I’ll admit it: I donated to the Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign. My $30 bought me a digital copy of the movie, a T-shirt and the satisfaction of seeing my favorite TV show brought back to life. Which, as far as I’m concerned, is basically priceless.
I realize I might be in the minority for thinking this way. Plenty of my friends and family have no idea what it’s like to fall in love with a show, to be consumed by it, to care so much you’re willing to spend your hard-earned money to keep it alive. I don’t simply watch my favorite shows, I scour the Internet for spoilers, I watch endless YouTube fan videos, I dream about them. And here’s the thing: I’m not alone. When Veronica Mars was first canceled in 2007, fans sent emails, letters, thousands of pleas for our beloved teen detective to stay on the air. Clearly, we failed. But it was because of us that Kickstarter records were shattered when the movie project made its $2 million goal in less than 10 hours. The show had been off the air for six years. We didn’t care how much time had passed, we only wanted the conclusion we’d been waiting years for.
Back in 2007, Veronica Mars taught me the tough lesson that American TV will break your heart. Other countries handle primetime differently: England has shortened seasons, trusting show-runners to tell the story they’ve intended from the beginning. Most Asian countries have dramas—shows that span 15 or 20 episodes, telling a complete story from beginning to end. But American TV lives or dies on the ratings, which means shows are constantly on the bubble, constantly in danger of being canceled.
This leads to two problems: shows with high ratings that ramble on and on, the original intended-story so buried by the drama of 23 episodes over five+ years that it’s barely recognizable from what it started as (I’m looking at you, Grey’s Anatomy). Or a show without the ratings but a dedicated fan-base that gets canceled before it can come to any sort of conclusion, leaving viewers in a constant state of speculation. I still can’t talk about Deadwood without getting choked up.
Over the years, fans like me have refused to take these sudden cancelations lying down. We organize letter-writing campaigns, we bombard networks with tweets and Facebook messages. Some fans even take it a step farther: when Roswell, a show about teenage aliens on the WB, was in danger of being canceled fans sent the network over 3,000 mini-bottles of Tabasco sauce (the aliens’ favorite condiment). It worked—the show was renewed for one final season. To save the critically acclaimed, Friday Night Lights, fans sent both light bulbs and eye drops, to honor the “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose” slogan. Again, it worked—NBC gave the show a full five seasons despite perpetually low ratings. Fans of the nuclear-apocalypse show Jericho, sent CBS over 20 tons of peanuts after a character yelled out, “Nuts!” when his town was in danger. And supporters of NBC’s Community started a massive twitter campaign with “Six Seasons and a Movie,” after the phrase appeared in an episode.
Clearly, fans can be dedicated. And like with Veronica Mars, it doesn’t just extend to shows that are on the bubble. Because of the new ways we stream media, networks are starting to realize that ratings aren’t everything. Look at the case of Family Guy or Firefly. Both were canceled despite fan protests. But sales of the DVDs were so outstanding, that networks decided to give both a second chance: more seasons of Family Guy, and a sequel movie for Firefly. These days, with Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and cable networks dominating the television business, shows have chances they’ve never had before. Who could have predicted that Arrested Development would be brought back to life on Netflix? Or that Twin Peaks would get a second chance on Showtime in 2016? With cable networks and new media starting to realize that Nieslen ratings aren’t true reflections of how people watch TV, our favorite shows are getting more and more chances to stay afloat and tell the complete story they meant to from the beginning.
This new climate for television brings me so much hope I’m practically bursting with it. And, I’m not going to lie, I might have cried a little while watching the Veronica Mars movie. If we can bring back a show after six longs years, imagine what else is possible. Now I just need to decide what to mail HBO so they realize Deadwood should come back on the air. I wonder how many cowboy hats I can fit in one box.
Do you have a favorite show you want to save or revive? Tell us about it in the comments.