Power to the People?


23rd August 2010

It seems lately that a network only has to whisper “cancellation” and the internet switchboard lights up like a christmas tree with fanrage. But, while people might feel dedicated enough to click a button on an online petition, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be dedicated enough to return week after week to honour the commitment. Why, with a little help from the internet I could probably whip up enough signatures to bring back Chuckle Vision....wait... What? That’s still on?

Any Criminal Minds fans among us will no doubt be aware of the strangely misogynistic turn the show has taken in the name of cost-saving. Namely, AJ Cook’s unceremonious dumping from the show and Paget Brewster’s (Prentiss) almost as insulting reduced appearances; the TV equivalent of I love you, I’m just not ‘in’ love with you. In light of these moves yet another fan petition has been mobilised. This one, aimed at reinstating both cast members, has more weight than most; it’s not only being spearheaded by Criminal Minds own geeky mastermind Penelope Garcia, but the rest of the cast have backed it and they’ve only gone and got Helen bleedin’ Mirren to sign it.

So far it’s been marginally successful; Paget Brewster gets to stick around till the end of series 6 and there’s a two episode arc to wrap up AJ Cook’s story, but how successful are fan petitions really? Where once a studio had to take note of such overwhelming viewer response, they are now so ubiquitous that the impact has inevitably dissipated.
While the shared sense of irate indignation, hope and purpose brings people together in troubled TV times how can fans ensure their pleas are heard? What does it take for the powers that be to really stand up and take notice? In honour of this noble endeavour let’s look at some of the more successful fan campaigns:

STAR TREK (NBC: 1966- 1969)

It’s hard to imagine that one of pop cultures most iconic and enduring franchises didn’t have much life in its early legs. After almost not getting picked up at all the original Star Trek only made it to its third (and last) series as a result of a colossal fan based letter writing campaign, a first in 1968. Alas, while the series was renewed, it got pushed to the dreaded Friday night graveyard slot and never made it out alive.

Years later fans tried the same thing to save Star Trek: Enterprise, but to no avail, ending an almost 20 year run of back to back new Star Trek shows.

ROSWELL (WB/UPN: 1999 – 2002)

A good series that never quite managed to take off, Roswell was Dawson’s Creek meets aliens. Almost from day one the threat of cancellation loomed so large that in one of the earlier demonstrations of what the internet could achieve, fans banded together and sent 3000 bottles of Tabasco sauce (in a nod to the aliens penchant for said condiment) to WB executives. At the time it was an unprecedented move and it ensured Roswell was renewed for two more seasons.

The opening theme is a Dido song. Now if that doesn’t tell you all you need to know then nothing will. (I know that song's making me want to commit crimes - Ed)

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