Fox just gave "Fringe" a full season order, and hopefully the improvement shown in the most recent episode will continue throughout the rest of this year. After the jump, some thoughts on the pick-up, as well as the ratings struggles of some other Shows Of Interest in these parts, including "Chuck" and ABC's entire Wednesday lineup...
Fox appears to have learned its lesson with "Fringe." The pilot, debuting without an established lead-in -- not even Sunday football, which could have worked even with the show's length -- got mediocre numbers at best, but its numbers have gone up once it started airing after "House," and its retention of that lead-in audience is pretty good. I doubt you'll see Fox try debuting another series it has high hopes for without a lead-in from either "House," "American Idol" or football anytime soon.
(On the other hand, moving "House" to 8 o'clock has caused a drop of several million viewers from last year's pre-"American Idol" numbers, which creates one of those scheduling philosophy problems. "House" would definitely do better at 9, but that wouldn't help the show airing before it, and sooner or later Fox is going to need some hits that don't feature Hugh Laurie or Kiefer Sutherland.)
Meanwhile, the whole Re-Freshman Class of '08-'09 thing doesn't seem to be working out too well. "Chuck" debuted to its lowest numbers ever on Monday, and the entire ABC Wednesday lineup of "Pushing Daisies," "Private Practice" and "Dirty Sexy Money" more or less tanked last night. (Airing after "Heroes," "Life" did better than its very weak Wednesday average from last year, but less than it did with its series premiere, when it had a big "Bionic Woman" lead-in, before everyone realized how bad "Bionic Woman" was.)
Now, almost everything in primetime is down from a year ago. More people are watching on a DVR delay, or on-line, or simply not watching at all. So lower overall numbers aren't necessarily bad, but in many cases, it's the context. "Chuck" finished third to "Dancing with the Stars" and the CBS comedies, but it was a distant third. (Though it was still ahead of "Sarah Connor Chronicles," which one site claims is already in danger of cancellation.) "Pushing Daisies" finished fourth in its timeslot -- behind "Knight Rider" -- "Private Practice" finished third at 9, and "Dirty Sex Money" only finished second at 10 because NBC for some reason renewed "Lipstick Jungle."
Now, part of the whole Re-Freshman phenomenon is that many of these shows probably wouldn't have been renewed if it hadn't been for the strike. "Chuck" probably would have, and maybe "Private Practice" and "Dirty Sexy Money" because ABC has relationships with their creators. But most of them weren't doing that wonderfully in the Nielsens when they went off the air, so it's not like there was a big "Sopranos" or "Lost"-sized audience willing to wait nine months for another episode. And maybe in the next few weeks, we'll see some numbers tick up a bit as people remember, "Oh, hey, I kinda liked that show last year!"
"Chuck" already has a full-season order -- though that doesn't mean as much as it used to; in recent years, networks have either reduced or rescinded those back nine orders -- and things at NBC are so awful that I imagine they have far bigger problems to worry about. But if the hope was to relaunch all these shows to either the same or bigger numbers than they debuted with a year ago, those hopes have been very quickly dashed.