'Fringe' exclusive: Fox execs on its 'deathslot'-spoofing promo and plans to attract new viewers
Ever since Fox announced it was moving its acclaimed but ratings-challenged sci-fi saga Fringe to Fridays from its current home on Thursday, fans have been blogging and tweeting much pessimism about the show’s chances for survival beyond this season. Friday is one of the least watched TV nights of the week, and in recent years, it hasn’t been too kind to sci-fi series — or at least Fox’s sci-fi series. See: Joss Whedon’s Firefly; Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Fox execs and Fringe’s exec producers have tried to get the word out that the network remains committed to the series, but fans remain nervous that Friday = Death for Fringe. So to further combat the perception that Fox has basically issued a “no confidence” vote in Fringe, the network did something unusual: It created a cheeky promo that tackles the fear-mongering head-on, spliced with darkly comic death-themed clips from the show and even spiked with quotes from a variety of Chicken Little bloggers. (“…a Friday air date is usually the beginning of the end for any series…” – Ethan Anderton / Collider.) Take a look:
According to Fox’s senior VP of marketing and special projects Dean Norris, the network began thinking about creating the provocative spot after making a Web splash with its movie-style trailer for “Entrada,” the Dec. 2 episode that marked a turning point in Fringe’s parallel world storyline. “We started getting feedback from the viewers that basically said, ‘How could Fox do something so cool for a show they’re going to kill?’ We started reading these things and said, ‘Wait! We have to address this!’” The mission was to produce a piece of communication that dealt with the situation in a self-deprecating fashion, yet also assuaged fan fears. The message, spelled out in the promo: “You May Think Friday Is Dead… But We’re Gonna Reanimate It.” (The reanimation idea is a coy reference to last week’s creepy episode “Marionette.”) The promo — cut by Ari Margolis in Fox’s “Special Ops” department (do they get to work in a secret underground bunker, too?) — took two days to produce. It was pitched last Thursday and finished on Monday and released first to the outlets quoted in the promo, thereby going right after those most likely to have been impacted by Geekdom’s town criers.
The promo is the beginning of a larger effort by Fox to shore up Fringe’s existing fanbase and hopefully grow the audience by targeting teen viewers who might be at home Friday night. (The show returns on Jan. 21) Fox will continue posting “pre-caps” (as opposed to “recaps”) at Fox.com featuring cast members and producers setting up each new episode. For viewers, they’re a more entertaining and personal approach to “Previously on…” rehashes. Additionally, Norris also says future on-air promos will emphasize Fringe’s horror elements, albeit not right away, as the first episodes on the new year are relatively light on Fringe-style gore. “We are trying to rebrand Friday, and what we’re trying to do with this show specifically is make it kind of like forbidden fruit,” says Norris. “We want that teen demographic that might not be our audience right now to say, ‘That this is a show my parents might not want me to watch — but I’m going to watch it, anyway.’”