For Fox’s “Fringe,” which after five seasons ends its run tonight, the problem has never been about keeping its audience interested; it’s been about building its audience out. The sci-fi thriller has basically been a “bubble series” since the end of its first season and when all is said and done will have amassed 100 episodes. As audiences prepare to say goodbye to a series that defines the term “cult favorite,” many are noting “Fringe’s” ultimate success rested with its ability to connect with viewers in a way other shows had failed.
Over the last few seasons there’s been a growing trend on TV in which executives have cancelled popular (but low rated) shows, yet at the same time giving their audiences closure. Normally networks yield the cancellation axe a little too freely and come across like they don’t have any regard for their viewers.
However NBC, Fox and The CW specifically have taken great measures recently to ensure fans of shows like “Fringe,” “Chuck,” “One Tree Hill” and “Gossip Girl,” weren’t left on the hook when the time came for those series to end. In fact all of those dramas were picked up one last time just to give them a swan song season, which is a nice step in a long journey to win back gun shy audiences. It's also a step that series lead John Noble acknowledged today during the final part of TV Guide's fascinating oral history of the series.
"This is the perfect life for us. Give us the 13 episodes to get out. It's a wonderful way to finish, which they've given us, and I take my hat off to Fox for doing that, because that's, like, a really big gesture. They could have taken us off, but they didn't."
“Fringe” has never been shy about pulling out all the stops regardless of whether or not they’d have time to tie up any loose ends. After this is a show about time travel and alternate universes so it stands to reason it could be wrapped quickly (but probably also poorly) if need be, although luckily that won’t be the case and the series will have a proper finale tonight.
The two-hour capper has a lot of questions to answer but that doesn’t seem to faze the show’s loyal audience who has been taking to Twitter and social media over the last few days expressing their appreciation to Fox for letting “Fringe” go out on its own terms. Then again “Fringe” has always been about exploring identity, which is something Ted Anthony of the Associated Press spotlighted yesterday in his story on the finale.
“Science fiction though it is, "Fringe" has always been about universal themes: family, responsibility to community and, in the end, how our experiences shape our identities. Because even in our own universe, aren't we all different people — each of us, every day, calibrating our identities slightly to fit an ever more complex web of moments and interactions? That's what "Fringe" did.”
The series accomplished this feat courtesy of its strong ensemble led by Joshua Jackson, Anna Torv and the aforementioned breakout star John Noble. As Jackson’s father Walter, Noble has become one of the show’s most popular characters and ironically one of the most relatable. In a recent interview with TVLine, Noble put over the finale as strong saying “I hope history will judge it as one of the great finales of all time. I really believe they will.” It’s a sentiment echoed by co-creator J.J Abrams, who know a thing about controversial finales.
One of the men behind “Lost,” Abrams recently told reporters at the semi-annual Television Critics Association press tour that he thought tonight’s episode was “incredibly emotional.” He then jokingly said “if it’s not satisfying, I don’t know what satisfying is.”
Regardless, audiences know what satisfying is and for five years it’s been “Fringe.”
"Fringe's" finale airs tonight at 8 p.m. on EST.
So what's your take New York? What's your favorite moment from the show's run? Hit the comments and let us know.