The Power of Fans

1109power of the fans Separator

by Emily Offshack (@CanadianEmily)

Over the years, groups of passionate fans have come together to save their favorite television shows from cancellation. The prevalence of social media makes fan campaigns that much easier, and together, we might have the power to change how television success is defined.

Jericho

Jericho was cancelled after its first season, but CBS reversed the decision after fans bombarded the network with emails and, more importantly, twenty tons of peanuts. The choice of peanuts came from the line spoken by character Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich) when asked to surrender in the season finale: “Nuts.” It was his refusal to surrender, and in kind, fans refused to give up on their show.

Publicly praising the fan campaign, CBS ordered seven episodes to air as a mid-season replacement, but warned that there would need to be more viewers for more episodes to be produced. Unfortunately, ratings never picked up and Jericho was again cancelled after the second season.

Star Trek

The passion of Star Trek fans dates as far back as the original series, when NBC announced that they were cancelling the show after its second season in 1968. Boldly going where no fan had gone before, a massive letter-writing campaign was organized and students from Caltech, Berkeley and MIT organized demonstrations outside of NBC offices in Burbank, San Francisco and New York. Their voices were heard, and Star Trek was brought back for a third season. However, its budget was cut and it was moved to a Friday timeslot—the place where shows were sent to die. It was cancelled again after its third season.

Luckily for Trekkies, the third season allowed the show to go into syndication, which brought more viewers and helped create the massive franchise that continues to develop new content to this day.

Fringe

Fringe proved that moving a series to Friday is not necessarily a death sentence—especially with a loyal, active fan base to back it up. Now airing its fifth and final season, the sci-fi gem was granted time for a proper ending, and that’s really all anyone can ask for.

There are numerous things that Fringe fans have done to support the show, but the Twitter campaign has received a lot of attention. Knowing how difficult it is to get common terms to trend on Twitter, the team at Fringenuity began creating episode-specific hashtags for fans to use while watching the show. They were so successful that Fox began supporting their efforts by displaying the unique hashtags on the screen during the episode.

Another collective effort worth watching is this video that fans from around the world contributed to after Season Three ended and character Peter Bishop (Josh Jackson) vanished.

I am indebted to the fans who worked so hard to keep Fringe alive. After being simply grossed out by the first few episodes (skin melting off flesh and whatnot), I abandoned the series too early and only recently caught up after noticing all of the hype on Twitter. I am proof that new viewers can be obtained by the collective effort of strangers; Fringe is now my favorite on-air show and, in my opinion, one of the greatest series of all time.

Chuck

A show that seemed to always be on the verge of cancellation, Chuck defied the odds and remained on air for five seasons, and the fans who participated in numerous save-our-show campaigns can take a lot of credit for that. In one of the smartest fan campaigns to date, Chuck fans knew that if they couldn’t make a huge impact on the show’s viewership, they had to let the advertisers know that the existing fan base was noticing and purchasing their products. Many advertisers were thanked, but it was the Subway campaign that really took off.

On the night of the season two finale, fans purchased footlong Subway sandwiches, left comment cards explaining why, and tweeted to Subway to show that their advertising dollars were being well spent. Zachary Levi himself even led a group of fans to a Subway in Birmingham. It worked: Subway became a major sponsor of the show and the series was renewed for a third season.

Chuck also demonstrated that product placement doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Every time Big Mike (Mark Christopher Lawrence) feasted on a Subway sandwich, it was like being part of an inside joke. If product placement is what it takes to keep great entertainment alive, that’s a small price to pay.

Cancellation is a minor obstacle

Sometimes, passionate fan campaigns have little initial success, but even after a show is off the air, it doesn’t mean it’s the end. Although Firefly was ultimately cancelled after too few episodes, continued fan support resulted in a successful DVD release and the production of the follow-up film Serenity. After being off the air for seven years, enthusiasm for Arrested Development has brought it back into production with new episodes airing on Netflix in 2013.

Television fan communities are passionate forces of good, trying to protect quality entertainment that might otherwise get shoved aside. What show are you currently trying to save? What other shows do you think were cancelled too soon?


    10 Comments

  1. JeanneNovember 9th, 2012 at 11:28 am

    I agree 100% THE Fans do what ever they have to do to save there favorite show. FAN POWER!!!. and if there is one show am very happy was saved it was CHUCK!!! I will miss it SOOOO much. thank for this article it was Great.

  2. maude215November 9th, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    I want to save Chuck for a movie !

  3. JoshuaNovember 9th, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    Really glad Chuck made it through 5 seasons.
    Been watching all the episodes on DVD with my wife since I caught on a little late in the game….sadly, all I have is 2 episodes left.
    This has to be one of my favorite shows ever, and I would have been one of the first in line at Subway if I would have been informed about the show at the time.
    Hope to see more shows starring the likes of Zachary Levi, or Adam Baldwin!

  4. MarcusNovember 9th, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    Agreed and I ate way to many $5 foot longs for Chuck and would do it again for that show. You also forgot Roswell and the tobasco.

  5. waschalNovember 9th, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    Yeah I also thought of Roswell. The Fans managed to get a third season and we had a great ending.
    I think it is sad that if a show gets cancelled, often we never get a real ending. I thought so by Gilmore Girls. sure the show was on for 7 years but after Amy left the show wasn’t the same and never got the right ending.

    Two show I was really piss*** at after they got cancelled was Hellcats and The Lost World. They endet the shows with a major Clifhanger and now we will never know how it could go on.

    If a Network want’s to cancelled a show they should be more honest with the Producers so they can make a good end.

  6. GabrielaNovember 9th, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    I really miss Chuck and I will never give up hope that maybe there will be another season or at least a movie. Chuck has a lot of fans and great support here. So, let’s bring back Chuck!!! Greetings from Macedonia 🙂

  7. JeanneNovember 10th, 2012 at 4:06 am

    The article said that fans of star Trek helped save it for another season. but dose anybody or you Emily who wrote this article knows what the fans of Star Trek wanted. and got it?. think of what they wanted the name ENTERPRISE on?.

  8. EmilyNovember 10th, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Thanks for the comments everyone!

    Marcus – Thanks for mentioning Roswell, which is another great example of a fan campaign to save a show: over 3,000 bottles of Tabasco sauce were sent to WB executives when the series was on the bubble, and the fan campaign was recognized as contributing to the show’s renewal.

    waschal – I agree that the end of Gilmore Girls was not as good as it could have been, which was unfortunate for such a great show. In terms of cliffhangers, V and Alcatraz are some more examples of depressing endings that resulted from them not getting renewed.

    Jeanne – While reading up on the initial Star Trek fan campaign for this article, I did come across the story of Star Trek fans successfully convincing NASA to name the first space shuttle orbiter “Space Shuttle Enterprise.” Truly remarkable — the power of fans can reach beyond the screen!

  9. PeavesNovember 10th, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    This was cool! I didn’t know there were so many different movements for fans saving their shows. It really is a sign for networks to stop looking at those Nielsen boxes as a scale, of success, since this is the digital age. Creators are starting looking at the fans to be that extra producer, Netflix and Arrested Development and web series like The Guild and Husbands.

    I have a feeling TNM is going to be the place for this sort of thing one day, as Zac has said before for original programming where fans have a say in the shows that they watch.

  10. ChuckVStheMovieNovember 14th, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    I am campaigning for a Chuck Movie and think we should get Subway involved again! I even started a petiotion to do,just that! gopetition.com/petitions/getting-subway-to-help-finance-a-chuck-movie.html … Please sign!

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