With Season 4 now official, J.H. Wyman and Jeff Pinkner chat with IGN about the big news.
Fringe fans, myself included, got some very happy news Thursday night, as word broke that the show had been renewed for Season 4. In the wake of this announcement, I spoke to Fringe’s Executive Producers/Showrunners Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman, to get their reaction.
Because I’ve already seen tonight’s new episode of Fringe, “Bloodline,” I also was able to ask Pinkner and Wyman some questions about it and what’s to come on the series in the final four episodes of the season. But since this interview is running prior to “Bloodline” airing, look for the second part of our chat next week. Which is to say, don’t worry, there aren’t any spoilers here!
IGN TV: Were you surprised to get the renewal now? I think most of us assumed that we’d be waiting until May to find out.
Jeff Pinkner: It’s funny, because FOX has been so supportive, all year long. They were supportive prior to the move to Friday night. They put the move in context. They told us very clearly what we’ve been saying to everybody: “This is not a move on the way off the schedule. This is a move to see if your audience will follow you. We’re just trying to test the loyalty of the audience, because if the same audience comes back on Friday nights, we’re in awesome shape.” And of course, the audience did. And then ever since, FOX has been very upfront that there are lots of factors that go into the timing of pickups, but, “You guys are in great shape.” And then that started to get a little bit louder and a little bit more present over the last week or two, as we started to talk about what next year would look like. And then we both received the phone call from Peter Roth at Warner Bros. yesterday, who had just gotten off the phone with [FOX President] Kevin Reilly.
IGN: I think it’s probably just another mark of the internet and how much everything is hyper-examined that when ratings are released each week these days, you have all of these websites and message boards dissecting it and sometimes jumping to conclusions – “It went down this week! It’s done for sure!” Do you feel like maybe sometimes people are missing the big picture?
J.H. Wyman: Yeah, that’s a problem. Look, they do it because it’s a cliche and it’s a cliche because it’s true – obviously when numbers are bad it doesn’t usually spell success for a show. But as far as Fringe is concerned, there’s been a lot of naysayers from the beginning, saying, as soon as we moved to Thursdays, “Oh, they’re done.” So everybody’s always going to say that. But it’s worth it to say that so many times, fans — Jeff and I included as fans of other shows — get disappointed when a show gets cancelled. And they’re so quick to say, “Oh, the network, screw them!” But FOX, by the same token, now, because they showed their faith in the show and heard the fans and heard you guys, the press, they should get accolades for that and [people saying], “Look, they really believed in it,” and that’s never happened. So I just hope that as much ire as they give them when they take something they love off the air, I hope that they’re going to go the exact opposite way and give them the props they deserve for their decision. But as far as the numbers go, look, we knew on Thursday we needed a better number to survive. Kevin was very, very fair and real with us and said, “Look, this is what we expect.” And that’s where we are. So we have a real presence on Friday nights and it’s not so much a death slot anymore.
IGN: As one of the journalists quoted in that, “Oh no, the Death Slot” promo FOX made [Editor’s Note: Watch below!], I’m very happy to be wrong!
Pinkner: [Laughs] It’s funny, because obviously the networks are broadcast networks and they have to play to a big audience. What we’re really proud about with our show, among other things, is that the fans are deeply loyal. We got a message that several buckets of red licorice were sent to FOX today as a thank you from the fans of the show, which is just sweet and adorable and kind and incredibly gratifying. Yeah, as you say, everything now is a story. Everything is instant. And the numbers, it’s a body of work. And the network has said that they believe in us creatively and they know that there’s a passionate, loyal following for the show and there are real fans at the network. So we do what we do and we let the chips fall as they will.
Wyman: Yeah, we’ve enjoyed a lot of support from them.
IGN: It seems like the Nielsen ratings are so antiquated and we all know there are so many other ways for people to watch shows now – and that Fringe specifically has a lot of viewers who DVR it. Do you think this might at least be one sign that we’re going in the right direction as far as networks looking at all these other factors, when making the decision whether to renew or not?
Pinkner: Yeah. We think that this is an evolution and we’re in the middle of it. It’s so hard, because there are so many factors that go into it. Obviously the studios make their money based on advertising and the assumption that when people DVR shows they fast forward through the advertising is either true or not. It’s no more true than when a commercial comes on and you’re watching live and you stand up and go to the fridge, you know? You either look at the TV or you don’t. But absent a better idea, this is the business model. And fortunately or unfortunately, it’s out of our hands. These are things we can’t control. All we can do is make the best product that we can and then either in success or getting pulled off the schedule, deal with the consequences.
IGN: Let me ask you about tonight’s new episode. The promos show that we’re going back to the “other side,” and obviously Olivia knows she is pregnant now. What can you tease about what’s to come?
Pinkner: What we had a lot of fun doing this season is there are ideas that we planted early, early on in the series, and they’ve started to come around. One of the themes is mirroring and choices and the fact that the present and the past and the future are all really on a continuum, happening simultaneously. There are many possible futures, it’s just a question of which one comes to pass. And tonight’s episode recalls, in a very stark and graphic and sort of game changing way, one of the very earliest episodes of the show.
IGN: What was Anna’s reaction learning one of her two Olivia characters would be pregnant?
Wyman: She was up for it! All our cast has such a terrific attitude. They get as excited as we do. They really embrace the ideas. She’s had a lot of challenges and she’s met them with such aplomb. She’s really terrific. She was happy!
Pinkner: Of all the things we ask our cast to do, Anna specifically… “Hey, guess what? Now you’re William Bell!”
Wyman: [Laughs] There’s like a small silence and then she goes, “Oh, that’s awesome!”
Pinkner: And we’ve thrown similar challenges at Josh and John all the time. “Hey, you’re pregnant,” that’s perhaps the most real world of all of them.
IGN: [Laughs] You’re right! In the Fringe-verse, that’s nothing!