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'Fringe': Peter and Olivia's rocky relationship threatens two universes

by jmaloni
Wed, Feb 16th 2011 11:45 am

Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni

At the end of last week's episode of "Fringe," the "over there" Olivia received some unexpected news -- information that seems destined to rock both universes.

She's pregnant and carrying Peter's child.

Since the "over here" Olivia returned home, her relationship with Peter has been strained, to say the least. Unbeknown to him, he was romantically involved for several weeks with "Bolivia," the "bad Olivia" from the alternate universe.

The two women were swapped when Olivia ventured over to the other side to rescue Peter, who had been swayed there by "Walternate," or "Alternate Walter," who is his real father. While "over there," Peter was introduced to "The Machine," a device fans have since realized has the power to save one universe and destroy the other.

It has been foretold that Peter (Joshua Jackson) will choose sides when he chooses which Olivia (Anna Torv) he truly wants to be with: the uninhibited version he lived with for a short time, or the noble version who has doubled as his FBI "fringe division" partner for several years.

"Fringe" showrunners Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman say the "over here" relationship between Peter and Olivia will change as the season continues.

"They will get worse and better," Pinkner says. "I don't think the value (will) be good or bad. It's going to be more complicated than that. Since Olivia returned and their relationship sort of shattered and they've been trying to pick up the pieces, they've been getting closer and they will continue to. But the problems that they're dealing with are going to continue to complicate.

"So it won't be as simple as, 'Hey, now we've put our relationship troubles to bed and we can be a couple again,' or, 'Hey, now we've dealt with the problems of our universe and our relationship is taking a back seat.' The two are going to be -- we're throwing a whole bunch of things at them, including the consequences of the (past) episode."

Wyman says, "We're always trying to get deeper, more complex emotions, because we find that's a really rich area for us to investigate in. There are so many facets to a real relationship -- and these are incredible circumstances that they're going through -- but we try and make it as deep as we can. So you'll see a whole bunch of shifting still to come in the entire rest of the season."

"Fringe" fans are hoping the show's smart storylines will ensure a fourth season. Last month, the FOX Network moved "Fringe" to Friday at 9 p.m., a timeslot that hasn't always worked for primetime dramas. However, in the four episodes since the move, the show's ratings have been about what was expected.

"We went into it with the understanding that there's a number that would make me very happy," Wyman said. "That's like 1.2 to 1.4 (about 1.6 million viewers, ages 18-49). That was something that was -- look, there were a lot of naysayers in that. People get nervous when things move to Friday, and Friday became a landscape that shows just don't do very well as business for the network. But we felt that our show sort of -- we were going there on a creative high, at least from our perception, and you guys in the media have been so cool. It's largely because of your reviews that our viewers are coming and staying and loving the show. The network takes a lot of notice in your reviews.

"So we felt confident going into Friday nights knowing that we're on a creative high, and we know what the show is. A lot of shows that came before us that went to Fridays, they weren't, for one reason or another -- it's so difficult to make a show, so anything can go wrong at any time. But for one reason or the other, these shows weren't on their creative upswing. They were maybe diluted -- maybe because the original vision didn't work and they were trying to find the show or it just got to a point where people weren't interested in the mythology anymore, so they tried to do some drastic things to change it. There were a lot of shows that died there.

"So we were hoping that our fans would follow and say, 'No, we're loving what they're doing, and we love the show and we're going to follow.' So we're really happy, obviously. Who can't be happy with a 1.9 and a 1.9 and a 1.6-something? Our DVR (playback numbers are) just ... they're really great. So we feel really good about it, and so does the network."

"Back to the Future" star Christopher Lloyd, who recently guest-starred on "Fringe," says his experience on set was worthwhile, and that the cast and crew are top-notch.

"I mean, every group is different in one way or another. Most of my work was with John Noble (Walter/"Walternate"), and I just felt so secure, confident and comfortable working with him," he says. "It really helped me get into the role of this man's ... lost and given-up-on life, in a way. And the entire cast is very supportive; the director very much so, and of course a wonderful script to work with. So, with those all in place, it's sort of a little bit of heaven. It's what we all wish for when we come to work the first day."

Noble, whom many TV critics say is worthy of an Emmy nomination for his work as Walter/"Walternate," says, "many, many divisions of the 'Fringe' team could be recognized by awards and haven't been yet, but you know maybe we will be, because there's some amazing people throughout the whole 'Fringe' company." 

Still, despite the show's media appreciation and loyal fanbase, "The truth is there are very few fortunate enough network television dramas that they don't watch the ratings," Pinker says. "It's just a fact of life. There's only so much that we can control. We can control the creative vision of our show. We can control the institution of our show, and FOX are legitimately fans of the show. They've told us that from the beginning. They've demonstrated it to us again and again and again.

"The move to Friday night was -- they have 'American Idol.' That's one of the shows that's not a drama. That's one of the shows that we'll never have to worry about ratings -- at least for the foreseeable future. They made the business decision that they wanted that show on Wednesday and Thursday this year. We had to move somewhere.

"Our fans had been asking FOX to move us for a year off of Thursday night. They moved us to Friday and our fans freaked out, understandably. People are afraid of change. We all are. Human beings are afraid of change, but change can be good. It seems like our audience, who, as (J.H.) said, are insanely loyal and we're so grateful for them, moved with us.

"Both the live numbers and the DVR numbers have worn that out so far, knock on wood, and the stories that we're telling, we had written and filmed before we knew we were moving. So we're not doing anything in reaction to the move. We're just doing our jobs and telling the best stories we can in the way that we enjoy telling them, and if you build it, hopefully they will come".

"Fringe" airs Fridays at 9 p.m. on FOX. Follow the show online at www.fox.com/fringe.

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