Fringe is a new science fiction television show created by J.J. Abrams that has been compared to the X-Files by pretty much everyone. I like it, it's a quality show with a diverse set of characters and built in conflicts that could stretch those interesting relationships for years while they delve into the strange, wonderful, terrifying and sometimes gooey realm of science fiction.
I think it's worth watching and they should give it a year.
There's a problem, however. The Nielson ratings system (which is a pointless, outdated, overpriced, bloated, service the television world worships as gospel), reported that fewer than ten million people tuned in for the premiere. This is a problem because J.J. Abrams is also one of the creators of Lost, which posted over eighteen million viewers for it's premiere and has done amazingly well every year since, even when the show had "lost it's way" according to most viewers it posted premiere numbers well above Fringe. (That was season three for everyone who isn't hooked into the Lost phenomenon).
Fringe had some serious obstacles to overcome on its premiere night and it's important to take them into account, though I doubt the networks will. Here's a few of them.
The full pilot episode was "leaked" on the Internet almost two months ago. I saw a clip of it and it was in high defenition, perfect sound and picture. You honestly couldn't do better on the quality. Piracy of this premere was so pervasive that it made it to the Russian DVD market, where thousands of copies were sold marked as; "created by the director of Star Trek". Even though the upcoming Trek film isn't out, it must have worked. Bootleggers made a fortune, there are even subs in a dozen or so languages available online. So perhaps the right phrase here is: "The pilot episode was projectile vomited across the globe" instead of "leaked."
The advertising sucked. I knew exactly what this show was about since I had read up on it but after watching the first television ads I couldn't imagine anyone on earth understanding the premise behind the show. The 30 second long ad was also very irritating. It told you nothing, looked like a badly edited clip show and there was almost no dialogue. Even I was turned off and I already liked the idea behind the show. Advertising following that terrible mess included more dialogue, more descriptive narration but still didn't tell anyone what the premise of the show was in a clear way that the common IQ 85 viewer could understand. That's your audience advertisers! Those are the only people left on the sofa when the advertising comes on, because anyone with an IQ over 85 is smart enough to have something else to do while your ads are rolling or they used their TiVo and don't watch the commercials.
Here's another problem: The audience most interested in this type of programming are also most likely to use their DVR (Digital Video Recorder, for those of you still living in the 80s), and those figures don't count in the Neilson Ratings system. They're lightly considered after the fact.
The critics generally didn't like this show. Considering most of them are out of date and no longer in touch with the general audience themselves, I don't respect their opinions much. The sad fact is that people see these bad reviews and are too lazy to tune in and find out for themselves whether or not the show is good for them. Three's Company got terrible reviews back in the day, but it had massive ratings. Eventually the critics gave it good reviews just so they could save face a little.
Anyway, hopefully the CW Network (what a terrible name), gives Fringe a season to show it's stuff. I'm sure J.J. will gladly give it his best shot and it'll be the best oddity show on television for a while. I will be surprised if they do give it a chance, however, since the CW Network is already in big trouble and they're sorely disappointed with Fringe's performance. Since the whole network is run by corporate hacks who don't care if it's a good show, only that advertisers are interested, I expect to maybe see 6-13 episodes of Fringe before they flush it.
I'm starting to think if I ever get an opportunity to produce my own intellectual property in a visual medium I might just want to do it on a straight to Internet and DVD basis. Sure, the advertising budget has to be pretty high, but hell, at least I won't have to deal with Corporate heads who would rather sit around and watch the commercials.