TV Highpoints and Lowpoints of 2010-2011... Number 6

There was both good and bad news for the so-called geek and nerd audience, as Fringe survived its move to Friday night, but they were left with no Space Opera with the cancellation of Caprica and Stargate Universe.

High Point Number 6: Fringe Survives the Friday Night Death Slot

For the past three years Fringe has delivered some of the most interesting sci-fi on TV. So fans of the show learned late in 2010 that the series was being moved to Friday night, into what has become known more and more as The Death Slot (a designation so widely used that it has its own Wikipedia article).

For the past two decades Friday night on Fox TV has been the place where shows go to die. The Adventures of Briscoe County Jr., Brimstone, Dark Angel, Firefly, Tru Calling,Wonderfalls, M.A.N.T.I.S., Sliders, and Dollhouse were all cancelled after failing to attract a significant audience on Friday night. More disturbingly, Fox has had a tendency to shift shows it intends to cancel into the slot, including such shows nearing their end as Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Malcolm in the Middle, and The Bernie Mac Show.

At one time Friday and Saturday evenings were major nights for television viewers. But this began changing due to significant changes in American TV viewing habits. The development of cable television came first, which resulted in an ongoing fragmentation of the viewing audience, a trend that not only continues, but has accelerated as the Internet provides more alternatives to cable. Many younger viewers, in fact, eschew cable TV entirely, relying instead on streaming content or downloading from Torrent websites.

But what redefined TV use on Fridays and Saturdays even more was first the invention of the VCR and then its replacement by the DVD player. Complicating TV programming further is the fact that many of the younger viewers tend to go out on Fridays, thus depriving the networks of the very ones they prefer to target in their advertising. DVRs mean that no one has to miss a show.

Most networks have taken either of three approaches to Friday nights (Saturdays they have simply given up on).

First, some target older audiences. CBS has had considerable success with this approach, while shows like Monk on the USA Network. Even though they are not able to charge as much in advertising because the audiences are outside the coveted younger age bracket, they at least are able to attract considerable niche advertising.

Second, some have opted for cheap reality television. Most of the networks have toyed with food programs, nanny shows, or other formats to try and retain some audience share.

The third approach has been to target the nerds and geeks. I suppose the assumption is that fans of sci-fi and fantasy have no lives apart from their weekly meetings to play Magic: The Gathering, or perhaps it's the memory of the massive success The X-Files enjoyed on the night in its early seasons.

Whatever the reason, Friday night has become the Night of the Nerd. The two networks that have most consistently tried to schedule sci-fiand fantasy on Fridays have been Fox and SyFy, though the latter has more recently shifted its post-Battlestar Galactica shows to other evenings. Two years ago the CW shifted Smallville to Friday, which did surprisingly well, encouraging them to pair it this past season with Supernatural this past season. With Smallville having finished its decade-long run, the Winchester Brothers will be paired this coming season with Nikita. NBC is joining the rush towards Friday night sci-fi/fantasy programing by pairing its nerd espionage series Chuck with the new fantasy series Grimm.

Nonetheless, despite all these signs that several networks see Friday night as the evening to vie for the nerd niche audience, Fringe fans were understandably nervous. Too many Fox series had, after all, been moved to Fridays as a preliminary to cancellation. Even as part of the weeknight schedule Fringe had not been a ratings beast, especially when compared to Fox’s other scripted shows like 24, Glee, or even House and Bones, not to mention American Idol.

Fans of the show felt that there was a lot at stake for fans of sci-fi and fantasy. During the past year a string of genre shows either were cancelled or ended intentionally, including Caprica, Smallville, Stargate Universe, and the two superhero disappointments No Ordinary Family and The Cape. There was also widespread disappointment that several TV pilots did not make it to series, with networks declining to pick up the magical detective series 17th Precinct, the controversial Wonder Woman, and the highly anticipated Locke and Key. Of the sci-fi series remaining on the air, Fringe probably is the most critically acclaimed. A few new shows are scheduled for next year. Alphas, about a government agency manned with individuals with superpowers, has already started on SyFy, and although extremely derivative, nonetheless has enough style to be a welcome new addition, unlike the poorly conceived alien invasion series Falling Skies. The teen-oriented witchcraft series The Secret Circle debuts on the CW, while Powers is one of the more promising series Fox is developing.

Fringe is definitely a show that deserves to survive. It has the marks of a great series: fine characters, strong writing, and its own style. In fairness, it's no greater than several of the other shows that Fox cancelled after being scheduled on Friday. But perhaps after all this time the network has decided that it's spitting into the wind, that no show is going to get better numbers than Fringe. I do suspect that the relative success of Fringe and perhaps even more the achievement of Smallville in holding its numbers upon moving to the night may be partly behind NBC’s scheduling two shows on the evening.

But not all the news for nerds is good. Just consider…

Next Page





'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.


Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".


PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.


Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.


Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.


Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.


Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.


Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.