Ellen Gray: This week's episode of 'Fringe' merits watching in real time

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Olivia (Anna Torv) learns more about Peter's (Joshua Jackson) connection to the alternate universe in tomorrow's episode.

FRINGE. 9 p.m. tomorrow, Channel 29.

AFTER a week off, Fox's "Fringe" (9 p.m. Fridays) returns tomorrow, and if you're still hoping to see how this particular war of the worlds turns out - or just how the story of Olivia (Anna Torv) and Peter (Joshua Jackson) does - you need to think about it watching it in real time.

And, OK, if possible, as part of a Nielsen family. Yes, and in this universe, the only one that currently matters to the people calling the shots for next season, who also aren't as interested in Hulu and what you have on your DVR as you might be.

As "Fringe" continues to balance on that rickety fence between cancellation and a fourth season, I've been thinking about what J.J. Abrams, one of the show's creators, had to say about endings when I asked him, at a Fox party in January, what he thought it would take to wrap things up.

"Having an end date on a series is actually a wonderful thing, but no one wants the end date to come too early," said Abrams, who also co-created "Lost" (if not its still-controversial ending).

"I would argue that the show deserves to, you know, go on beyond Season 3. But if they did say we have to end the show at the end of Season 4, I would rather know that and then work our asses off to satisfy that story than to be told in a month it's going to be at the end of Season 3. I would argue there's no way to wrap it up in a truly satisfying way" this season.

"What I know is that the stories that [showrunners Jeff Pinkner and Joel Wyman] are thinking go beyond Season 4, but that's not to say that if bad news came, that Season 4 was it," that it couldn't be done, said Abrams, who wasn't happy about the move to Fridays but was satisfied that "Fringe" had remained true to itself.

The show is "about a woman who was experimented on when she was a kid, it is about a man who might not have come from here, it is about a father who is holding incredible secrets. . . . These are things that we talked about at the very beginning of the show. To not embrace that means that we will fail on other people's terms. So if we're going to fail, let's go out having done the most bad-ass, weirdest, interesting, sophisticated version of a series that we can possibly do," he said.

I'd certainly like to see that story through to some conclusion, and one that wasn't slapped together at the last minute. If you would, too, think about staying in - or going out a bit later - tomorrow night.

The shameless pleading portion of the column now over, let's move on:

* I'm still smarting from that very special episode of Fox's "House" this week, which had singing, dancing, dream sequences and a major bait and switch.

(Spoiler alert: Stop reading now if you haven't seen Monday's episode yet.)

In a series that's been all too willing to kill off major characters (or, in the case of Thirteen, give them conditions that will almost certainly kill them eventually), Cuddy's cancer scare was scarier than it might have been if she'd just been one of House's patients, not merely his girlfriend.

Because patients are always getting misdiagnosed and then saved before the credits roll.

So it felt like a bit of a cheat to have her Very Bad News turn benign so quickly, and then to be used as a vehicle for getting to the couple's seemingly inevitable breakup.

On the other hand, as an exploration of what it really means to be involved with an addict, it sure beats following Charlie Sheen on Twitter.

* Absence didn't make the heart grow fonder for fans of NBC's "The Event," which returned this week after a three-month break to find that a large chunk of its audience had been abducted by aliens.

Of the 5.2 million who did stick out the two-hour episode, six said they finally knew what "the event" was.

Only to be told that no, that wasn't the event, either.

* "Philadelphia: The Great Experiment," the pilot for a prospective series on the city's history produced by former mayoral candidate Sam Katz, will make its TV debut at 7:30 p.m. April 26 on 6ABC, where it will be introduced by anchor Jim Gardner and air without commercial interruption.

Katz, executive producer of History Making Productions, said yesterday that the half-hour film looks at post-Civil War Philadelphia and that he hopes to attract funding for a multi-episode production aimed at a national audience.

* Surprising exactly no one, CBS has ordered two more editions of "Survivor" for next season, the 23rd and 24th installments of the show, where Jeff "The Tribe Has Spoken" Probst will be back as host and executive producer. *

Send e-mail to graye@phillynews.com.