen more so than anything that Fox could actually do.

      • SLB

        I agree. It’s 2010 people. DVR it. I don’t watch anything live anymore. And i never watched Fringe on Thursday. I usually watched it on Friday night anyway.

      • Upcomingauthor

        I agree with J, it didn’t mean death for Smallville either. Both shows are doing very well on the CW. Not to mention the fact that Fridays are mostly the nights all the new kid program shows like Ben Ten or Avatar: The Last Airbender on stations like Nickelodeon or Disney Channel, have their new episodes and no body wants to piss off a child which is why it being at nine instead of anything earlier is a good thing. If it had said it was coming on at eight on Fridays that’s when i would have started tripping ;)

      • korri

        Thats because this is already Supernatural’s last season…

        There are so many shows that go to Fridays to die

      • Onlymystory

        This isn’t Supernatural’s last season. At least not so far as anyone knows. If anything last season was a possible final season for Supernatural and they are currently having a fantastic season.

        I’m happy about the Fringe move because I can actually watch the show live instead of it fighting a million other great Thursday night options. Won’t be watching American Idol though.

    • Michael Sacal

      J

      The audience doesn’t care, but the networks do because for them what matters is the commercials, which is how they make money.

      The only way they’ll care about DVR is if the makers of those devices disable the fastforward function so that we are forced to watch the commercials.

      Of course, American commercials ARE entertaining, unlike Mexican commercials which is what I have to put up with, which are crap.

  • Seddie is meant to be

    If FOX wants to really back the show, it can stop with the stupid ads and move the show to either Monday or Tuesday or my favorite choice of Wednesday as the companion show to Human Target. And do more to promote the show, put ads on FOX NFL sunday, ads on primetime, schedule John Noble to go on Letterman, etc

    • Niix Starkyller

      So, they’re moving it to the death slot, telling everyone it’s one of the worst slots (tongue-in-cheek, w/e), AND they’re messing with the formula which makes it great. All at once. Awesome. FOX just continues to treat itself like a Dick Cheney hunting buddy.

      • Wood

        We defitniely need more smart people like you around.

    • Bob

      It’s the annual January problem for Fox shows when American Idol shows up. Everything gets shuffled around to accommodate that POS, which hopefully gets canceled after this season. The weakest shows go to the worst time slots. If AI gets canceled and Fringe survives to next season, things should return to ‘normal’.

      • Rox

        Hear hear Bob! When they moved Fringe from Tuesdays to Thursdays because of AI, I was dismayed … and took me a minute to catch up on episodes … hate when stations do the tv-show-shuffle (and loathe AI)

    • rowena

      actually, if fox REALLY wants to back the show, they’ll just give fringe an effing contract already so the writers can do their magic without fans freaking out with fear of an ax dropping over their favorite show’s head. this ad is funny and meant to reassure us, but sorry fox, you’ve betrayed sci-fi too many times for this to have much effect.

      it seems like no one really cares WHEN the show airs, just that it STAYS ON THE AIR!

      SAVE FRINGE! (and somebody please give john noble the emmy’s and golden globes he deserves already, this is getting ridiculous)

      • Onlymystory

        Anyone else find it depressingly hilarious that some of the most beloved sci-fi shows are on FOX and canceled far too soon? Fans & critics rave about these shows and then Fox cancels them. Maybe Fox should just embrace their talent for sci-fi, creepy crime solving, and apparently musicals.

  • Hen

    Well, I’m impressed. Fox is really making an effort to try something new and make this work. Although, watch it all ironically flop hard regardless. I’ll watch the show. I love it and want it to succeed.

    • Niix Starkyller

      I’m not. I’ll go down with the ship, but when the senior VP of marketing and special projects starts talking about the demo they want to attract, it smacks of be-suited meddling.
      Plus, their track record stinks. T:SCC, Firefly, Dollhouse, hell … Drive. Not sure if those were all Fri-nighters but they sure were series I was interested in seeing more of before they got the axe. FOX ain’t HBO (I know, I know, net vs cable but still…) and they make ‘interesting’ choices. Fringe is a show which is more adult drama than freakishness. And I like it that way, TYVM.

  • Shaun

    Sorry… This FOX we’re talking about. They’ve lied plenty (and I’m not just talking about their “news” division). If they really wanted to help Fringe, they’d put it on after Glee or American Idol, the actors would be doing the talk shows, etc., and they’d air a new episode after the Super Bowl.

    They certainly wouldn’t dump it to Fridays, Against a show that draws many of the same viewers (Supernatural). I’m hoping that Fringe holds up well enough to get a fourth season, but I’m not sure.

    It’s pretty much a proven fact that shows on FOX Fridays don’t last. The last that did was X-Files, and that show was moved AWAY from Fridays before becoming a true hit.

    • JC

      I agree. Promote the F out of the show so even the non die hards know. It’s tough going against Supernatural…thank you DVR. But I’m not getting my hopes up. You’re right, if they really wanted it to do well, they’d put in on after a power lead in (Glee, House, AI…)

    • Dennis

      They tried running Fringe after American Idol in season 1. Heck, they even had the Observer on AI. And what happened? AI ran long because it is live, and people ended up missing the last 15 minutes of Fringe. Sure, the ratings went up, much not as much as they wanted. AI needs a show like GLEE after it, not Fringe which is much better suited with House or Bones.

      • AT

        AI runs long because their producers suck. Every other live show on TV has no problem keeping within their time limits.

      • Onlymystory

        AI would end on time if Ryan Seacrest would shut up.

    • Mike

      You can’t put Fringe after Glee or American Idol or it would need Glee-like ratings to stay there. Friday slot is a good slot. But it would have been much better if Fringe actually started at that slot.

  • hana

    Interesting that Fox is going back to promoting the SFX/gore aspects of the show… incidentally, that is why I got hooked on the show last year, although I absolutely love the more relationship-oriented and sci-fi aspects of the show in Season 3. Fringe has everything – and I still love the scary moments too.

  • Chels

    love this show!

  • Ellie

    I don’t know about you, but it does not matter when it comes on for me. Friday night or not, I’m still going to watch this show, and am going to follow it to the very end because I love the show too much to just give up on it. If others did the same, it might not become the new Firefly.

  • Aimee

    My son is 17 and loves Fringe and of course, I approve. But then again he grew up watching the X-files.

    Please don’t turn Fringe into
    CW-like shows or it will blow up in your face, Fox

    • Julie

      Thank you for commenting on that part of the article! I’m also 17 and I watch the show with my dad. Yes, it’s creepy, but I don’t think that branding it as a “forbidden fruit” will be at all helpful.

    • Heath

      I’d agree with your comment regarding The CW, but Supernatural airs on that network and continuously maintains a standard of high quality.

  • David

    I’d really like to believe the suits at Fox, but their track record of bungling their sci-fi shows makes it hard. The fact that they just cancelled the show in that Friday spot also weighs in. I’ll religiously watch it, but I don’t trust the Fox suits at all at this point.

  • Jessica

    I could not live without Noble! He’s amazing. To reassure Fringe viewers, Fox could renew the show for a 4th season NOW and promise to put it on a different night if Friday does not work. I love you Fringe!

  • Jenn

    well, just remember – The X-Files premiered on Friday nights and did well (though it did later get moved to Sundays…..)

  • Jose

    This show is one of the best seen in several years. Remember when the writers strike happened, it took several months for people to watch series again, several never recover and died. I said this to make the point that viewers are really sensitive with the shows we like and blunt moves like this will kill the show. Friday is night out, party night, date, out to eat, come on….., this is not a well planned move, I don’t know who is the mind behind this, but sorry friends bad move. Keep the show on Thursdays or Wednesday, this is like looking the Leno-Conan disaster.

  • laurette

    I don’t think Fox is trying to turn the show into anything that it’s not. I think they are just trying to play up certain aspects (gore, horror) that have always been part of Fringe but have been downplayed in their advertising. I’m cautiously approving…

    • Liz

      I agree. I don’t trust them completely … I’m very nervous about it not working and them canceling the show … but they seem to have the right idea. I expect to see Fringe ads EVERYWHERE, FOX!

  • JC

    If it’s going to Friday, fine…just promote the heck out of it so non-casual fans KNOW it has moved to Friday. Or just move it to a weekday!

    • mojito

      friday it’s a day of the week…

  • Tajah

    I love this show and I hope FOX realizes the potential of Fringe. Take care of this show and promote it. Fringe deserves it.

    • Jules

      Couldn’t agree more!

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