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Best of Both Universes: Fringe Renewed! (But Lights Out for Lights Out)

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FOX

Strawberry milkshakes for everyone! Fringe, whose ratings have not exactly been keeping pace with its creative growth, was officially picked up for a full fourth season yesterday. I was modestly optimistic the show would be saved—though it’s ratings have fallen off, arguably they’ve fallen less than you would have guessed when it moved from high-profile Thursday to low-traffic Friday. But I didn’t expect it would happen this soon, and now we can spend the rest of the season worrying about what happens in the Fringe Division, not in the Fox Programming Department.

At Fox’s sister station, FX, sadder news: boxing drama Lights Out will not return after it finishes its season. I’ve seen plenty of theories as to why the show didn’t take off. My personal choice of the moment is that the drama, which focused on a former champ trying to come back at extreme legal and physical risk, was probably too somber for the portion of FX’s audience that would have watched a boxing show. “Lights” Leary, like many FX protagonists, is a guy in the ballpark of 40 at a crossroads in life, and while 40 may not be ancient for, say, a firefighter or a cop, for a boxer it’s standing on the brink of eternity.

FX

Lights Out, in other words, is a comeback story—a familiar, time-tested draw—but also a story of decline, of age, of regret. A bit of a downer, in other words, as powerful a downer as the show can be. (See this week’s great storyline with David Morse as a cautionary tale of a brain-damaged boxer.) That, and the idea of a boxer coming back is a familiar plot—too much so, maybe, for a lot of viewers to even give the show a chance.

There is one silver lining for the remaining fans of the show: I’ve seen the entire season, and the upcoming finale, frankly, probably works better as a series finale than as a season finale. (And much as you may think you’ve seen this story before, I didn’t see its ending coming.) So if you’ve been watching the show, or are thinking about catching up, don’t hesitate to stick it out until the end. You may wish for more, but you won’t feel like you’ve been sucker punched.

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