A Look Back at the Wildly Ambitious 'Fox Rocks' Week - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

A Look Back at the Wildly Ambitious ‘Fox Rocks’ Week

April 29, 2020 by  

Fox Rocks Brown Betty 10th Anniversary

FRINGE: Walter (John Noble, L) weaves a mysterious and musical tale in the FRINGE episode “Brown Betty” airing Thursday, April 29 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. Also pictured: Joshua Jackson (C) and Anna Torv (R) ©2010 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Liane Hentscher/FOX

In 2010, hot off the success of GLEE, Fox came up with a way to try and cross-promote its other shows with its blockbuster hit. It’s move? “Fox Rocks” a “week of music-themed episodes.”

The event ran from Thursday, April 29, through Wednesday, May 5, with the shows committing in various degrees. (GLEE and AMERICAN IDOL, then at Fox, of course, had the easiest in to the theme week.) HOUSE doubled-up with a re-broadcast of its season premiere, which featured a pre-HAMILTON Lin-Manuel Miranda, and then a new episode that featured a karaoke scene.

The animated shows—which have a bit of a longer production process—were a little less involved with THE CLEVELAND SHOW going the biggest: Kanye West guest starred as rap star Kenny West who ended up in a rap battle with Cleveland Jr.. Meanwhile, THE SIMPSONS had its characters sing along to Ke$ha’s “TiK ToK” in its couch gag, and FAMILY GUY’s 150th episode included new musical numbers.

BONES incorporated music into the show in a perfectly BONES-y way: there was a death at a rock-n-roll fantasy camp, where the murder weapon was suspected to be, naturally, a guitar. (There was also a delightful Booth and Brennan performance at the end, but that wasn’t entirely abnormal for the show.)

However, no series went as far out as FRINGE.

The episode fell in a pivotal point in the season, as (ten-year spoiler alert?) Peter had discovered his father, Walter, had stolen him from an alternate universe when he was a child. (After Walter’s own version of Peter died; Walter crossed the universes because Over There’s Walter was distracted when trying to find the cure for Peter’s illness, and Walter couldn’t bear for another Peter to die.) A distraught Peter cut his father out of his life, leaving an already unstable Walter floundering to find new footing.

To cope, Walter took a drug (dubbed “Brown Betty”) and it helped him tell quite the tale while he—and Astrid—watched over Olivia’s niece, Ella. The tale was one that closely paralleled what was going on with FRINGE (Massive Dynamic! The Observer! Peter betrayed by Walter!), but it was told in the format of a musical noir.

Gimmick episodes can often feel exactly like that—gimmicks. This didn’t. It didn’t entirely progress much of the story forward (the real Olivia spent the episode trying to find Peter), but it dove into the depths of despair Walter was going through over losing his son again. It also shed a pretty heartbreaking view at his mindset when he gave his story a sad ending, much to the absolute annoyance of Ella. “Don’t you know?” Ella asked. “All good stories start with ‘once upon a time’ and end with ‘happily ever after!’”

But at that point, Walter really felt there was no happy ending; he had lost his son. Ultimately, his son being okay and happy was all he wanted. (Well, fine, and maybe some drugs and licorice, too.)

The hour also started one of FRINGE’s quirkiest traditions, as from then on, episode 19* was devoted to a weirder, out of the box episode. (Season 3, in another drug-influenced hour, was partially told via animation. Season 4 jumped ahead to the future.)

*Though this episode was marked as 20, it was the 19th of season 2; an unaired episode from 1 was included in the season 2 run.

Fox pulled stunts like this every once in a while—there was also a SIMPSONS-themed week around the same era—but these stunts aren’t pulled as often anymore. (The closest was probably ABC’s recent “Blast From the Past,” which had reunions on many—but not all—shows during a Fall 2019 week.)

They’re not easy to pull off. Some of them feel hokey. But when done right? They’re pretty darn incredible.

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Filed under Fringe

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