Fringe (TV series)

Fringe (TV series)
Fringe intertitle.png
Created by
Theme music composer J. J. Abrams
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 70 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
Running time
  • 81 minutes ("Pilot")
  • 50 minutes (season 1)
  • 43 minutes (season 2–present)
Production company(s)
Original channel Fox
Original run September 9, 2008 (2008-09-09) – present
External links

Fringe is an American science fiction television series created by J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. The series follows a Federal Bureau of Investigation "Fringe Division" team based in Boston, Massachusetts under the supervision of Homeland Security. The team uses unorthodox "fringe" science and FBI investigative techniques to investigate a series of unexplained, often ghastly occurrences, which are related to mysteries surrounding a parallel universe. The show has been described as a hybrid of The X-Files, Altered States, The Twilight Zone and Dark Angel.[1][2]

The series premiered in North America on September 9, 2008, on the Fox network. The series is currently in its fourth season, which premiered on September 23, 2011.[3]



Fringe follows the casework of the Fringe Division, a Joint Federal Task Force supported primarily by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which includes Agent Olivia Dunham; Dr. Walter Bishop, the archetypal mad scientist; and Peter Bishop, Walter's estranged son and jack-of-all-trades. They are supported by Phillip Broyles, the force's director, and Agent Astrid Farnsworth, who assists Walter in laboratory research. The Fringe Division investigates cases relating to fringe science, ranging from transhumanist experiments gone wrong to the prospect of a destructive technological singularity to a possible collision of two parallel universes. The Fringe Division's work often intersects with advanced biotechnology developed by a company called Massive Dynamic, founded by Walter's former partner, Dr. William Bell and run by their common friend, Nina Sharp. The team is also watched silently by a group of bald, pale men who are called "Observers".

Season 1 introduces the Fringe Division as they investigate cases that form "the Pattern", many orchestrated by an international network of rogue scientists, known as ZFT (Zerstörung durch Fortschritte der Technologie, or in English, Destruction through Advancement of Technology), who are preparing for a doomsday event. Olivia comes to learn she was a child test subject for Walter years ago for a nootropic drug, Cortexiphan, giving her weak psionic abilities. Walter also struggles with adjusting to normal life in Peter's care after living seventeen years in a mental institution, and hides a secret about Peter's past from him.

In Season 2, the occurrences are found to be in conjunction with activities of a parallel universe, which is plagued by singularities occurring at weakened points of the fabric between worlds. The Fringe team deals with more cases that are leading to a "great storm" as the parallel universe appears to be at war with the prime one, engineered by human-machine hybrid shapeshifters from the parallel universe. Walter is forced to tell Peter that he is from the parallel universe, a replacement for his own Peter that died from a genetic disease, and that it is his prior experiments that caused the singularities in the parallel universe.[4]

Season 3 presents episodes that alternate between the two universes. "Walternate",[5] Walter's doppelgänger in the parallel universe, is the U.S. Secretary of Defense and has set events in motion to assemble a doomsday device that reacts only to Peter's biology. He also sent his Olivia, "Fauxlivia", to the prime universe in Olivia's place, to engage the Fringe Division and assemble the prime universe's version of the device, while he studies Olivia's Cortexiphan-induced powers. By happenstance, Fauxlivia becomes pregnant with Peter's child before being outed and extracted to the parallel universe. Walternate orchestrated acceleration of the pregnancy to gain a sample of the baby's blood, which he uses to activate the machine. Peter, with Olivia's help, enters the prime version of the machine, and experiences a vision of the future where the parallel universe has been destroyed and the same fate threatens the prime one. Recovering in the present, Peter alters his plan and uses the machine to merge the two rooms, creating a bridge where inhabitants of both universes can solve their dilemma, before disappearing and being forgotten by both Walters and Olivias.

Season 4 begins in an alternate timeline, one in which Peter did not survive his childhood illness in either universe, according to the Observers. Walter still crossed over and brought back the parallel universe Peter, but this Peter drowned on their return. Though major events in their past have still occurred to the main characters in this timeline, the exact means by which they occurred has changed without Peter's influence; Walter was released from the mental institution by Olivia, but without any point of stability, has become reclusive and unwilling to leave his lab. The Observers note traces of Peter still appearing in this timeline and set out to eradicate them. Despite this, through Olivia and Walter's actions, Peter reappears in this timeline, though still carrying memories of the original timeline, and must rebuild the relationships he had before. Meanwhile, the Fringe division in the prime universe discover a new type of shapeshifter similar to those used by the parallel universe.

Parallel universe

One of Fringe's location titles, using block letters that float in the foreground. In this example, from "Olivia", the show takes place in the parallel universe's version of Manhattan, which is spelled with only one "t" in the parallel universe. Note the World Trade Center in the background.

Much of the story arc for Fringe involves a parallel universe that mostly mirrors the prime universe, but with numerous historical idiosyncrasies. The producers were strongly interested in "world building", and the parallel universe plot device allowed them to create a very similar world with a large amount of detail to fill in the texture of the world. A parallel universe would also allow them to show "how small choices that you make define you as a person and can change your life in large ways down the line", according to co-director Jeff Pinkner.[6] However, the producers also realize the concept of the parallel universe could be confusing to viewers and have introduced elements of the world in small pieces over the course of the first two seasons before the larger reveal in the second season finale and third season. J.H. Wyman stated that he would often pass the story ideas for the parallel universe by his father to see if it made sense, and would rework the script if his father found it confusing.[7] Such world building also gave them a risky opportunity to create stories that focused solely on characters from the parallel universe with nearly no ties to the main characters; as stated by Wyman, they would be able to "make two shows about one show", a concept that the network executives embraced.[8]

Glyph code

Prior to commercial breaks, a brief image of a glyph is shown. Abrams revealed in an interview that the glyphs had a hidden meaning. "It's something that we're doing for people who care to figure it out and follow it, but it's not something that a viewer has to consider when they watch the show."[9] Abrams also revealed that the seemingly unrelated frogs which have the Greek letter Phi (Φ) imprinted on their back appeared in promos for the show have significance within the context of the series, saying "it's part of the code of the show."[9] The glyph code was cracked by an editor at the technology site Ars Technica, who discovered it to be a simple substitution cipher used to spell out a single thematic word for each episode.[10] Whether there is a further second-order code to be solved remains to be seen. Additionally, the glyphs are representative of some of the means by which Walter solves a case (the Moth/Butterfly from "Johari Window", the Seahorse strain of DNA from "The Bishop Revival"). In "Jacksonville", behind Walter as he speaks to Olivia about her treatment is the daycare wall where the nootropic Cortexiphan was used as a trial, each of the Glyphs are clearly visible. An episode-by-episode key to the various glyphs was made available on Fringepedia.[11][12]

Opening sequence

The show's standard opening sequence interplays images of the glyph symbols alongside words representing fringe science topics, such as "teleportation" and "dark matter". Within the third season, with episodes that took place primarily in the parallel universe, a new set of titles was used, following a similar format, though tinted red instead of blue and using alternate fringe science concepts like "hypnosis" and "neuroscience". The difference in color has led some fans to call the prime universe the Blue one in contrast to the Red parallel one.[13] In the third season episode "Entrada", the titles used a mix of both the blue- and red-tinted versions, given the episode taking place equally in both universes.[14] In the show's two flashback episodes, "Peter" and "Subject 13", a variation on the sequence, using retro graphics akin to 1980s technology and phrases like "personal computing" and "genetic engineering", was used,[15] while for the dystopian future third season episode "The Day We Died", a black-toned theme, with more dire phrases like "hope" and "water" was introduced.[16] The fourth season premiere, "Neither Here Nor There" introduced an amber-toned title sequence with additional new terms.[17]


alt text
The cast and crew of Fringe at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con. From left to right: Jasika Nicole (Astrid Farnsworth), Blair Brown (Nina Sharp), Lance Reddick (Phillip Broyles), John Noble (Walter Bishop), Joshua Jackson (Peter Bishop), Anna Torv (Olivia Dunham), and producers J. H. Wyman and Jeff Pinkner

Main characters

Mark Valley played Olivia's partner and lover, John Scott, in the first season.
Seth Gabel, a guest star during season 3, joins Fringe full time as agent Lincoln Lee in season 4.
  • Anna Torv as Olivia Dunham (season 1–present), a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent assigned to investigate the spread of unexplained phenomena. Torv also plays Olivia's counterpart in the parallel universe, dubbed by the characters of the prime universe as "Fauxlivia".
  • Joshua Jackson as Peter Bishop (season 1–present), a jack-of-all-trades who is brought in as a civilian consultant by Olivia to work with his estranged father, Walter. Peter is actually Walternate's son from the parallel universe, abducted by Walter shortly after his own Peter's death at a young age.
  • John Noble as Doctor Walter Bishop (season 1–present), a former government researcher in the field of fringe science who was seen as a mad scientist and institutionalized after a lab accident in which his assistant was killed. Noble acts as the parallel universe's Walter, named "Walternate" by the characters in the prime universe. Walternate rose to power as the U.S. Secretary of Defense and instituted the war against the prime universe after the abduction of his son Peter.
  • Lance Reddick as Phillip Broyles (season 1–present), a Homeland Security agent and Senior-Agent-In-Charge (SAIC) who runs the Fringe Division. Reddick also performs the role of the parallel universe Broyles, who finds sympathy for Olivia and sacrifices himself during season 3 to allow her to escape the parallel universe.
  • Jasika Nicole as Astrid Farnsworth (season 1–present), an FBI Junior Agent and assistant to Olivia and Walter. Nicole also plays the parallel universe Astrid character, who has symptoms similar to Asperger syndrome as tribute to Nicole's sister who has the disorder.[18]
  • Blair Brown as Nina Sharp (season 1–present), the Chief Operating Officer of Massive Dynamic, a leading firm in science and technology research and longtime friend of Walter and William.
  • Kirk Acevedo as Charlie Francis (season 1–season 2, episodes 1–4, 11; recurring afterward), FBI Senior Agent, Olivia's colleague and close friend, and the second-in-command of the Fringe Division before his demise. Though Charlie was killed early in the second season, Acevedo reprises the parallel universe version of Charlie.
  • Mark Valley as John Scott (season 1, episodes 1–13), Olivia's former FBI partner and secret lover, and whose death in "Pilot" leads Olivia to join the Fringe division.
  • Seth Gabel as Lincoln Lee (recurring season 2–3; starring season 4[19]), an agent of the parallel universe Fringe Division. The prime universe version of Lincoln, also played by Gabel, appeared in the episode "Stowaway" as a special agent stationed at the FBI building in Hartford, Connecticut.[20][21]

Recurring characters

Michael Cerveris plays "September", one of the bald-headed Observers, and appears once in every episode.
Leonard Nimoy portrays William Bell, Walter's associate, both as a live action character in Seasons 1 and 2, and voicing an animated Bell in Season 3.
  • Michael Cerveris as The Observer (season 1–present), one of several "Observers", a traveling chronicler and enforcer of extraordinary events. He appears in one form or another, usually in an Alfred Hitchcock-like cameo, in each episode. He has never been referred to as "September" on-screen, but is credited as "September" in a press release for an episode[22] as well as interviews with the actor.[23]
  • Ari Graynor as Rachel Dunham (season 1–present), Olivia's sister.
  • Lily Pilblad as Ella Blake (season 1–present), Olivia's niece, the daughter of Rachel. Emily Meade portrays the future Ella.
  • Leonard Nimoy as William Bell (season 1–3), Walter's former lab partner, the founder of Massive Dynamic, apparently killed in the season 2 finale. Nimoy, who had retired from acting after season 2, agreed to provide the voice of Bell, allowing for the character's reappearance via way of an animated character in season 3.
  • Michael Gaston as Sanford Harris (season 1), an old nemesis of Olivia's assigned to assess Fringe Division.
  • Jared Harris as David Robert Jones (season 1), leader of the ZFT cult, and killed in the season 1 finale.
  • Chance Kelly as Mitchell Loeb (season 1), an FBI agent and mole working for ZFT.
  • Ryan McDonald as Brandon Fayette (season 2–present), a scientist at Massive Dynamic. In the parallel universe, Brandon works directly for Secretary of Defense Bishop, overseeing many of his less ethical projects.
  • Kevin Corrigan as Sam Weiss (season 2–present), Olivia's Yoda-like amateur psychologist and manager of a Boston-area bowling alley; his family line maintains knowledge of the "First People", a race of intelligent beings believed to have created the doomsday device.
  • Sebastian Roché as Thomas Jerome Newton (season 2–3), the leader of the shapeshifters, human/machine hybrids and undercover agents from the parallel universe. The character commits suicide during season 3.
  • Michelle Krusiec as Nadine Park (season 4).[24]



Co-created by J. J. Abrams, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, Fringe is produced by Bad Robot in association with Warner Bros. Television, as part of a commitment that Abrams previously made with the studio.[25] At the time, Abrams was working with Orci and Kurtzman on the Star Trek film, and used them to brainstorm ideas for the show.[25]

Abrams's inspiration for Fringe came from a range of sources, including the writings of Michael Crichton, the film Altered States, films by David Cronenberg, and the television series The X-Files and The Twilight Zone.[25][26] Orci stated that Fringe is a "new kind of storytelling", combining procedural shows such as Law & Order, and an "extremely serialized and very culty" series like Lost.[27] The procedural aspect was chosen as, at the time of its premiere, six of the ten top shows were procedural in nature; Orci stated that "you have to be a fool not to go study what it is that they're doing".[25] Though the team saw this as a way of presenting "mystery of the week"-type episodes, they wanted to focus more on how these stories were told in unpredictable ways rather than the actual mystery, recognizing that most of their target audience has seen such mysteries before through previous shows and films.[27] Instead, they wanted their storytelling to be original and unexpected, and, as claimed by Kurtzman, one of the most challenging aspects of developing the individual episodes.[27]

In considering the serialization aspect, Abrams recognized the difficulties that his earlier serialized shows, such as Lost and Alias, had in attracting and maintaining viewers that had not seen these shows from the start or who missed episodes sporadically, and sought to rectify that for Fringe, creating, as stated by David Itzkoff of the New York Times, "a show that suggested complexity but was comprehensible in any given episode".[25] One method was by introducing over-arching themes that individual episodes could be tied to, such as "The Pattern" in Season 1, providing information repeatedly about the larger plot over the course of several episodes or seasons.[25] Abrams also created characters whose alliances to the larger narrative were clear, avoiding a similar problem that had occurred during the first and second seasons of Alias.[25] A final step taken was to script out all of the major long-running plot elements, including the show's finale, prior to full-time production. Abrams contrasted this to the process used in Lost, where ideas like character flashbacks and the hatch from the second season were introduced haphazardly and made difficulties in defining when they should be presented to the viewers. Instead, with Fringe, they were able to create "clearly defined goalposts" (in Itzkoff's words) that could be altered as necessary with network and seasonal changes but always provided a clear target for the over-arching plot.[25] These approaches also allowed the team to introduce unique plot elements to be introduced in time that would have altered the show's fate if known at the start. Abrams stated that "There are certain details that are hugely important that I believe, if shared, will destroy any chance of actually getting on the air."[25] Abrams noted that they are able to benefit from "how open Fox as a network has been to a show that is embracing the weirdness and the long-term stories that we want to tell".[27] During the third season, executive producer Jeff Pinkner noted that "We have six to eight seasons worth of material. We see it as having certain chapters that would enrich the overall story, but aren't necessary to tell the overall story. God willing, the network allows us the time to tell our complete story."[28]

As part of the larger story, the writers have placed elements in earlier episodes that are referenced in episodes seasons later. For example, in the first season episode "The Ghost Network", the Fringe team encounters an amber-like substance, which is later shown to be a critical means to combat the breakdown of the parallel universe and eventually for the same in the prime universe with the third season episode "6B".[8] Pickner compared this aspect to "planting seeds", some which they know how they plan to use later in the show's story, while others they can find ways of incorporating into these later episodes.[8] He further attributed these elements as part of the "world building" to flesh out the show beyond episodic content.[8] The producers have stated that when the show's mythology is introduced, it is not simply there to tie episodes together, but "to provide answers that generate consequences".[29]

The show's main characters, Olivia, Peter, and Walter, were core of the concept for Fringe. They recognized early that "the idea that telling a father-son story and a relationship story was a really compelling one and a very accessible one", according to Kurtzman.[27] They were able to provide the characters with backstories that, like with other long-term plot elements, could be alluded to over several episodes and seasons.[27] The characters would also contrast with the typical procedural genre show; instead of having clearly defined roles episode to episode, and instead "have an emotional memory and an emotional investment", as stated by Orci.[27] This also allowed for, as necessary, characters to be removed or introduced to the show and have a larger impact on the other characters.[27]


Jeff Pinkner was selected to act as the head show runner and executive producer. Abrams noted that he trusts Pinkner after working together with him on Alias and Lost.[30] In season two, J.H. Wyman was brought on as executive producer and showrunner with Jeff Pinkner. Michael Giacchino, Abrams' frequent collaborator, composed the music for the pilot of Fringe, before handing over duties to his assistants Chad Seiter and Chris Tilton;[31] Giacchino retains an on-screen credit. Abrams himself wrote the series theme music.[32]

The two-hour pilot episode, filmed in Toronto, Canada, cost a total of $10 million to create.[33] A basement of an old church was used for Walter's lab set in the pilot, and this set was replicated at other film sites in New York and Vancouver when the show moved.[34][35] John Noble called his character's lab "the heart and soul of Fringe", so consequently, "That has to remain constant."[34] A cow used in the pilot episode had to be recast when production of Season 1 was moved to New York, due to livestock restrictions preventing it from being brought from Canada to the United States.[36][37] Other locations used in the first season included other universities to stage for the Harvard University campus, where Walter's lab is located. These included Pratt Institute and Yale University,[38] including its Old Campus (particularly Phelps Hall and Durfee Hall), Branford College, and the exterior of Yale Law School, University of Toronto's University College, Brooklyn College,[38] and Bahen Centre for Information Technology.[citation needed]

Filming of the Fringe episode "6B" in December 2010 at the Vancouver Film School building at Hastings and Cambie streets in Vancouver, staged as New York City

On February 21, 2009, it was reported that in the event that Fringe would be renewed for a second season, the show would move production to Vancouver from New York City as a cost-cutting measure.[39] Executive producer Jeff Pinkner explained:

"We want to stay in New York, New York has been incredibly good to us. It feels like we're being kicked out of the city. I know we're not, but they're making it impossible for us to afford doing the show... Our New York crew is spectacular, they've worked their [butts] off to make the show look great. But it looks like New York is not renewing a tax credit that makes it possible to make our budget in New York. So it looks like, out of necessity, we'll have to leave New York, which is not anything we are welcoming.[40]

Upon productions moving to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada for season 2, the University of British Columbia now stands in for Harvard.[38] The area around New Westminster often serves as filming locations for Fringe stories that take place in the parallel universe.[41]

Fringe was officially renewed for a second and third season on May 4, 2009 and March 6, 2010, respectively, with the show being moved to Thursday nights.[42][43] In the middle of the third season, the show was relocated to Friday nights, the so-called "Friday night death slot", and suffered from viewership drops (see U.S Ratings). Despite these, the Fox Network confirmed for a 22 episode pick-up for the fourth season of Fringe on March 24, 2011.[44] The show will remain at the Friday night slot for the season.[45]


The first actors cast were Kirk Acevedo and Mark Valley, who portrayed FBI agents Charlie Francis and John Scott, respectively.[46][47] John Noble and Lance Reddick, who play Dr. Walter Bishop and Homeland Security agent Phillip Broyles joined the cast later on.[48][49] Casting of Anna Torv, Blair Brown, and Jasika Nicole, who play Olivia Dunham, Massive Dynamic employee Nina Sharp, and Astrid Farnsworth, a federal agent and assistant to Olivia Dunham, respectively, followed;[50] while Joshua Jackson, who plays Peter Bishop, was the last main character to be cast.[51] Jackson auditioned for James T. Kirk in Abrams' Star Trek and believed this is what impressed the producer to cast him in his television project.[52]

On April 8, 2009, it was announced that Leonard Nimoy would appear as Walter Bishop's former lab partner, Dr. William Bell in the first season's finale, which explores the existence of an ominous parallel universe. This choice led one reviewer to question if Fringe's plot might be an homage to the Star Trek episode "Mirror, Mirror", which explored the concept of an alternate reality referred to as a "mirror universe", and an evil version of Spock distinguished by a goatee.[53] Nimoy returned as Dr. Bell for an extended arc, and according to Orci, Bell is "the beginning of the answers to even bigger questions."[54][55] Nimoy reprised his role in the second season finale, where his character and Walter met for a "showdown".[56] Nimoy's character is apparently dead after the season finale, having used himself to help Walter, Peter and the Alternate Olivia back to our universe. As he had retired from acting, it was thought unlikely that his character would return.[57] In February 2011 however, he announced his definite plan to return to Fringe and reprise his role as William Bell.[58] He returned to voice the character in the animated segments of the April 2011 episode "Lysergic Acid Diethylamide".[59]

Home video releases

The pilot episode was leaked via BitTorrent, three months before the series premiere; similar to leaked fellow Fox series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.[60] The series has been released on both DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats.

The first season of Fringe was released as a widescreen region 1 DVD box set on September 8, 2009.[61] In addition to all the episodes that had been aired, DVD extras included three commentary tracks, unaired scenes, gag reels and behind the scenes features. A "Fringe Pattern Analysis" was included on the Blu-ray version as an exclusive. The same set was released on September 28, 2009 in region 2[62] and on September 30, 2009 in region 4.[63]

The second season featured four commentary tracks, a gag reel, deleted scenes, behind the scenes videos and included the episode "Unearthed", an episode produced for the first season, which aired out of schedule during the second season. It was released in region 1 on September 14, 2010,[64] on September 27, 2010 in region 2[65] and on November 10, 2010 in region 4.[66]

The third season was released on September 6, 2011 in region 1,[67] and is scheduled for release on September 26, 2011 in region 2[68] and on October 26, 2011 in region 4.[69]

Other media


An alternate reality game, centered on the fictional Massive Dynamic corporation, was introduced during the pilot and featured "strange symbols paired with glowing dots" appearing throughout the episode and an "advertisement" for the company shown at the end with a web address for the game.[70]


On August 27, 2008, a prequel comic book (leading right up to the moment in the pilot where Olivia 'first' meets Walter) written by Zack Whedon, the series was released by DC Comics under its WildStorm imprint.[1][71] This was to be the first issue of a monthly 6-issue limited series but the others were delayed until January 2009, when monthly publication resumed, with the sixth and final issue scheduled for release on June 17.[72] The Vice President of WildStorm, Hank Kanalz, explained the publication hiatus: "The writers of the show want to make sure the comic book is integrated into the mythology of the Fringe world, so we have decided to refocus the direction of the comic book. Unfortunately, this means that we will have some delays, but will be back in January."[73]

On June 23, 2010, the first issue of Tales From the Fringe, the second six-part monthly series, was released, while the final issue was released on November 24, 2010.[74]


One of many marketing posters used to promote the series featuring a twist on a common image. Pictured is a leaf with an embedded isosceles triangle.

Early reception through the first season for Fringe was generally lukewarm. The pilot episode was watched by 9.13 million viewers, garnering 3.2/9 Nielsen ratings among adults 18–49, with ratings improving over the course of the episode.[75] Ratings improved greatly for the second episode, "The Same Old Story" which 13.27 million people watched, making it the fifth most watched show of the week.[76] As of October 2008, the show had achieved the first place in the 18–49 demographic among new shows.[77] As a whole, the series was well received by the critics. Barry Garron at Hollywood Reporter found it promising because "it is reminiscent of battle-of-the-sexes charm."[78] Robert Bianco, USA Today, said, "What Abrams brings to Fringe is a director's eye for plot and pace, a fan's love of sci-fi excitement, and a story-teller's gift for investing absurd events with real emotions and relatable characters."[79] Travis Fickett of IGN gave it 7.6 out of 10, calling it "a lackluster pilot that promises to be a pretty good series."[80] While Tim Goodman of the San Francisco Chronicle remarked that it was "boundlessly ambitious",[81] Chicago Sun-Times's Misha Davenport called it an "update of The X-Files with the addition of terrorism and the office of Homeland Security."[82]

In its 2008 Year in Review, Television Without Pity declared Fringe one of the year's biggest TV disappointments, commenting that the show is "entertaining" and "the cast is largely strong" but the character development is insufficient. The show's main character, Olivia Dunham is "wooden and distant, and after half a season, we still haven't gotten to know her." The untrustworthy Nina Sharp is well-acted but "one-note and lazily written" and Lance Reddick's character is also "under-developed". [83]

The Daily Herald comments that Fringe is promising and "it may yet develop into a worthwhile program" but has "largely been spinning its wheels".[84] Meanwhile, in other articles recounting the best and worst of 2008, The New York Times stated that Fringe "is the best of a rash of new series that toy with the paranormal." The author goes on to praise the cast saying that "Much credit belongs to Anna Torv who stars as an F.B.I. agent investigating bizarre murders that all appear to be linked to a powerful and mysterious multinational corporation" and "Ms. Torv is backed up ably by John Noble as a crazy but brilliant fringe scientist and his level-headed but skeptical son, played by Joshua Jackson."[85]

Changing in the approach and storytelling of the show in the second and subsequent seasons led to more positive critical reception and made it a media favorite. Entertainment Weekly, which stated "The best new show of the year took a few weeks to grow on me, but now it's a full-blown addiction",[86] the LA Times, calling Walter Bishop one of the best characters of 2008, saying that "the role of the modern-day mad scientist could so easily have been a disaster, but the 'Fringe' writers and the masterful John Noble have conspired to create a character that seems, as trite as it sounds, more Shakespearean than sci-fi."[87] Chicago Tribune states that some episodes are "distressingly predictable and formulaic" but adds that there have also been some excellent episodes.[88] The New York Times named Fringe one of the top 10 television shows in 2010.[89] while Television Without Pity, previously dismissive of the show, listing it amongst their 2010 "Most Memorable TV Moments", stating "there were so many great Fringe moments this year" and "we were treated to some of the best sci-fi on television this past fall."[90] The A.V. Club named Fringe the 15th best show of 2010, stated that the episode "Peter" gave "the series' overarching storyline a devastating emotional core", making the series a "rare blend of inventive ideas, wild ambition, and unexpected soulfulness".[91] IGN named Fringe the 18th best science fiction show of all time in a 2011 listing, stating that since the middle of the first season, "it's been nothing but a series of satisfyingly jaw-dropping 'holy eff!' moments layered with wonderful, nuanced performances from Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson and John Noble".[92]

U.S. Nielsen ratings

The following is a table of seasonal U.S. rankings (based on total viewers per episode including reruns) of Fringe on Fox.

Season Timeslot (ET) Episodes Premiered Ended Rank Viewers
(in millions)
Date Premiere
(in millions)
Date Finale
(in millions)
Season 1 Tuesday 9:00 pm 20 September 9, 2008 9.13[93] May 12, 2009 9.28[94] #43 10.02[95]
Season 2 Thursday 9:00 pm
Monday 9:00 pm ("Unearthed" only)
23 September 17, 2009 7.98[96] May 20, 2010 5.68[97] #79 6.25[98]
Season 3 Thursday 9:00 pm (2010)
Friday 9:00 pm (2011)
22 September 23, 2010 5.83[99] May 6, 2011 3.29[100] #99 5.83[101]
Season 4 Friday 9:00 pm 22 September 23, 2011 3.48[102] Spring 2012 TBA TBA TBA

Fringe premiered in the 2008 United States television season at a regular timeslot of 9:00 pm Eastern on Tuesdays. During Season 1, Fringe was part of a Fox initiative known as "Remote-Free TV". Episodes of Fringe were longer than standard dramas on current network television. The show ran with half the commercials, adding about six minutes to the show's runtime.[103] When the show went to a commercial, a short bumper aired informing the viewer of roughly how much time commercials will consume before the program resumed. The series was subsequently moved to 9:00 pm on Thursday nights during its second and third season starting in the 2009 season.

As part of a reorganization of its 2010 midseason line up to capture more market for American Idol, the Fox network shifted Fringe to 9:00 pm on Fridays. This timeslot, commonly considered the "Friday night death slot" for several previous Fox shows due to cancellation shortly following the move to that slot, have left critics considering the show's fate. While The X-Files originally premiered during this slot and would continue to be a highly successful season, critics were unsure if Fringe could duplicate this performance. In this slot, the show competed with Supernatural, a series that attracts similar types of viewers.[104] Fox's Entertainment President Kevin Reilly, in response to these concerns, stated that 45% of Fringe's viewership is from time shifting recording through digital video receivers, and does not expect the viewership numbers to change significantly with the change to Friday. Reilly further postulated that "If it does anywhere near what it did on Thursdays, we can glue that show to the schedule because it can be a big win for us".[105] Further promoted by the critical reaction to the rescheduling, the Fox network created a self-deprecating promotional advertisement acknowledging the reputation of the time slot, including quotes from other media outlets concerned about the move, but asserts that the move will "re-animate" the show.[106][107] The network also created a music video, set to "Echoes" by the band Klaxons as a means of summarizing the third season to date prior to the first Friday broadcast.[108] Joshua Jackson, who plays Peter Bishop on the show, cautioned that time-shifted viewership may not be enough to save the show: "It's not that not enough people are watching Fringe, it's that not enough people are watching Fringe during the hour that it's on the air, which is key for the network."[109]

Producers Pickner and Wyman also were excited about the move to Fridays, considering the slot as "open territory that can be conquered" and that they "can actually deliver like The X-Files did".[110] Series creator Abrams was less optimisic of the move to Friday nights, aware that the show's likelihood to be renewed for a fourth season would be highly dependent on the number of niche viewers that continue to watch the show.[111] Abrams did affirm that moving to Friday nights allows them to take more creative freedoms to maintain viewership in the new timeslot, but feels that if the show was not renewed for another season, they would be "hard pressed" to resolve the story by the end of the third season.[111]

The show's first episode at the Friday 9:00 pm timeslot ("The Firefly") scored a 1.9 in the key 18–49 demographic which was an increase of 12% over its last Thursday-aired episode ("Marionette") which scored a 1.7,[112] and maintained similar numbers in the second week for "Reciprocity".[113] Though viewership slipped in further weeks, the show was renewed for a fourth season in March 2011. The move was unexpected based on these ratings, given the past performance of shows with similar viewership numbers in the Friday night slot, but several critics attribute it to the strong fanbase that the show has garnered, which contributes in part to consistently higher time-shifted viewership.[114] Fox's Reilly stated that:

Fringe has truly hit a creative stride and has distinguished itself as one of television's most original programs. The series' ingenious producers, amazingly talented cast and crew, as well as some of the most passionate and loyal fans on the planet, made this fourth-season pickup possible. When we moved the show to Fridays, we asked the fans to follow and they did. We're thrilled to bring it back for another full season and keep it part of the Fox family.
—Kevin Reilly, President of Fox Entertainment[115]

Reilly further added that the renewal was also prompted by the high risk of trying to replace Fringe with another show with unknown viewership metrics; he commented that they "have a far better shot of sticking with a show that has an audience that [they] think [they] can grow".[116] Prior to the onset of the fourth season, Reilly reiterated that they do not expect any significant growth in Fringe's viewership within that season: "It’s a pretty complex show. If Fringe can do exactly what Fringe did last year, we’re going to be very happy. They’re right in the pocket creatively once again."[117] Wyman stated in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter that the Fox network had been "supportive throughout this process", and though the show's viewership "wasn't exactly what they would've hoped for", aspects such as a loyal fan base and supportive critics were enough to take the show forward for another season.[118] Pinkner commented that "there were no creative conditions" on the show's renewal, nor any cuts in the show's budget, though was unsure if the show will be moved to a different time slot.[119] Noble, at the 2011 Comic-Con Fringe panel, reiterated that the fans were responsible for the livilihood of the show, stated "Seriously, without your efforts, your rabid support, we wouldn’t be here right now. You are the best fans that ever existed".[120]

International broadcast


Fringe premiered in Canada on CTV simultaneous to its U.S. premiere and was the most watched program in Canada that week.[121] The show would fluctuate between airing on CTV and A during its first two seasons. Beginning with the third season Fringe is broadcast on Citytv in Canada.[122]


  • A version of the show (edited for time) premiered on the Nine Network in Australia on September 17, 2008. In the season one episode "In Which We Meet Mr. Jones", the scene in the introduction where the doctors discover a parasite on Detective Loeb's heart was censored and just went straight to the opening credits.[123] Nine Network later dropped the show from its primetime schedule temporarily;[124] the show returned during the December to January non-ratings period.[125]
  • Fringe now airs on Nine's second digital channel GO! and is one of the most popular shows aired on GO! on Wednesday nights at 8:30 pm.
  • It is also currently running an on-demand run on FetchTV.


  • In 2008, Fringe also premiered on Ireland's TV3 (October 1), Sweden's Kanal 5 (October 2), and the United Kingdom's Sky1 (October 5).[126]
  • In 2009, Fringe made additional debuts on Norway's TVNorge (January 1), Finland's MTV3 (January 5), South Africa's M-Net (January 8), Italy's Mediaset Premium (January 31), Portugal's RTP2 (February 5), Hungary's RTL Klub (March 13), Germany's ProSieben (March 16), Brazil's SBT (June 1), France's TF1 (June 10) and NET 5 in the Netherlands (September 6).
  • In 2010, Fringe debuted on TV3 in Catalonia (October 7), on TVN in Poland, on HRT 2 in Croatia (November 4), and on Star Channel in Greece (Seasons 1 & 2).
  • In 2011, Fringe debuted on POP TV in Slovenia (March 16) and on TV Avala in Serbia (May 29).
  • Fringe airs on TV2 in New Zealand. One episode of season 2 (which features a building hit by what initially looks like an earthquake) was played out of sequence due to being scheduled shortly after the Christchurch earthquake.

Awards and nominations

Fringe and its cast and crew have been nominated and won several awards including Emmys, Saturn Awards, Golden Reel Awards, Satellite Awards, and Writers Guild of America Awards.


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