Will Fringe and Supernatural Kill Each Other?

By Tim Surette

Feb 04, 2011

It's like deciding between a scoop of mint chocolate chip and a scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough. It's like being forced to give up either your favorite pair of comfy sneakers or your broken-in, make-your-ass-look-good jeans. It's choosing between Joshua Jackson and Jensen Ackles. Tonight at 9pm, Fox's Fringe and The CW's Supernatural battle against each other for your eyeballs, and there's a considerable amount at stake.

Neither show is a locks for renewal next season, and studio executives are watching the ratings for both shows like hawks. Of the two, Fringe appears to be in more danger of not returning, simply because Fox's demands are greater than The CW's. But there's a chance that the two audiences are actually the same, and in a worst-case scenario, the two shows could cannibalize one another's viewers, tarnishing the future of both programs.

Fox moved Fringe from Thursdays to Fridays almost three weeks ago, when American Idol returned and took over Thursdays. Since Fringe settled into its new time slot, the numbers have been shocking: They're pretty much the same as they were on Thursdays. This goes against the old rule that no one watches TV on Fridays (or it supports the theory that Fringe fans don't have anything better to do on Friday nights, but personally, I find that offensive).

"I'm surprised [Fringe's Friday-night ratings] started as high as they did," Bill Gorman, co-founder of ratings-watching site TV by the Numbers, told me. "And I'm surprised they were steady for the second week."

He's surely not alone. Fox must be unexpectedly pumping its fists over Fringe's loyal fan base. If the show can attract a core audience on Friday night, then Fox can confidently renew it for a fourth season... as long as that core fan base sticks around. One sacrifice will be the ability to grow the Fringe audience. But that's always been a problem with heavily serialized sci-fi dramas like Fringe. Even ABC's fabled Lost saw a fairly large drop in total viewers as it inched toward its end.

And it's important to note that those two weeks in which Fringe aired on Friday nights came without any real competition (Fringe went from finishing fourth in its Thursday-night time slot to finishing first on Fridays). Now Supernatural and its two-million-plus audience have a shot at taking away Fringe's sub-five-million audience.

What's going to happen? No one really knows, not even Mr. Gorman. "I'll be waiting on Saturday morning for the [ratings] news just like the rest of us in this universe." And that's coming from a guy who forecasts ratings for a living.

If the past is any indication, then there's room for both, even in the same time slot. The two shows survived the 2009-2010 season when they faced off against each other on very busy Thursday nights. Let's hope history repeats itself.

Extra Reading: Fox: Following Friday Finds Fringe Fans Festive at TVByTheNumbers.com

How will you handle the Fringe vs. Supernatural situation?

Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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  • TiffanyButts Feb 15, 2011

    what? an article that actually applies to me? i love both fringe and supernatural, but since i don't like watching commercial i dvr both, but i hope fringe stays on the air if one of them has to go. supernatural bring back cassie!!!

  • creedchick02 Feb 14, 2011

    I love both shows....but gun to my head it would have to be Fringe, no question

  • neo_x00 Feb 14, 2011

    for me the only way is to record it, then the big question. Fringe or Supernatural . At the moment fringe is watched first then super is watched second. Or naa. Both are cool shows and i ge to watch both.

  • Snowgriffin Feb 14, 2011

    Fringe. No contest. I love Supernatural, but they have nothing left to tell, story-wise.

  • Ataraxis420 Feb 13, 2011

    Not trying to offend people, but Fringe 'feels more mature'. Not only that, but it seems that most (not all) fans of Supernatural are girls who just want to watch some pretty boys. If that's a reason to cancel an other show with great stories and well constructed plots ... Then I guess there's no more hope for TV. :/

  • sherv22 Feb 13, 2011

    As someone who's watched every episode of both, IMO any of you who turn your nose up to one or the other is missing out. They're both character-driven, heavy mythology, investigate-the-weird kind of shows that started out as monster-of-the week and blossomed into serials with long story arcs. The difference is, Fringe goes into wild sci-fi and alternate realities, while Supernatural goes into the Biblical and fantastical, with demons, angels, djinns, fairies, and anything else that's ever been a fable.

    Fringe fans, Supernatural is far from a teeny-bopper show despite being on the CW and all the "Sam-or-Dean girl" fans. There's lots of action and gruesome deaths (the show started out more focused on horror), the world by now is well established, conspiracies abound, and the pretty-boy leads are both excellent actors in much grittier roles than the CW commercials imply. There is, in fact, very little romantic angst on the show (shocking for the CW, yes?), and it's a running joke that Supernatural has killed off almost every major female character at some point (along with plenty of the male characters).

    Supernatural fans, Fringe goes is even more out there than your show, with some massive plot twists, and for those that haven't been watching recently, the lead female FBI agent has become less of a one-note straight arrow, particularly after the events of this season. Plus, the show has two realities now, so most of the actors (some are dead on one side or the other) get to play very different versions of themselves, which makes the juxtaposition between the realities a lot of fun to watch. And the mostly insane, sometimes-high Dr. Bishop character is probably the best acted and most interesting character out of both shows.

  • gem-in-eye Feb 12, 2011

    the fact is, supernatural is not competing to stay on the air. The CW won't cancel it regardless, so this is a fight to keep Fringe around. Like I always say, lets send supernatuural to the alternate universe and put them in amber till next season when they can take over smallvile's time slot and Fringe can continue to tell it's story and rock the t.v. airwaves. then we can watch supernatural follwed by Fringe. But if one has to go, bye bye supernatural

  • Tru_Slayer Feb 12, 2011

    I keep forgetting The CW is a network. I haven't watched it in almost 2 years. Fringe gets my vote.

  • mojomoonjo Feb 12, 2011

    Fringe? Whats that? Shut up now..I'm watching Supernatural...Jensen Ackles is so dreamy...:::sigh:::

  • Vadzor Feb 11, 2011

    I watch both shows! Since Supernatural is already in the safe zone, I hope people will watch Fringe to keep it alive!

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