The Fringe Candidates

You’re The Last Of The Timelords, Charlie Brown
The Doctor Is In T-Shirt, Funny Doctor Who Parody Shirt, Charlie Brown, Sci-Fi

Your foreign policy record is questionable at best, and you have yet to form a coherent theory as to where Nina Sharp’s true allegiance lies. What makes you think you can lead this country? 

Sorry, non-Fringe fans. Not because you don’t get this comic, but because you aren’t enjoying the best show on TV. This will likely be Fringe’s final season (a year sooner than J.J. Abrams would like), due to it being too fantastic to be profitable. This seems to be the fate of all original, thought-provoking, well acted (extremely well acted in the case of John “Please let me curl up in your grandpa cheeks” Noble), well produced sci-fi on television. Any show that refuses to dumb down it’s intensely complicated, yet expertly executed premise in order to reach a wider audience just isn’t commercially viable on TV.

I think Fringe is the type of show you have to already be a sci-fi fan to enjoy. It asks a lot of the audience, but the average sci-fi fan is already used to accepting things like alternate dimensions, shapeshifters, techno-organic hybrid beings, and Leonard Nimoy. Each of those is probably a stumbling block for the average Joe “Is Real Housewives new tonight?” Television Viewer. J.J. Abrams has said that this season’s finale  can act as a series finale if the worst happens, but that certainly won’t be ideal for the fans or the creators. I want, just for once, to know what the actual planned ending of a high concept sci-fi show was supposed to be. LOST and BSG don’t count since not even the writers themselves knew how those shows were supposed to end.

I used to think the place for shows like Fringe, Firefly, Stargate SG:U, etc was on the Internet, free of the trappings of network expectations, ratings and advertising. I wanted them to be directly accessible to the people they were made for, instead of slotted between Kitchen Yelling and Crime Cops: Topeka on Friday night. But those kinds of shows require MILLIONS of dollars per episode to maintain their level of quality. And I don’t mean 1 or 2 million. It’s more like 6 to 10. These are absurd numbers and certainly not Internet-type numbers. The worst thing about trying to independently produce and distribute sci-fi is the “sci” part and the “fi” part. The medium REQUIRES that spaceships, robots, lizard people and all other manner of imaginary things that simply do not exist and cannot be filmed unless created out of foam latex, pixels and money. So how does the BBC do it? Is it because they are publicly funded? There’s no way Doctor Who costs as much as an episode of Fringe, but the quality is there. Is there a DiY work ethic to BBC shows that the US entertainment industry simply doesn’t abide? Or is there just a wider acceptance amont the average brit for science fiction, and thus sci-fi TV stands a greater chance of reaching a mass audience over there?

COMMENTERS: I’ve asked about 100 questions in the post above. Feel free to tackle any of them. Or just post more Fringe debate questions.

UPDATE 01/25/12: You can now purchase a super high quality 11×17″ print of any HE comic by clicking the “Buy A Print” button between the “Previous” and “Next” buttons in the navigation menu. If you don’t see it, try refreshing your browser cache.

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68 Comments

  1. I think it's more of an issue of HOW profitable it is rather than IF it is profitable. I doubt they're actually losing money on most of the shows that get cancelled.

    I think the business model in the U.S. is much different than in the U.K., though. In the U.K., I don't think there are many (if any?) networks really in direct competition with the BBC, so they're not getting into the same kinds of ratings wars that exist in the U.S. Here (the U.S.), you have to worry about if the network thinks they can make MORE money by putting on a rerun of a reality show or what another network has on at the same time, where I don't think those are as much of a concern in the U.K.

    Reply
    • I'm curious about how much the average TV actor in the US makes vs UK, and if that's the reason behind it. Not being from the UK, it seems like there's not a whole lot of tv actor reuse. In the US, we somehow manage to take Ray's Wife, from Everybody Loves Raymond, and cast her in a totally different show where she's married to the Ray's Brother. That's one interesting family. You don't think you can find another middleaged woman capable of acting well enough to be in an offpeak sitcom for 1/10th as much?

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      • There are tiers of US TV actor pay. The highest tier is around $400K per ep. That's your Hugh Lauries and such. Then you have tiers at pretty much every $50K stop between $400K and $100K with popularity and longevity of the series being the deciding factors. Below 100K, 80K is a common number for an ensemble drama cast member on a popular show. Below that and you have pretty much anything between $10K to 75K an ep. The lowest I've ever heard of a US TV actor (in a starring role) was around $4k per week on a low tier cable show. Which is bad (for them) because most staff writers make more than that.

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        • I assume you wouldn't actually be taking home $4k every week of the year either, right? You'd want your paycheck to cover the downtime.

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  2. "…Kitchen Yelling and Crime Cops: Topeka…"

    I love you so much.

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  3. Dr. Who works because it's just that wibbly-wobbly good. I'd watch if they animated it with stick figures.

    Plus Romney makes perfect sense now…..

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  4. Fringe is indeed the best US scifi show on tv right now. I am shocked and amazed that it has lasted this long on Fox. They love to take quality scifi shows and murder them with gleeful abandon. I wish FX or HBO would take the plunge into scifi. Then a show may be allowed to run its full story arc. American Horror Story and Game of Thrones are hopefully a gateway into either network finding and growing a quality scifi show.

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  5. Wait, which universe is A or B? I call them by the colors of the title cards-Blue, Red, Yellow and mirror!Yellow…

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    • Yellow is the one that makes everybody laugh. The Blue one has this really loud horrifying screeching noise that splits the brain (this is where Fox News broadcasts from). In the Red one, you vomit continuously (this is where Fox News broa-.. oh, i used that joke already).

      Reply
  6. There is competition between the BBC and other *major* channels, it's just that there are only about 6 major channels at the very most. The only ones that consistently produce quality programming are the BBC. Sky [Fox] occasionally produce quality shows, but their "pay us monthly so we can bombard you with adverts" business model makes me want to commit murder, so I don't have any Sky channels, and just watch their shows when [if] they appear on terrestrial TV or find another way to watch…

    The main competition for the BBC is ITV [which is about 34% owned by NI] and the majority of their programming is lowest common denominator crap-reality/talent/cop shows, but they still pull in the ratings. Murdoch has been trying to get the BBC's funding removed for years now claiming that they're anti-competitve [while at the same time buying up as much of the competition as possible] because they're publicly funded, but the fact that they don't show any adverts or have any product placement in their shows makes it the best channel for me [and means that they're not competing with Murdoch cos they're not chasing revenue in the same way].

    So to summarise my rant, the BBC's funding model means that shows generally have shorter seasons than US shows [13 eps rather than 22] which means that if they're not successful, less money is lost producing them. But also, I think that fewer new shows get made overall. Once they hit a successful formula they run with it. Which is why UK TV is now overrun with topical comedy panel shows, but also why we got Torchwood and more and more Dr Who. I'm not complaining about that, I love comedy, but it does mean that other stuff may not get a look in.

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    • If the BBC is publicly funded and doesn't run advertising, how do they "lose money"? Or rather, how could you tell the difference?

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      • It's publicly funded through a fixed license fee paid by household that owns a telly – this fee, which can be reduced or waived in a lot of circumstances, plus whatever money they can make through selling their shows abroad (eg, selling Dr WHO to BBC America) and selling franchise stuff like Dr WHO toys, is all the money they have. They don't get any advertising money, and they're prohibited from doing product placement.

        As our current government seems to be pretty anti-public, the BBC is pretty wary of stepping a foot wrong – if the viewer numbers drop or they offend the wrong people, the government can refuse to let them raise the license fee, or even require that they lower it.

        And the BBC has a public service remit – they have to provide programs that are entertaining, educational, and beneficial. They can do comedy all they want, but it means they're legally obliged to produce expensive things like David Attenborough documentaries and niche programming that pulls in lower view numbers.

        It's actually pretty easy for the BBC to lose money on a show, or lose viewers and come under fire, so I try to watch anything that looks interesting and buy DVD sets to support them. If their funding gets cut, we could see a drop in quality from existing shows like Dr Who, and entirely lose interesting new shows like Sherlock!

        TL;DR – If the BBC doesn't constantly prove that it's better than all the other channels and try to get the most viewers with really high quality programs, then it risks losing popularity and thus money.

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        • (paid by every household that owns a telly – sorry, my proofreading's not working yet this morning)

          (and the current government just seems to hate the idea of publicly funded anything, whether that's the BBC, the NHS, or helping the parents of disabled kids. So the Beeb has to be extra-careful with this lot, as they're a bit more aggressive than the previous government.)

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        • And, of course, they are constantly under fire from private sector rivals like Rupert Murdoch's Sky (and now the loathesome Richard Desmond's Five) who use their newspaper outlets to undermine the BBC and its public service ethos. Given the pro-privatisation slant of all three main parties, the BBC must feel itself under constant pressure to get high ratings to justify its licence fee income (now frozen and threatened with being sliced to benefit other broadcasters). Hence, no doubt, the dumbing down as it produces mass appeal reality shows. It was actually threatening to close down BBC4 (arguably the most BBC of the lot, because it sticks to its traditional values there) in order to finance these mass market shows.

          So, *within* the BBC, an internal response to external hostility, there is ratings pressure which threatens quality in favour of the undemanding but widely watched.

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        • Another point to remember is that the BBC part own UKTV which runs Watch, Gold, Dave, Alibi, Yesterday, Home, Blighty, Eden, Good Food and Really. Lots of BBC repeats chock full of adverts 😉

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  7. I'm not watching Fringe due to ignorance of how great it was. I'm not watching the Republican debates due to the great amount of ignorance it has.

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  8. "I want, just for once, to know what the actual planned ending of a high concept sci-fi show was supposed to be."

    I guess here's my chance to evangelize Babylon 5. If you haven't seen it by this point you probably gave it a try and decided it was too cheap/cheesy/badly acted or something for your tastes. Just let me say though, if you want to see a coherent vision 99% realized on TV, watch that show.

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    • I have all of B5 on VHS,… was given to me YEARs ago,… downside is because it was years ago I am afraid to watch them lately because I already broke one tape. Soon I shall take them to "someone" who can convert VHS to DVD and be happy again. But yes you are right,..they had a story arc that they stuck with,…. seasons had an arc that fit in the greater arc,..within the seasons arc were smaller arcs that also melded into the greater arc,… all of it worked quite well,…..

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    • Yes, yes, and more yes to B5. That show was outlined out from beginning to end before filming even began. Writing how it should be done, dammit. There was some scare that the show wasn't going to get a 5th season, so the story was wrapped up a little faster than originally intended, but it still worked. Sadly, when they did get the 5th season, it was an add-on, so it wasn't quite as solid, but still decent.

      Good stuff, that.

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  9. Never really got into Fringe, watched the first season and it was ok towards the end, but Walter was the only thing that kept me around for that long. Might put it on the maybe watch list if I find the time to expand it. SG:U died do to being so close to its predecessors in time, yet so far in feeling and, well, lack of camp, and a lot of episodes were dull. But a xhow like Warehouse 13 or the other SYFY shows could do well on the net.

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    • The trick to watching Fringe is getting through the first season. While it's necessary for setup, it really adds no other value because the show is clearly trying to figure out its identity there. Season 2 and especially season 3 are the true meat of the series. Season 4 is pretty awesome as well, but I'd like to see it through before I recommend it.

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  10. The right place for all these shows (including Eureka, which wasn't on your list – you insensitive clod!) is…

    Netflix!

    Imagine while you're browsing Netflix, you see Fringe with a "Save Me!" banner at the bottom. Select it and you can see any episodes that Netflix has rights to, but even if that is zero, you also see a pledge button. Select it and you see several options for extra charges to your monthly Netflix fee. Some examples could be:

    * I promise to pay $X for another season of this show after it is dropped by the current producers.
    * I promise to pay $Y for each episode Netflix funds

    Netflix can guess pretty well who would be willing to save each show. It's basically Kickstarter wrapped up in Netflix Queue-logic. It also helps Netflix figure out where they should focus their efforts in producing show, which is inevitable as the network dinosaurs sink deeper in the tar pits.

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    • I agree that Netflix could save shows if it chose to do so. But I don't know if Netflix has the infrastructure in place to fund shows directly. They'd need to bring in some expertise or something, I imagine. Probably the biggest reason they don't do this is that they're already having trouble getting rights to stuff. Imagine if they basically decided to be in direct competition with the very people they are trying to get rights from. There might be a model, however, where Fox continues to produce and run the show, and Netflix pays them extra for the show based on the added fees they can garner from Netflix viewers. I would definitely pay Netflix more for some kind of Premium Sci-Fi package, but there's no telling how many others would be on board for that.

      I predict that non-interactive media will start getting replaced by, for instance, shows which can be smart and require a lot of the viewer, but has options for having shit explained to you mid-show, as well as click-to-buy items/clothing appearing in the show or whatever. Then shows won't have to dumb themselves down so much, making them palatable to us nerds, as well as reaping potentially huge profits from merch sales.

      Once Netflix starts supporting the new media, which it is uniquely positioned to do, it may have the power to start producing it's own shows.

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      • I believe that Netflix has already started bankrolling the production of original content. They have a couple of original series in the pipe and have contracted to resurrect Arrested Development next year.

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        • I stand corrected. This is good news. I read that they plan to release whole seasons at once, which is how I watch them now anyway. Habitual binge viewer. Not having to hook people for a whole week while they wait for the next episode should make the programs better IMO. They can focus more on the big arcs and less on cliff hangers. Let's just hope they help us nerds out, who must be a huge part of the Netflix userbase.

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      • Fascinating point that the more involved/intelligent/demanding shows could possibly draw in more viewers with optional explanations. I know I got into Doctor Who myself (after running into it several times and it never sticking) when I started watching with a crew of rabid Whovians in England who not only knew every past episode but excitedly ran running predictions week-to-week of the major story arcs. The acclimatization assist was integral to my enjoyment of the show…

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  11. One of the things that makes Doctor Who work as a relatively high budget show is that it's only 14 episodes a year, counting the Christmas special. Fringe would be less of a risk for Fox, or any other network, if it didn't have to be 22 – 24 episodes per season. That increases not only the effects budget but also how much the actors and extras get paid per season. I'm sure that Fox would love for them to scale down their production, but I think the solution would be to scale down the number of episodes. Plus we'd get tighter writing instead of obvious filler episodes.

    To be clear, I think many shows on American television could benefit from escaping mandatory episode totals.

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    • Sponsors pay per episode, yes? So more episodes = more income as well as expense. I am not following your thinking.

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      • I don't think it's as cut and dry as you think. More episodes, especially at the cost of the average Fringe episode, add up to more expense in the long run. This does not equate to more income in the long run. Dwindling ratings suggest less income over the course of the show. Many shows see declining ratings over the course of a season, and this is definitely present in longer shows with complicated narratives that get more confusing with non-essential episodes included for padding. Shortening the episode count decreases the overall expense while also minimizing potential losses.

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        • Funny thing is that a season on non-NA TV broadcasts [or straight to Video] are produced in blocks of 12-13 episodes, not including specials, and multiples thereof [ 25-26 usually ]. Animation is a great example of this for low production value yet cult following series like Dragon Ball which has an episode count into the hundreds.

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          • When posting my comments, I was thinking of British television. Shorter, lower budget, and always the opportunity to renew for another similar season. As you pointed out, Japan does the same thing. Not only does this keep show budgets more manageable, but it allows more content and possibly a greater variation of content on television.

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  12. I actually pitched an internet TV station to some angel investors once. The project was shut down as soon as Netflix announced it was making original content (the investors did NOT want to compete with Netflix).

    There is a model that can pay for these shows. The biggest issue is that in order to make anything that looks good, you need to use a studio. Studios get plagued by all sorts of regulations, and unions, and red tape which keeps the cost per episode incredibly high. This is why SciFi (I refuse to call it "Syfy") films many of its shows in Canada.

    An episode of Fringe costs between $6 and 9 million each. An episode of SGU cost closer to $2-3 million an episode each. Dr. Who is probably also around that $2-3 million mark.

    If you think about it, though, Season one of SGU sells (on DVD) for $30 each. The DVD sales alone don't pay for an episode, but if there were no other way to get the content, the demand should be higher, so there will be more sales. The goal is to have at least X audience to watch a show to make a season. If you had 2 million viewers, you could break even with SGU (maybe even make a small profit). 3 million viewers and you have a sizable profit.

    The possibility exists, especially with cult shows like Firefly where I would think any real Firefly fan would be willing to pay $30 for another season. Without an angel investor, though, it will take an act of Netflix or Hulu to make it happen.

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    • Really? Each Fringe episode costs that much? I just found that the two-episode pilot cost 10 million, and that was most likely with all the brand new props, locations, and stages that they had to build. Would new episodes cost that much all things considering?

      Also, what about Kickstarter? Do you think it would be possible to set up something there? Perhaps set up a company/web site that allows people to do this pledge thing as you said, and subsidize TV shows?

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    • For your model to work, you first have to get people hooked on the show. Most people would not pay $30 for a season of a show they have never seen and don't know anything about other than a short summary. So you would have to provide at least a pilot, and possibly a few episodes, even, free or at a price low enough for people to be willing to take a risk. In the case of Fringe, my husband and I did not find Olivia's character to be particularly sympathetic or interesting during the first season, and were really sold on the show primarily by John Noble's highly entertaining portrayal of Walter. The ideas in the show were interesting, and we are both Abrams fans, but without any sympathetic characters, we might have given up mid-season.

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      • Of course, having Leonard Nimoy make occasional guest appearances didn't hurt, either.

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      • The League of Steam ran a short season on YouTube and then used Kickstarter to raise funds for a second season. Looks like they've managed to reach their goal and are working on props and new episodes as we speak.

        I think it totally can be done online, but everything has to be scaled waaaay back. 5-10 minute episodes instead of 25-50 mins. Actors being paid much less. Working with existing locations/sets rather than building new.

        I suspect a lot of the costs of a network episode go into the surrounding infrastructure rather than direct costs to make the episode. If it was done in a vaccuum, and by people not expecting to become millionaires from doing it, it could probably be done for a realistic amount online.

        –I guess if us nerds want decent content we'll just have to go out and make it ourselves, eh? Once the networks realize they've managed to eliminate an entire target audience by either ignoring it completely or killing in its infancy anything they like that does manage to make it to air, greed ought to pretty much spur them into trying to lure us back.

        So long as we're 18-24 year old male nerds, anyways. Who like boobies.

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  13. I wonder, given current ratings and cost per episode, how much they would have to charge for 100% viewer supported episodes.

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  14. Shouldn't the pen and paper in panel 2 be replaced with an iPad or similar? No pens in the alternate universe.

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    • fuck me you're right.

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      • Unless he's mentally handicapped and getting some kind of intelligence booster, in which case he's gonna murder someone with it later.

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  15. As much as I love Fringe, i'm actually surprised it's made it this long. I thought for sure it was done after season 1, and then again at season 2. I'm not currently watching it on regular TV, but buying the episodes. I doubt my viewership counts in their numbers.

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  16. According to Stephen Moffat on IMDB, no show on the BBC will be renewed unless it's an instant hit, & can be guaranteed a second season.

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  17. Doctor Who, quality? Pffftt ahahahaha

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  18. I love science fiction. I even loved the X-Files (arguably a Fringe precursor), but for whatever reason, Fringe just makes me impatient.

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    • Arguably?
      The only difference in Fringe is that this show is actually headed somewhere, instead of "wooooooo isn't this mysterious?" for seven long years.

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  19. I know someone said this but you really need to watch Babylon 5, in short; it the best Sci-Fi ever put on TV…

    Granted the sets look like they were made out of cardboard (because they are) and the costumes reek of bad late 80's early 90's fashion (it was made in 1992 so what are you going to do) and the first season acting isn't the best. However regardless it is the best Sci-fi show EVER. I know what you're saying "ever? really?"… well yes ever, I have yet to see its equal, in scope of story, reality of characters, relevance to life (yes relevance to life, even today) or space combat, yes freking fleet action space combat that will make you drop a load in you pants.

    Let me tell ya, you can watch the best textured ships flying around doing jack for 30 second maybe 2 mins on you fantasy story in a galaxy far far away or fraking no story battlestar…. or just hear me out you can have whole episode with massive space battles, ground combat (err kinds) and military war room planing in a some what less impressive CG style (because it's 1992).

    I think we both know what you want so, buy B5 and join the ranks of the enlightened… ohh dont for get you have to start with "The Gathering" before you watch season 1.

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  20. All the mean spirited, and money/network babble aside, and all the people that were apparently offended because they're missing out on the best show on network TV (let alone one of the best sci-fi shows in recent history), I would like to say that Fringe is outstanding –pure genius, and I appreciate every minute of it. No other show deserves another season more than Fringe.

    Thank you for the awesome comic that only us awesome Fringe fans would get. Your support means so much to all Fringe fans.

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  21. We need to start mobilizing in support of Fringe right now. Any possibility that Fringe will lose its final season cannot be allowed, and the sooner we start making noise the harder we'll be to ignore. I don't know how many people here watch non-Fringe Fox content, but I feel a boycott threat is in order- they've done enough to sic-fi to deserve it.

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  22. Hey hey hey, don't knock Crime Cops: Topeka. It's good for our local economy and it gives me the chance to leer at C-list actors in person. Yesterday I got the token "quirky" character to sign my cup at Starbucks. 😀

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  23. Red Dwarf. There is BBC at its arts-and-craft at its finest. You will understand Doctor Who sets Mich better after a sitting of The Dwarf. And laugh your literal man-boobs off.
    @Spacecow8oy

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  24. You'd think that sci-fi fans would be smart enough to hack the Nielsen database and boost the ratings of their shows.

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    • I worked for Neilsen Media Research and can tell you that the questionnaire they use to send out a "Box" basically guarantees that the people will not be Sci-Fi Friendly or friendly toward any thinking shows really. Most of the questions [after the technical ones like how many TVs, if they have Cable/Satellite, who with, etc,..] guarantee that the people are homebodies who possibly do not even work,… basically that those in the household spend most of their lives in front of the TV. Neilsen's logic kind of makes sense if you ignore reality some,… they want people who are home to watch TV so that all time frames are represented with viewership,….the problem is most people who have nothing better to do than to stay home all day and watch TV are not the best representation,…..

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      • This brings up a good point. If every single TV viewing household were counted I wonder how drastically the ratings landscape would change. Right now a show is considered "popular" if middle america falls asleep while it's still on.

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  25. Normally I hate people who bitch and moan about typos, but there is one up there that is grating at me like so many Star Wars Special Editions. It's not "Mr. Paul" it's "Dr. Paul". Ron Paul IS The Doctor.

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    • HERP DERP RON PAUL!!!!!!

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    • Oh god no.

      The Doctor is a time-travelling trouble-maker who takes down monsters and looks good doing it.

      Ron Paul is an insincere old man who argues for poverty-level wages and only those with money having access to… uh, ANYTHING, and somehow, looks good doing it just because he simultaneously opposes monsters in name.

      I don't understand the fascination with him. Honestly, it's not that hard to find a person who disagrees with war and killing. But somehow, so many otherwise sane and reasonable people have latched onto a guy whose policies would drive millions into poverty (and millions more into "even worse poverty"), massively increase inequality, drive recession into depression and generally drop literacy rates, access to medicine and general standards of living faster than any other combination of policies one could possibly imagine.

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  26. 1) I've said it before and I'll say it again: Watch Babylon 5. You'd love it. It's own original, planned 5-year arc was, at one point, in danger of being cut back to four, but with enough notice that Strazynski was able to wrap up everything the way he wanted. So as a bonus, if you don't like the fifth season's telepath storyline, you can skip it entirely. But it is a great show.

    2) B5 managed to do a high-quality scifi show for about $5 mil an episode, by using a static set instead of new planets every week, using CG for the space scenes instead of models, and (the big part) having a proper schedule and sticking to it. Strazynski said he was horrified at how much scifi shows cost, and figured it was one of the main barriers keeping more of them from being developed, but most of the costs he saw could have been avoided. Poor scheduling, reshoots that shouldn't have been needed, etc etc. Even with inflation, he kept costs to a level that made it comparable with most other shows on TV at the time, and he did it without sacrificing quality.

    3) Dr. Who (the old series) did it by focussing on good storylines and characters, and having a very low budget for things like monsters and sets. But I personally believe that if the story is told well enough, the audience will forgive that. Although maybe that's changed. The other thing that was very lucky for it was that it was given a season or two to run, find its footing, and build up a fan base. It wasn't wildly successful straight off the bat, but it was granted the time to BECOME successful. These days, it would have been given half a season and if it hadn't instantly become a hit series and made more money than any other show ever, it would have been cancelled and replaced with something stupid. And what would be have lost? DR. WHO. But we never would have known. D:

    4) I think scifi could work very well on the net, but you'd have to accept that unless you got Joss Whedon or someone backing you with their own funds, you'd probably end up with something like Linkara's story arcs: Engrossing stories, non-existent budgets, and a lot of stationary green screens. But you know what, for good stories and characters, I'd accept that.

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  27. I still say part of the problem with even TRYING a sci-fi show on network television is sci-fi fans.
    We're not the whole problem, but we're certainly part of the problem. If you count the sci-fi fans who don't get too involved in a sci-fi show until they know it will be around for more than 3 episodes or 1 season – because we've been burned too many times.
    And then you count the sci-fi fans who watch a show and can't wait to rip it apart because 1 or 2 things aren't sciencey enough, or aren't factual, or were done before better by [some guy, some show] in the past.
    Or perhaps they just don't understand that fans like debate and won't stop watching the show because of it.

    Frankly, if sci-fi shows can't even be guaranteed a sci-fi fan audience, how can they expect to draw an "outsider" audience? And why should TV execs and networks even bankroll it?

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  28. Russell T. Davies was saying in an interview before Torchwood MD that even if the budgets in the US are much larger than in the UK a large percentage of the money disappears on crew sizes. In the US the various unions demand a shitload of people to make a show and they gotta be paid fairly well(not that there's anything wrong with that). In the UK they tend to get by with a smaller production staff.
    It also helps when almost every spaceship interior/alien planet/warehouse looks like that one warehouse in Cardiff from the Eccelstone/Tennant era of Doctor Who

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  29. Amazing and trufax commentary! Fringe – I will miss thee :/

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  30. I've long thought that sci-fi and out of the box creators like Joss Whedon should wise up and start pitching to the cable networks. Fringe at 2-3 million viewers would be a hit on Showtime, HBO etc. The major US networks emphasize on a broken ratings system. Shows that aren't instant hits are often cancelled. Scifi typically takes time to grow and find an audience. That's rarely allowed nowadays.

    And B5 the *best* sci *ever*? Meh. That's a pretty ambitious statement. Calling anything the "best" is murky territory. Best according to whom? B5's first season is nearly unwatchable and the last bored me. Two sub-par seasons out of five – or only one, for those who liked season 5 – shouldn't qualify anything for "best" status.

    (to be continued…)

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  31. (continued…)

    My personal best is still Farscape, which sort of got a proper ending. The intended final played out over a 4 hour miniseries instead of a 22 episode season. If BSG'd had a more coherent ending it might have toppled Farscape.

    I'd be in favour of 13 episode seasons (assuming they didn't have insane 8 month breaks like SciFi channel was prone to do). I think fewer episodes lends itself to tighter, faster storytellling with less – maybe no – filler episodes (which would get rid of a common complaint that shows move too slow). BSG's 13 episode season was, I think, superior to its later so-called full seasons.

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  32. When they cancel it they should do a thing like in that show Batman: The Brave and the Bold, which by chance I stumbled upon and left it on because they brought up old obscure characters, when they actually cancelled the show IN THE SHOW. They get points for that. They had a giant competition between Bat Mite and Ambush Bug where Bat Mite used every gimmick in the book of jumping the shark to get it cancelled.

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  33. I think that the place for these shows is under the radar on the CW. Seriously. You won't get a giant budget, but you'd get a better budget than as a web show.

    I know both of these are Horror and not Sci-Fi but Buffy got 7 seasons with lower ratings on WB/UPN. Supernatural had a 5 year plan, executed it and is now enjoying just burning off fun stories in their 7th season with 2 million viewers a week. The CW lets them do a LOT of awesome stuff that they would never get to do on a major network. Complicated emotional relationships? Sure. Crazy backstory that is added to in every single episode somehow? Yup. People EATING each other? Go ahead! Killing kids? No problem. Beheadings? Love it! Name an episode "Criss Angel is a Douchebag?" OF COURSE! (Name another episode "The monster at the end of this book?" Hearts for eyes.)

    (The only problem I have with CW & Supernatural is that CW is still averse to promoting that show despite it making it to season 7. The fans do most of the grunt work there by endlessly voting them into awards shows and tv guide cover contests. Srsly, WATCH SUPERNATURAL. its supposed to hit netflix instant sometime early this year!)

    A show like Firefly probably could've thrived with a smaller network. Angel is really the only one that got cut down early but I feel like they had already played out their master plan in S4 and had started a new one with S5 so it wasn't as bad a loss as others. Part of why the X-Files thrived so much on Fox was that Fox wasn't a big player when the X-Files started. They were happy letting weird shows like the Simpsons & the X-Files find audiences and become legends. Now though, Fox has their big boy pants on and craves the big kid ratings.

    Also, I finally gave in to Vampire Diaries and Nikita on netflix and yeah, those are good, solid shows that will continue to thrive and grow and do what they want creatively because the CW lets them.

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  34. The fact that Orci & Kurtzman where involved turned me off Fringe, but when you really start watching it (and I've even recommend skipping the first six episodes, to be honest), it becomes quite good.

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  35. Nobody's mentioned fan funded scifi on the internet yet? Here cave-dwellers: http://vo.do/l5

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