17 Craziest Things Fans Have Done to Save Their Favourite TV Shows
Going as far back as the 1960s, extremely fervent fans have channelled their outrage into organized—and sometimes bizarre—campaigns to save doomed series. The best part? Sometimes it worked!
With its multiple spinoffs, feature films, reboots, copycats, conventions, and even themed cruises, it’s hard to imagine that the Star Trek franchise ever needed help. In reality, Kirk and Spock’s space adventures were scheduled to end after two seasons in the late 1960s. When married Trekkies Bjo and John Trimble heard rumblings of its demise from the production’s craft service workers, they kicked off one of the very first fan-powered save-our-show campaigns. The couple learned how the brand new zip code system worked and then churned out copies of their letter on a hand-cranked mimeograph. They cooked pots of chili and spaghetti to feed volunteers who folded, labelled, and stamped. They also did interviews with local media to get the word out, which in turn encouraged other fans to make signs and protest outside NBC Studios. Their vigilance got the show a third installment, which was enough to enable syndication. Without reruns, the series would likely have been forgotten, according to USA Today.
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Fan efforts don’t just help shows at risk of cancellation. Sometimes, as is the case with Quantum Leap, they help keep their favourites in good time slots. NBC had discarded QL into the dead zone that was Friday night. According to a 1991 Entertainment Weekly article, fans littered NBC president Warren Littlefield’s office with 50,000 paper pleas. The show’s creator, Donald Bellisario, also played hardball, refusing to sell NBC his new cop show until they stopped swapping slots.
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During the second season of this cult classic, ABC forced creators to reveal who killed Laura Palmer, moved the show to Saturday night, put it on an unplanned hiatus, and eventually cancelled it. Supporters formed Citizens Opposed to the Offing of Peaks—or COOP, named after the FBI agent protagonist played by Kyle MacLachlan—and started writing letters. Series creator David Lynch also went on Letterman to beg people to continue watching the show; ABC president Bob Iger got even more mail and a lot of stale doughnuts. Although the show was still scrapped, ABC did agree to air the remaining six episodes, while Lynch made a prequel film in 1992. Much of the gang also reassembled for a one-season return to the strange town on Showtime in 2017.
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At the end of its first year, the aliens of Roswell were an endangered species. Taking inspiration from a scene where the space teens explain to one of their human friends their “dietary quirk” of liking food to be both “extremely spicy and extremely sweet,” the legions who needed more Max and Liz in their lives created a fansite called Crashdown.com, named after the restaurant in the scene, and started inundating The WB (now The CW) suits with bottles of Tabasco. MetaCritic.com reported the total bottles sent as 3,000 while Gizmodo claims the number was closer to 6,000. The play worked and they avoided heartburn for two more seasons. According to the New York Post, The WB then re-gifted the Tabasco to reporters. The show was also rebooted in 2018.
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Cagney & Lacey
The influential lady cop show starring Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless was actually cancelled twice in the early 1980s, but eventually completed seven seasons and garnered eight Emmys thanks in part to a letter-writing campaign spearheaded by Dorothy Swanson. Swanson, according to USA Today, apparently found her calling during that crusade and went on to form an advocacy group called Viewers for Quality Television (VFQT). The group went on to support another female-driven show with low ratings: Designing Women. VFQT called it quits in 2001.
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Fans of Veronica Mars were on the case after the critically acclaimed mystery show was unceremoniously cancelled in 2007 after three seasons. According to Insider, their strategy was multi-pronged: they raised more than $7,000 to have a plane with a banner attached begging for renewal fly around the studio lot, they donated their DVDs to local libraries to create new addicts, they blanketed CW offices with 10,000 Mars Bars and Marshmallows (which is also the moniker fans go by), and they made fake bills emblazoned with Mars’ face. In 2013, creator Rob Thomas and star Kristen Bell tapped into that loyalty with a Kickstarter that raised $2 million in less than 11 hours to fund the 2014 movie. (Warner Bros. agreed to match the fan fund if indeed it turned out to be enough to make a film.) The sleuth, now older and wiser, lives to solve another crime this summer on Hulu, which has resurrected the show for a fourth season. Bell told Entertainment Weekly, “I knew Veronica Mars fans were cool, but I had no idea they could rally with such power. They are unstoppable —just like Veronica.”
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What started as a flagrant example of product placement became the centre of a successful rescue mission when Chuck ended up “on the bubble” during season two. The show’s audience united online, waged war via Twitter, and went to the Subway sandwich shops in droves to show their nerd love on the day of the season two finale. Leading man Zachary Levi even marched with 600 fans in Birmingham, England to chow down on some 12-inch clubs in the name of renewal. Unbelievably, it all worked: the movement spurred a special sponsorship deal with the chain that paid for Chuck‘s third season. There was also a secondary push called “Have a heart, renew Chuck,” in which fans donated money to the American Heart Association in NBC’s name to the tune of $17,000.
Fans of the post-apocalyptic action drama went nuts after they found out the show was going dark after its second season. According to the Los Angeles Times, Las Vegas-based Internet radio host Shaun O’Mac suggested fans should send CBS offices in L.A. and New York peanuts—an idea inspired by Jericho‘s second season finale. Lo and behold, the idea spread like wildfire and some 20 tonnes of nuts arrived at the network. Network phones, faxes and email accounts received so many responses that CBS was even forced to change numbers and addresses. CBS eventually allowed the show to return for a shorter second run with a reduced budget and filmed two endings: a season finale and a series finale.
After three seasons, the critically acclaimed tale about space colonists was grounded by SyFy. Fans, however, made it their mission to send Thomas Jane and company back to Mars. A Change.org petition had more than 130,000 signatures, while Business Insider reports that bannered planes were hired to fly around Amazon in the hopes at that the streaming service would pick up the show. Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin, one of The Expanse‘s biggest devotees, personally contacted Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, urging him to consider funding the fourth season. Alas, it worked!
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Friday Night Lights
When the saga of a Texas high school football team fumbled in its second season, fans went to work assuming “clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.” In reference to that same FNL motto, some sent eye drops. In an on-the-nose campaign, others mailed NBC executive Ben Silverman light bulbs with the phrase “light’s on” written on the side. A third strategy involved raising money to send 20,000 footballs and FNL DVDs to troops stationed overseas. The trifecta convinced NBC and the new DirecTV channel to share costs and keep the show going for three more winning seasons.
NBC twice decided that time was up for this drama about a group of time travellers who chase a bad guy through important moments in American history. Clockblockers, as fans call themselves, tried to rewrite the series’ history by tweeting, writing letters, and posting to their social media accounts. According to USA Today, they also made grander gestures like buying billboards in Times Square and paying a helicopter to fly over San Diego during Comic-Con. It worked… twice. The show was un-cancelled three days after it was pulled from the lineup. When it was cancelled again after the sophomore season, the swell of support secured the producers a two-hour movie to wrap up the show in a bow, according to the New York Post.
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To quote the Bluth family patriarch, “There’s always money in the banana stand.” And apparently, there’s also show-saving ideas in it too. When Fox almost cancelled the sitcom about a dysfunctional California family after its second season, dedicated viewers sent executives crates of bananas as retribution. Fox still shuttered the series in 2006, but it was revived by Netflix a decade later.
In 2004, The WB surprisingly cancelled Angel—its second highest-rated series—near the end of its fifth season in favour of newer shows. According to Metacritic, loyalists put their stake in an aggressive campaign of custom websites like SaveAngel.org, a barrage of letters, ad buys in entertainment publications, message boards, a rally at the WB lot in Burbank, and a mobile billboard that drove around LA making stops at the WB, HBO, FX, and TNT. The message? “We’ll follow Angel to hell…or another network.” Unfortunately, Angel stayed dead.
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Firefly and Family Guy
Firefly fans may not have succeeded in lassoing up a second season, but their campaign of letters, online petitions, and emails eventually convinced Fox that issuing the solitary season on DVD would be a strong financial decision. Stores sold out of the collection as quickly as they could stock it, convincing Universal to greenlight a movie adaptation so series creator Joss Whedon could wrap up the story. According to HowStuffWorks.com, Serenity didn’t break even at the box office, but the DVD release was a bestseller on Amazon for months.
Rabid DVD sales also rescued Family Guy, according to ScreenRant.com. The adult cartoon from Seth MacFarlane was yanked by Fox after three seasons to make room for new programming. After Family Guy ended up selling millions of DVD copies, Fox reconsidered and reinstated the show in 2005.
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Fans of this CW black comedy about a slacker forced to collect souls for Satan were dead serious about rescuing it when dwindling ratings and a writer’s strike left it in renewal limbo. According to Gizmodo, cast member Tyler Labine suggested fans should send letters and socks, a nod to his character’s name, to the network. Apparently putting their best footwear forward worked as the series came back after nine months off the air for a second season. (It didn’t hurt the effort that the strike decimated network’s stock of new pilots.) It did not get a third year, however.
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Trial & Error
After NBC cancelled Trial & Error in 2018, a Facebook page and Change.org petition hoping to convince the network to reverse its decision—or get Netflix or Amazon to pick it up—were created. The plan consisted of collecting signatures and sugar rushing executives with Twix candy bars, the preferred treat of choice of two of the characters.
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