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The Top Five Campaigns to Save TV Shows from Cancellation

Set your DVRs, people. Jericho returns to CBS at 10p on Tuesday night with the second season’s first episode, “Reconstruction.”

As many of you know, CBS execs had actually canceled Jericho after the last season, but then later granted a seven-episode second season in response to a creative mass mailing campaign by fans of the show. In an incredible show of support, fan activists arranged for many tons of nuts (symbolic of a plot device in the finale of season one) to be delivered to CBS headquarters.

Not only did the efforts of those fans guarantee continued enjoyment of 100%, all-natural Jake Green goodness (huzzah!), but they also sparked a trend among fans looking for distinctive and demonstrative ways to rally around their favorite “on the bubble” TV shows.

5) THE 4400

What did fans send?

Sunflower seeds, a favorite of 4400 character Dr. Burkhoff (played by fan-favorite character actor Jeffrey Combs). Combs has also apparently “supported” the campaign, whatever that means.

Yeah, I support the ongoing existence of my job, too, buddy.

How successful was the campaign?

Not very, unfortunately, in spite of impressive turnout.

Individual fans had sent about 30 pounds of sunflower seeds to the USA Networks offices by January 30 of this year. Following that, North Dakota company Giants Snacks shipped nearly 6,000 bags (about 650 pounds) of seeds, with orders from about 30 states and a dozen countries.su Meanwhile, over 16,000 signatures have been added to an online petition.

However, USA Network spokeswoman Kristin Schulman told the Associated Press that it would be “very difficult logistically to bring the show back.” That’s a fancy way of saying “a snowball’s chance in Hell.”

4) JOURNEYMAN

What are fans sending?

The folks behind the Save Journeyman! blog are organizing the campaign to send Jeff Zucker, CEO of NBC Univeral, boxes of Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat. The show takes place in San Francisco. I’ll let you do the second-grade math.

Did you know you could buy Rice-A-Roni by the case from Amazon? I sure didn’t.

How successful has the campaign been?

So far, 2,623 boxes of Rice-A-Roni and $4,086 (for a pooled Rice-A-Roni fund) have been sent by fans. Good showing, but no indication of whether it’ll make any difference.

The real winners? First, City Harvest, a non-profit that provides food to New York’s needy, to whom NBC has been donating the Rice-A-Roni. Second, the team of marketers at Rice-A-Roni, who in their wildest dreams couldn’t imagine getting viral exposure like this.

3) ROSWELL

What did fans send?

Tabasco sauce, a favorite drink of the moody and unreasonably-photogenic aliens portrayed in the series.

How successful was the campaign?

I’d rank the success at “Very to Super-Very.” Fans sent over 3,000 bottles of Tabasco sauce to the offices of the late WB network and kept the show alive for two more seasons.

That’s two more seasons of Katherine Heigl looking all hot for everyone to see. I think most of us can get on board with that. Several times.

2) VERONICA MARS

What did fans send?

Mars Bars to Dawn Ostrow, head of the CW network. Very clever, until campaigning fans last summer realized that Mars Bars are in limited supply here in the States; they’re strictly a European candy. Whoops.

When candy importers couldn’t keep up with demand, fans started sending letters, e-mails, marshmallows, and whatever else they thought could get the attention of execs at the CW.

How successful was the campaign?

In addition to the candy sent by individual fans, importer The Indian Food Store fulfilled over 1,400 pounds in orders for confections sent to the CW: 4,848 Snickers Almond Bars, 2,040 Mars Bars from England, and 510 pounds of marshmallows.

The result? Producers got as far as creating a 12-minute mini-pilot for a proposed season four. (You can see it in the DVD extras of season three.) Unfortunately, the network decisively killed the show, anyway, but writer/creator Rob Thomas remains “motivated” to bring Veronica Mars back in a screenplay or a comic book. He just needs to free up the time to make it happen.

In the meantime, campaigning continues. Over 2,000 eager fans have signed a petition to syndicate the series, and 4,000 signatures have been added to a petition for a Veronica Mars movie.

1) JERICHO

What did fans send?

As a shout-out to a Jake Green line in the finale of the first season, fans sent nuts to CBS headquarters. Lots and lots and lots of nuts.

How successful was the campaign?

Twenty tons of nuts on the doorstep of CBS later, the second season was approved. Verdict? Successful as hell.

Honorable Mention: FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

What are fans sending?

Light bulbs and Clear Eyes eye drops.

In this recently-instituted campaign started by none other than VH1’s Best Week Ever, fans are mailing Ben Silverman, the head of NBC Entertainment, with light bulbs displaying scrawled-in-Sharpie “Keep the Lights on” messages.

I’m sure your turbo-charged, super-brain appreciates the obvious symbolism of the light bulb. But in case you don’t like to occupy yourself putting two and two together: General Electric–producer of engines, futuristic plastics, good things that come to life, and light bulbs–is NBC’s corporate parent. So, FNL lights fans are basically trying to bribe GE by buying up a lot of cheap light bulbs.

And if that doesn’t work, any bulbs that arrive broken send another message: “Cancel our show, and we’ll cut you. Bitch.” (No, seriously.) Talk about a multi-layered message.

Meanwhile, a new group on Facebook is organizing a campaign to send Clear Eyes to Mr. Silverman in honor of the slogan of FNL‘s fictional high school football team, the Dillon Panthers: “Clear eyes, full hearts, CAN’T LOSE!”

How successful has the campaign been?

Too early to tell. The campaigns only started in the last week, in response to the airing of the last episode of the season last Friday night, and Silverman’s recent disheartening comments that suggest a renewal is not in the poorly-rated but critically-adored show’s future.

As a very recent convert (thanks to rebroadcasts on the Universal HD channel), I wish these fans much luck.

ALSO NOTEWORTHY:

  • Farscape – Female viewers sending bras to the Sci Fi Channel got a 4-hour wrap-up miniseries.
  • Firefly – Industrious fans bought enough DVDs to earn a big-budget feature film.
  • Arrested Development – Fanatics sent fake bananas to Fox execs and got 13 episodes of a final season. Now there’s rumblings of a movie in the works.


12 comments… add one
  • Nathan D February 12, 2008, 12:06 pm

    Never fails that when I like a show on TV it gets cancelled. One of the many reasons I am pretty much DVD-only now. Of course, I’m also about 5 years behind the rest of the world in what I’m watching, but I think of it more as retro. Or something.

    And, really, are the Rice-A-Roni people really that psyched about a couple thousand people sending those boxes? Oh, wait, it’s the high profile coverage on blogs like this one. Hmm, I sure could use me some of that salty-starchy goodness that is Rice-A-Roni.

  • The Jay February 12, 2008, 12:49 pm

    I’m gonna play Devil’s Advocate here and ask the question: Is bringing a show back ever a good idea? For example: We got FNL back for Season 2 and it is sub-par. Same with Veronica Mars Season 3. Related, we now get Kristen Bell EVERYWHERE, not just on the CW once a week. I’m happy for Jericho fans, but sometimes I think it’s best that we just appreciate the time we have with shows, instead of flogging a dead horse.

    For more, go here: http://www.thejay.com/2007/08/13/case-against-reviving-canceled-shows/

  • Great White Snark February 12, 2008, 8:37 pm

    I don’t disagree with you, Jay. On the one hand, I am glad Jericho is back: I think it genuinely has a story left to tell, and its relatively low ratings were a result of its poor handling by CBS.

    On the other hand, some of these other shows that I really enjoyed ended up overstaying their welcome and jumping the shark. Case in point: your VM season 3 example. (And, Lordy, what a disappointment that was.) Same problem with The 4400 and (apparently) FNL. I never gave the time of day to Journeyman, because really–while it might have been a decent show–on its best day it so clearly was not half as good as some of these other shows on their worst days. And my limited TV-watching time is valuable, yo.

    So, I agree with your point: (in my words,) I’d rather have less time with a Good Thing than have more time with the Good Thing and have to watch it go bad.

  • Babsy February 25, 2008, 7:07 am

    Speaking of shows on NBC on Friday nights, just what the heck is NBC thinking with cancelling “Las Vegas”? It was just finding its stride with Tom Selleck as the new owner of the Montecito, A.J. “Cooper” Cooper, and Camille Guaty’s Piper Nielson was just starting to actually contribute to the show (I thought she was pretty annoying when she started, but she grew on me). And with the big butt cliffhanger ending to the final episode of the season, with Delinda bleeding and going into labor and someone trying to strong arm the Montecito away from Cooper, now we may never know what happened. Did Delinda have the baby? Did Cooper lose the casino?

    What a bunch of hooey.

    NBC just decides to cancel the whole thing. No half season of six episodes or something, no TV movie wrap up to tie up the loose ends and end the show on a high, proper note. Again, it’s a bunch of hooey. What exactly is NBC going to fill in the air time with? “quarterlife”? Another Dateline? “Knight Rider”?

    Well, apparently the diehard fans of the show have taken a page out of the “Jericho” return and have started up a letter writing campaign to get NBC to change its mind. At the least, all the fans really want is a proper wrap up, a two hour movie event type of deal. What’s wrong with doing that?

    Check out http://lasvegas-theseries.com/ for all of the pertinent details concerning the campaign. It worked for “Jericho,” why not “Las Vegas”?

    Save “Las Vegas”!

  • Jamahl B. March 7, 2008, 2:10 am

    WTF man I am so so going crazy right now. I loved Journey Man the show was just getting in the meat of the character. There was so many things they could have done with the show Damn. I don’t even know what to say about the NBC they have just lost a new fan REAL TALK. I don’t even know what to say about the 4400 all I can do is Cry.

  • Katherine March 7, 2008, 10:06 pm

    These are the good shows! You can’t cancel them! Especially Veronica Mars! This is insane what NBC is doing.

  • Heidi March 14, 2008, 6:56 am

    You should make a list of the top five campaigns to bring back tv show characters. I think Carson Beckett from Stargate Atlantis would top that one!

  • Nathan D March 14, 2008, 12:21 pm

    @Heidi — perhaps we should start a campaign for the TV equivalent of a “super group” with all of our favorite characters in one show.

  • kailee March 14, 2008, 7:36 pm

    Hmm, I really liked looking at this list. Showed that fans can really help bring back a great TV Show.

    I don’t know if it is to late to post, but the fans of South of Nowhere (myself included) have just started campaign to bring the show back. They have started sending compasses and have many other campaigns in store. Have recentley sent over 50,000 compasses last week alone. The campaign is only in it’s second week and shows no plans of stopping anytime soon.

    If you want more information go to savespashley.com to help save this TV show that shows a realistic prespective on teenage life.

  • Heidi March 15, 2008, 3:16 pm

    @Nathan – Love the idea. Can only image the talent of the writers you’d need to create a script that can combine sci-fi genres successfully, with I’m sure a few other non sci-fi characters. Capt Picard meets the fith element and has a drink at quarks, lol.

  • jasmine April 13, 2008, 4:52 pm

    that sucks about veronica mars…i really did like that show…its like every single show that last for a lil while and starts getting good are always cancelled and they bring on new stupid…and i mean stupid shows like: oprahs big give, zliens in america, beauty and the geek ot another big brother…its hard to actually get into shows and as fast as they are getting cancelled and crap makes me not want to even start watching any of them?

  • Natalie April 29, 2008, 4:26 am

    veronica mars was an awesome show!!!
    it had virtually everything in it… i cant believe i stayed up watching the whole third season in a row on my only day off this week!!
    its. that. amazing
    and its over
    of course, thats the way everything goes lol. every show i get into gets cancelled. same as Nathan….buffy the vampire slayer, higher ground, veronica mars….the list is wayyy longer i just cant think right now…
    but i wish they would put at least one of these back on the air!! so much potential… i know the buffy fans couldnt take it so they made a frikin comic book for season 8…i mean come on we’re DESPERATE…and most of the shows on TV are either stupid, predicatable (gossip girl/one tree hill), just making me dumb (americas next top model), treating me as if i were dumb (pussycat dolls) or all of the above…

    What ever happened to GREAT television?

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