|This series had its genesis when I began photographing Vancouver area location shoots in the summer of 2010 to get over a post-Olympics funk. Film and TV productions like Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Fringe, Supernatural and Once Upon a Time showcase our city in similar fashion and sometimes put a celebrity actor or two in the frame.|
A Skype discussion early this year led to an amazing social media campaign by Fringe fans to make sure people knew their ratings-challenged show was returning in mid-January with a Winter Premiere after a long two-month hiatus. For five consecutive Friday nights, their unique episode hashtags have trended on Twitter worldwide, in the U.S. and in Vancouver. You may have seen #crosstheline, #enemyofmyenemy, #observeitlive, #takethelead and #breakingout trending and wondered what they were. Feel free to join in tonight by tweeting this week's hashtag #BeaBetterMan after 5 p.m. our time.
The Fringe Campaign organized by @Fringeunity, is smart. Audience isn't just about Nielsen ratings anymore. Fringe has proved itself a social media success with a big presence on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook. I've participated in all five Twitter campaigns to date by live-tweeting during the west coast broadcast but not in the GetGlue campaign, where fans check in to Fringe and the show's sponsors -- Nissan Leaf and Sprint -- live during commercials. Fringe is topping the trending charts at GetGlue too on Friday nights, with over ten thousand checking in. The ongoing campaign helps decision-makers see how much reach the unmeasured Fringe fandom has coming up on discussions between broadcaster FOX and production company Warner Bros TV about whether or not to renew the cult show for a fifth and final season.
Season Four began dramatically with one of the show's trio of main characters -- Peter Bishop -- erased from existence and the absence of Joshua Jackson, the actor who plays him, from his hometown. See my YVRShoots series post Where is Peter Bishop? He returned to existence with a big splash at Reiden Lake in the Fall but as a stranger to his beloved Olivia Dunham played by Anna Torv and to his "father" Walter Bishop played by John Noble. See my YVRShoots series post Here is Peter Bishop. Peter remembers them but they don't remember him in this altered timeline. Are they not his Olivia and his Walter?
We still don't know about this Olivia and Walter but it was wonderful to catch a glimpse of the Fringe trio acting more like themselves this week at a CBC Vancouver shoot for an upcoming Spring episode, along with junior Fringe agent Astrid Farnsworth played by Jasika Nicole.
Fringe's fourth season is divided into three acts -- the Fall, Winter and Spring episodes. When World Series baseball on FOX unexpectedly pre-empted the eighth episode showrunners planned as their big Fall Finale it hurt the dramatic arc of the show and disappointed viewers.
So the Fall Finale became the Winter Premiere. In Back to Where You've Never Been, Peter Bishop decides to cross over to the alternate universe to convince the Walter doppleganger Walternate to help him get back to his own timeline since Walter refuses to help him get home. Olivia convinces Peter to take our Lincoln Lee with him, hoping to find out who's behind the shapeshifter threat in both universes. Fringe fans got their "social media on . . . with a vengeance" tweeting the unique hashtag #crosstheline until it trended worldwide and in Vancouver, while "Fringe" trended in the U.S.
Peter and our Lincoln Lee, played by Seth Gabel, crossed over at the Orpheum Theatre, where I photographed them filming in mid-October last year. In the photo below, Lincoln Lee is staring in shock at the Twin Towers of New York (CGIed into a view looking south on Granville Street), which still exist in Fringe's alternate universe.
I also photographed local guest star James "Bam bam" Bamford rehearsing a stunt fight with Joshua Jackson and Seth Gabel in a parking lot off Arch Alley downtown and used some of the photos to illustrate my Fall post, not expecting it to take three months for the episode to air.
I'm a sucker for alt-universe episodes and this Peter-centric one did not disappoint. It opens with Peter dreaming about his Olivia and his Walter at home, with Walter cooking breakfast naked except for an apron. Of course on the other side, the Olivia doppleganger Fauxlivia greets Peter with a snarky "Who the Hell are You?" And the Walter doppleganger Walternate confounds our expectations by not being the big bad behind the shapeshifters. That is revealed to be old Fringe foe David Robert Jones, played by Jared Harris of Mad Men and Sherlock Holmes fame. (I live-tweeted some of these observations and later found to my surprise that I ranked as one of the bigger Fringe influencers --through tweets and RTs -- along with episode writer David Fury. I'm pretty sure I was a one-episode wonder.)
In the next episode, Enemy of my Enemy, Fringe Division in both universes must deal with their new common enemy David Robert Jones as shown in an astonishing scene of originals and dopplegangers -- Walternate, our Broyles, alt-Broyles (both played by Lance Reddick), Olivia, Fauxlivia, our Lincoln Lee, alt-Lincoln Lee and Peter Bishop -- shooting looks at each other around a conference room table. How did they film that? In the hunt for Jones, Peter Bishop utters this could-only-happen-on-Fringe line: "We're in the wrong universe." And then the big reveal: Blair Brown's Nina Sharp is in cahoots with Jones. Of course that week's hashtag #EnemyofmyEnemy trended #3 worldwide, #2 in the U.S. and #4 in Vancouver.
I managed to photograph Mr. Big Bad himself, David Robert Jones, on set in the concrete park between the Vancouver and Terminal City Clubs downtown last October. I wasn't the first and uploaded it with a Spoiler tag but TVLine.com linked to my photo for an article about Jared Harris's return to Fringe, resulting in over ten thousand views of it on Flickr. Anna Torv, in Fauxlivia's signature red hair, fatigues and combat boots, and Seth Gabel as our Lincoln Lee were on set too to try to apprehend Jones. And at the Hastings entrance, crew placed a Manhatan (one t) transit map with some closed routes and lines apparently still operating in Fringe's alt-universe. Fun.
Episode ten Forced Perspective, which aired on January 27th, marked a return to the original universe for a Fringe case involving a girl who can predict the future. That week's hashtag #ObserveitLive trended #2 worldwide, as well as trending in the U.S. and Vancouver. I didn't see much of it being filmed because the big scenes took place inside the Vancouver Convention Centre on the rainiest of rainy Vancouver days last November. Fun fact: Fringe fan Tessa has a screen cap showing the fingers of the Olympic Cauldron in the background of a shot.
Next up early this month was episode eleven, Making Angels, which involved Astrid meeting her alt-universe doppleganger for the first time. Plus viper Fauxlivia crossed over to snark with and eventually charm Walter with bobbins in his lab. That week's hashtag honoured Astrid -- or Astro/Astrix/Asteriod/Ostrich/Aspirin as befuddled Walter calls her -- taking the lead in the story. #TaketheLead trended at #2 worldwide while trending in the U.S. and Vancouver at various times. Even better, "Astrid" trended in the U.S. I didn't see any of the filming, some of which took place in Gastown's Blood Alley and out in Surrey near the Gateway station, but I did change my avatar for the first time to a #TaketheLead one.
In last Friday's episode Welcome to Westfield, Olivia, Peter and Walter (out of his lab for once) find themselves trapped in a Vermont town where big bad David Robert Jones is experimenting with bringing the two universes together in one place. Or as I tweeted: Welcome to Westfield again & again & again & again. Hashtag #BreakingOut trended worldwide, in the U.S. and in Vancouver (at #2 as usual).
Cloverdale played Westfield in early December last year to the consternation of a few merchants who objected to Fringe temporarily stripping Christmas decorations off the Victorian lamposts and shutting down two full blocks of 176th Street for a day to film a huge green screen scene of a deserted town. A local told me it's always the same two merchants who complain about anything that disrupts their small businesses but that didn't stop The Cloverdale Reporter from headlining its story with "TV Shoot to Erase Christmas in Cloverdale". I just missed seeing the trio on set together with a rifle-toting Joshua Jackson back in his navy pea coat but did spy Jackson and John Noble walking and talking on their way to an interior shoot in Dunn's Electronics. And later I photographed Anna Torv and Lance Reddick filming the aftermath of the vortex at Quimby (easter egg from previous episode) and Cypress in fictional Westfield.
In tonight's episode, A Better Human Being, Olivia starts remembering everything. The hashtag is #BeaBetterMan.
And next Friday's Winter Finale, End of All Things, might explain a few things about the Observers, who seemed to be having an Observer convention on the steps of Robson Square in early January this year.
Then we can looked forward to the Spring premiere, episode fourteen, directed by Fringe showrunner Joel Wyman, aka @JWFringe. If you know anything about the filming of it you'll be thrilled by the episode title, A Short Story about Love.
Behind the scenes, though, everyone involved with Fringe worries a little about its future on the heels of Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly's remarks at the Television Critics Association winter press tour early this year. He publicly praised the show: "Fringe has been a point of pride. I share the passion for the show the fans have. I love that FOX, after letting down genre fans over the years [came through with Fringe]. I love that fans stuck with it after it moved to Friday. It has vastly improved our Friday night." But then added: "The hesitation in my voice is that it’s an expensive show. We lose a lot of money on the show. But with that rating on that night it’s almost impossible for us to make money on it. We’re not in the business of losing money. We need to figure out if there’s a [deal with studio Warner TV that] will make sense or will this be it." Joshua Jackson, who attended a TCA party that night, told EW magazine that "if the show is really not making money [then that should be it]. But the important thing to me is that our writers are given a chance to finish the show because it’s a serialized show."
Showrunners Joel Wyman and Jeff Pinker have assured fans that no matter what happens they will not be left hanging by this May's season finale. Meantime, as the fans' Fringe Campaign continues, I found what could be a subtle plea for a fifth season renewal at a Fringe shoot in the Downtown Eastside last week.
Well played Fringe. Well played.
Fringe airs tonight at 9 p.m. on CITY-TV in Canada and FOX in the U.S.