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If Fringe gets cancelled this year, it’s all FOX’s fault. Granted, the network kept the show on for a year longer than I thought it would. But the fact of the matter is, FOX just hasn’t realized that all these two-week breaks they’re just throwing into the show’s schedule are killing the shows. Don’t believe me? Well, let’s take a look back, starting in season two, just to see how network television’s best show has been affected by these breaks.

Take, for instance, what happened between the episode “Dream Logic” and the episode “Earthling.” “Dream Logic” aired on October 15, 2009, just before Fringe took a two-week break. No big deal, right? Wrong. “Dream Logic” had been about average for the season thus far, landing about 7.57 million viewers. When the show returned with the episode “Earthling” on November 5, the show had lost 2.62 million viewers. The show didn’t recover from this loss until the episode “Unearthed,” which only improved because it followed House, a more solid lead-in for the show than Bones.

The show managed to build itself up over its January run, and four episodes later, it was back up at 7.41 million viewers with its winter finale, “Jacksonville.” Not wanting to have dodged that bullet, FOX decided that it was about time for another break, and took the show off the air for two months.

I think you can guess what happened next.

Fringe returned on April 1 with “Peter,” which was its best episode up until that point — but it had lost one and a half million viewers. The show tried to recover but in the end just couldn’t, and ended its second season with 5.68 million viewers.

Now let’s talk this season. Fringe had been holding kind of steady at around 5.2 million viewers. Then after “Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?”, the fourth episode of the season, Fringe took a little break. Sure, it was for the World Series. But when the show came back in November, it had lost .4 million viewers. Sure, that’s less than the other two, but if the show had kept losing that many viewers, it would have been in the negative numbers by now.

So here we are now, looking another weeklong break in the face. Fringe is having its best season yet, but FOX has shaken off all the casual viewers. Fringe is a show you can’t miss from week-to-week, and viewers less casual than you or me might just switch off if they aren’t sure when the show is going to be, or whether or not they’ve missed an episode. The question remains as we’re going into December 2’s absolutely fantastic episode “Entrada”: Have we reached the end?

I mean that in two ways.

The first way is the obvious one: FOX has recently rescheduled Fringe to Fridays, the death slot that most recently consumed Dollhouse (which FOX charitably renewed once — but not twice — despite it having only two million fairly steadfast viewers). Are we looking at the end of network television’s highest quality sci-fi show? (And really, aside from NBC’s mediocre The Event, it’s the only one left).

The second way is much more optimistic: has Fringe finally reached its level of hardcore fans? FOX has shaken off quite a few viewers from the series. From the breaks alone, we’re looking at about 4.5 million viewers total. So are the 4.8 still remaining the solid ones? Have we reached the end of the amount of viewers left to lose? Do we now have just 4.8 million follow-Fringe-anywhere fanatics?

If so, we could be looking at good things. Just look back at Dollhouse.

Well, rather, Dollhouse’s schedule. We’ll have to look back at its first season due to the burning-off nature of the second season, but just take a look at this. It started in February 2009 and ran through May, for a total of twelve episodes. That means it only took a one-week break for the entire season. When you look back at the second half of Fringe’s second season, it took seven weeks off. That’s back when it lost the 1.5 million viewers.

So if FOX runs Fringe Fridays like it ran Dollhouse Fridays, and iff (the math term meaning “if and only if”) we’ve reached a plateau of the Fringe hardcore, we could be looking at smooth running for Fringe here on out. After all, Dollhouse was renewed after having a season that didn’t top Fringe’s current low of 4.8 million. So, provided that Fringe’s steadfast aren’t thrown off by the shift to Fridays, we could be looking at somewhere Fringe can at least hang on to the viewers it has left.

Stick with it, guys. We can keep this great show from falling victim to Fridays.

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