The smell of Spring is in the air, which means that the smell of desperation lingers over the world of television. It’s officially “Save Our Show” season, as fans of shows which sit on the precarious cancellation bubble band together to try to overwhelm networks with their devotion to the cause. Just three years ago, fans of CBS’ Jericho rescued that show from cancellation by bombarding CBS with peanuts, and last year fans of NBC’s Chuck bought Subway sandwiches to prove they were willing to put their money where their fandom was when it came to their favorite show.
This year, there isn’t the same sense of urgency: while Chuck remains on the bubble it’s chances for renewal are better now than they were a year ago, and there have been a lot of early renewals (for shows like NBC’s Parks and Recreation and Community) which have put fans out of their misery. However, there’s still a few shows that are readying for a fight (or licking their wounds after a fight) against “the man,” so let’s take a gander at how these campaigns are coming together (or falling apart) as we heard towards the May Upfronts and the final decisions from the various networks.
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As a syndicated scripted series, a rarity in this day and age, the Legend of the Seeker fans have very little ammunition: pleading with a production company doesn’t have as much bite, as they don’t have the brand management and public relations concerns amongst the general public that networks do. People may have branded CBS as the network that killed Jericho in a negative light, but nobody is going to think ill of ABC Studios in the same way.
Campaign: There didn’t appear to be much organization: as you can see below, the fans are mobilizing as I type with blogs and the like. However, unlike other fan campaigns (like Chuck) there doesn’t appear to be much in terms of economic awareness of the situation at hand (which in the case of syndication is mighty complicated and, to their credit, perhaps too complicated to combat in a fan campaign).
Chance for Success: Nil – the show has been “officially” (in Michael Ausiello’s definition of the word, at least) cancelled, and the one “network” who may have been its savior (SyFy) is on the record as having passed on the series after careful consideration.
Oddly, despite its former success, there really isn’t much of a Save Heroes campaign ongoing. While I’d like to claim that this is because no one in their right mind has remained a fan of this disastrous show, it’s more because the show ended its season without much fanfare really early in the year, and I’m guessing that fans are hedging their bets that NBC will order a “Final Season” in order to pretend that the show is anywhere close to Lost in terms of fanbase and that it deserves the same sort of sendoff that series is currently enjoying.
Campaign: All I’ve found is a small Facebook group (about 4000) called “Heroes 100,” which appeals to NBC to allow the show to get to 100 episodes. They were active in the E! Online Save One Show poll, where Heroes ended up in a distant fourth in one area but finished first in Twitter polling.
Chance for Success: They’re not doing much, but it’ll likely be enough: while the show has no chance of getting to 100 episodes (a short 6-13 episode order is as much as the show will get, and they’re currently at 77), NBC will try to milk the international cash cow with a much-hyped final season (if only to torture me).
One of the things that Heroes, to its credit, accomplished in its first season was creating characters that viewers could latch onto: sure, it eventually treated those characters like crap, but they were there so that if the show had struggled in its first season fans would have had something to “save.” FlashForward has almost no fan support because other than vague storytelling and ill-defined mysteries there’s nothing to care about. The show’s characters have been poorly drawn from the word go, and it’s resulted in a fanbase which lacks the same passion the show struggles to find as it limps towards its inevitable cancellation.
Campaign: From what I can gather through Facebook, fans are sending calendars to ABC’s Steve McPherson, which is at the very least clever.
Chance for Success: ABC has two underperforming science fiction series right now, and FlashForward is performing worse and has had more debilitating creative struggles than V, which has more momentum (if, perhaps, a less interesting premise). The one hope is international success, but that’s entirely out of North American fans’ control.
Probably the realistic fan campaign with the most critical support (Better Off Ted, assuredly canceled, is the critics’ favourite bubble show), Life Unexpected is in a tough position. One Tree Hill is arguably the better bet for The CW, having an expansive fan base already in place, which means that this impressive new show is working against an entrenched presence at the network. However, on their side they have a really creatively strong first season and a network in need to building new hits rather than feeding off of dying brands.
Campaign: For the most part, the campaign seems to be pretty low-key: there’s a petition floating around, but they seem to be focusing on repeats and the quality of the show rather than any sort of gimmick (which fits the show just fine).
Chance for Success: I’d like to think that the show shouldn’t have to fight for a renewal, but after Privileged was canceled in a similar position last year and after The CW renewed shows with lower ratings (90210, for example) with no sign of movement on LUX, I wonder whether fans should be doing more than they currently are, rather than waiting for a cancellation on May 20th before acting.
There are other shows which probably need campaigns: One Tree Hill and Human Target are both on the bubble, but the former’s fanbase seems to have faded with time (having already saving the show once or twice over the past few years) and the latter’s old-school action-adventure vibe is not necessarily conducive to fan organization.
But “Save Our Show” campaigns are rarely so logical as to be about which show is the best, or which show needs the most help, and network decisions are rarely focused solely on fan devotion (Chuck’s renewal, for example, came with intense budget cuts as well). For a fan campaign to be effective it needs to be vocal but not too vocal, and they need to speak in terms the network can relate to rather than terms that only fans can understand. None of these campaigns jump out as the next Jericho or Chuck, but perhaps they will be enough to convince these networks that their shows are worth saving, ratings or the bottom line be damned.