Keeping a genre TV series on the air these days isn’t exactly easy.
Yes, JJ Abrams had a big hit this year with Revolution, but he’s already seen one new show, Alcatraz, come and go early this year. Then again, as we’ve seen with Firefly and the original Star Trek, a series may ultimately build its stronghold in reruns.
It can be tough to get your audience to tune into a show and make it a hit in its time, but there have been examples of the fans keeping a show alive. Indeed, The Twilight Zone often flirted with being cancelled, but the fans kept it alive through letter writing campaigns. The Star Trek campaign was launched by two sci-fi fans, Bjo and John Trimble, who got Trekkies to bombard NBC with letters, and it kept Trek on the air for its third and final season.
One of the most famous non-genre examples is the female cop drama Cagney and Lacey, which was resurrected by a fan letter writing campaign that was spearheaded by the show’s writer, Barney Rosenzweig, and feminist Gloria Steinem.
Yet as the site HowStuffWorks points out on their list of “Top 10 Protests That Saved TV Shows From Cancellation,” many of the programs that were saved from being cancelled were genre shows, including Roswell, Quantum Leap and Jericho.
At the same time, one of the best TV resurrection stories is Family Guy, which got the ax in 2002 after three seasons. But when the first season came out on DVD it sold 400,000 copies the first month, and Cartoon Network’s ratings went up 239% when they started playing the show, so Fox brought it back in 2005.
Back when Star Trek and The Twilight Zone were on the verge of cancellation, the fans would protest via old-fashioned snail mail. With so many ways to make our voices heard, like Facebook, Twitter, and more, can the fans today do anything to keep a show they love on the air?
Certainly when a show goes off the air, the fans take to the ‘Net to protest and mourn, and you can bombard a network with e-mails, but does it make any difference?
Well, as Entertainment Weekly notes, e-mail protests helped save Jericho, but as one executive scoffed, “So you get 20,000 letters. You need 10 times that to make a difference.” Still, the fans have shown their loyalty to Trek, the Zone, and Firefly, and they’ll continue to keep these shows alive for a long time to come, long after the Nielsen ratings ceased to matter.