Low ratings be darned, FOX has ordered a fifth season of the previously unkillable sci-fi drama "Fringe." However, the 13-episode fifth season will be the last for the cult favorite.
The network announced on Thursday (April 26) afternoon that "Fringe" has received yet another against-all-odds pickup after withstanding a full season of Friday night adversity.
"'Fringe' is a remarkably creative series that has set the bar as one of television’s most imaginative dramas," states FOX Entertainment President Kevin Reilly. "Bringing it back for a final 13 allows us to provide the climactic conclusion that its passionate and loyal fans deserve. The amazing work the producers, writers and the incredibly talented cast and crew have delivered the last four seasons has literally been out of this world. Although the end is bittersweet, it’s going to be a very exciting final chapter."
Adds series co-creator J.J. Abrams, "We are thrilled and beyond grateful that FOX -- and our fans -- have made the impossible possible: 'Fringe' will continue into a fifth season that will allow the series to conclude in a wild and thrilling way. All of us at Bad Robot are forever indebted to our viewers and the amazingly supportive FOX network for allowing the adventures of Fringe Division to not only continue, but to resolve in a way that perfectly fits the show."
For the season, "Fringe" has averaged a dismal 1.2 rating among adults 18-49 for live+same-day viewership, but when live+7 DVR figures are added in, "Fringe" soars 66.7 percent to a somewhat-more-palatable 2.0 rating in the all-important demographic.
The percentage growth is sometimes even more impressive, as with the show's April 6 episode, which added a whopping 80 percent when DVR figures were added in. Of course, that still takes "Fringe" only to a 1.8 key demo rating for that recent airing, but ratings have never been the only thing keeping "Fringe" afloat.
In fact, "profit" hasn't been one of the things keeping "Fringe" afloat.
Talking to reporters about the WBTV production at the January TCA press tour, Reilly said, "'Fringe' has been a point of pride. I share the passion for the show that the fans have. I love the fact that FOX, after letting down some of the genre fans over the years, put one on. I love the fans, that they stuck with it and went to Friday night with us. It’s vastly improved our Friday night. You know, we have a Friday night for the first time in a long, long time. The hesitation in my voice is that it’s an expensive show. We lose a lot of money on the show. At that rating on that night, it's almost impossible for us to make money on it. That's been the case now over the last season."
Carried by Abrams' name and an exhaustively promoted pilot, "Fringe" was an early hit for FOX, drawing over 13 million viewers in its second episode. Those numbers failed to hold up and amidst time period switches and over attrition, "Fringe" was already in trouble by the end of its first season and seemed to be on the verge of cancellation after its second season and particularly after its third season, which included a shift to Friday nights. Airing exclusively on Fridays this year, "Fringe" has flirted with the 3 million viewer mark most weeks and occasionally dipped below a 1.0 key demo rating in overnights.
While ratings have gone down, however, the passion of the remaining fans has only grown more concentrated as what started as an "X Files"-esque procedural about wacky occurrences became a drama capable of crossing dimensions and jumping through timelines at will.
Longtime showrunners Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman state, "This pickup means the world (both of them) to us, because we love sharing these stories with our enthusiastic fans. On behalf of the cast and crew, we applaud our fans and FOX for allowing us to imagine the impossibilities together for so long. Season Five is going to be a conclusive thrill ride for all of us."
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A long-time member of the TCA Board and a longer-time blogger of "American Idol," Dan Fienberg writes about TV, except for when he writes about movies or sometimes writes about the Red Sox. But never music. He would sound stupid talking about music.