By Drew Taylor | The Playlist April 27, 2012 at 1:16PM
Well this is something of a surprise – “Fringe,” the much-beloved but dismally rated sci-fi series created by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, is getting a reprieve. Fox has announced that they’ve made a deal to bring back the series for a fifth (and final) 13-episode stretch, mostly, it seems, because it’s a DVR powerhouse and Abrams is someone who the network likes to keep happy (although its unclear whether or not his uneven “Alcatraz” will be back next season).
Back in January (per Deadline), Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly said, “We lose a lot of money on the show." He continued: “We are not in the business of losing money, so we’re trying to figure out if there is a number at which we can continue with the series.” Well, it seems like they figured it out!
For those of you who aren’t watching the show (so that’d be pretty much everyone), “Fringe” is a kind of police procedural as fractured through the mind of David Cronenberg. Every week the “Fringe Division” FBI team (comprised of an agent, a genius grifter, and a mad scientist) investigates crimes that are at least tangentially linked to insane, cutting edge science. After season two the show’s primary focus was on an alternate universe just on the other side of our own and that universe’s attempt to destroy our existence. This past season, to add a further wrinkle to the already complex mythology, a kind of alternate version of our own reality was added into the mix.
What’s kept “Fringe” so compelling, however, is not the outlandish badguys (like a crazed physicist played by our favorite Jared Harris) or otherworldly monsters -- we already got most of that stuff when “The X-Files” was around. No, what makes “Fringe” so special is its unexpected emotional underpinnings; it’s emphasis on the importance of family and its profoundly huge heart (a few episodes ago a character found out he was willed into existence through love). All the scientific weirdness wouldn’t mean a thing if you weren’t so emotionally invested.
After some long (and, we’re sure, strained) negotiations, Abrams and Fox brass reached an agreement to continue the hugely expensive series for a handful of episodes, which gives the showrunners and writers time to properly close out the story. J.J. Abrams was quoted as saying, “We are thrilled and beyond grateful that Fox – and our fans – have made the impossible possible: ‘Fringe’ will continue into a fifth season that will allow the series to conclude in a wild and thrilling way.”
Hopefully more details will arrive soon (we’d be surprised if Orci and Kurtzman throw in again; they’ve been out of the picture since the end of season one). As an incredibly geeky aside we’re wondering, without having a 19th episode of next season (which was typically the strangest episode of each season – this year’s involved a far-flung futuristic tale), will they still be able to cram in all that strangeness? We’ve checked with our alternate reality selves and we guess: yes.