In the last 24 hours, two broadcast nets yanked three new series off the air –ABC’s 666 Park Avenue and Last Resort, and CBS’ Partners. Though low ratings typically justify the premature deaths, that’s little consolation to viewers who connected early to the programs (or in this case, at least one of them).
“Really sad about Last Resort!” wrote a reader named Jess on the EW message board. “I love that show and I think it’s one of the better ones on TV these days.” This from someone named T Money: “I can’t believe they cancelled Last Resort. It’s So. Good. And it was steadily getting better and better after a shaky couple of episodes.” And then there was this from CRC: “That’s a shame – Last Resort had potential, IMO. 9.2 million on Thursdays at 8/7c (a crazy, over-loaded time slot) is respectable, and ABC really hasn’t done much better than that in that time slot for a long time. In a time-shifting TV economy, not sure what they expect?”
Well, the network is probably expecting a barrage of emails to save Andre Braugher and Co. – not that such an effort would likely matter. The broadcast networks are now conditioned to recognize a manufactured ”Save Our Show” campaign when they see one – especially when it looks like a digitally savvy person has ginned up “widespread outrage” by sending the same email, again and again. ”It becomes white noise,” says one exec. “If a show is headed for the gallows for creative, cost, or sales reasons,” says another longtime suit, “all the missives are the equivalent of pissing in the wind.”
That said, fans of Jericho were able to get the attention of the CBS brass in 2007 because their emails were personal and heartfelt, says one insider. (They also sent lots of peanuts). And NBC gave Chuck an umpteenth lease on life last season when fans showed support for a Zachary Levi comeback by buying turkey footlongs at Subway. “With a mixture of pride and awe I can tell you: Chuck was saved by sandwiches,” Co-Creator Josh Schwartz wrote in EW last January. “And by the greatest, most passionate fans in the universe.”
Before you start sending submarine sandwiches to ABC, Last Resort fans, consider this: it’s going to take hundreds of thousands of hoagies to get the net to reverse its decision. “So you get 20,000 letters,” says one suit about campaigns. “ You need 10 times that to make a difference.”
But hey, nothing’s impossible: Fans today have a weapon in their arsenal that wasn’t available during the days of Jericho – the colossal power of social media. No one has yet to take advantage of Twitter and Facebook in an effort to save a new show and some Last Resort lovers were already mobilizing on Creator Shawn Ryan’s feed on Friday.
“I think that fans should do whatever they feel like doing to express their frustration with the cancellation of a show,” offers one veteran programmer. “At the very least it exposes executives to the passion of viewers who invest their time and emotion in their shows. Having said that I feel that we are in a ‘have your cake and eat it too’ world where viewers don’t seem to grasp that we need to get ratings for these shows to offset their costs and that means fans watching shows live or within three days and watching the commercials. We still have definitions of hits and they are connected to monetizing shows. If viewers want to view shows on their own schedules then they can protest all they want. They have to be our partners in keeping their favorite shows alive.”