Practically every hardcore TV viewer in history has at one point felt the heartbreaking feeling only caused by hearing his or her favorite show was getting canceled. Should the final episode happen to have ended on a cliffhanger, these emotions can intensify to points of depression, or depending on the sort of fan base the show developed, possibly outrage. The good news is rather than wallowing in sadness or declaring war on the networks, most of these furious fans fight back in peaceful fashion, protesting their favorite show getting canceled in sometimes bizarre and often entertaining ways.
Network executives can seem uncaring at times, considering the amount of entertainment they destroy, but believe it or not, sometimes these protests actually work. More than a few shows have been saved from the chopping block because the right number of fans demanded it stay on the air. Thanks to the prevalence of social media, this practice is exploding in popularity, with virtually everyone capable of posting his or her fury directly to Twitter the second a cancellation is announced. That’s not to mention outside networks like Amazon, Yahoo, or Netflix swooping in to save the day when they notice the potential dollar signs, providing additional hope for series revivals.
Truth be told, the odds of a protest bringing a show back from the dead are still pretty low despite how often they happen. However, it’s pretty much a certainty that people will keep complaining if they can’t watch their favorite characters do their thing, so it might be worth checking out the strategies that succeeded in the past to get a grip on how to do it again in the future. Keep reading to learn about 15 times fans protested when their favorite TV show was getting canceled.
Ah, nuts. Which fan of television, especially those combing through this list for memories, hasn’t at one point muttered that dismissive, forgettable expression? Fans of Jericho in particular are well versed with the expression, largely due to how the first season cliffhanger nearly ended. Taking place in a dystopian future where nuclear war has left little remaining of society, Jericho details the titular town in its struggles at survival. Near the end of the season, warring societies enter the town and declare war, soon demanding surrender. Rather than give in, lead character Jake Green gives a defiant cry of “Nuts!” leaving fans dying to witness the war about to be waged between the two towns. Unfortunately for them, CBS looked at this epic cliffhanger and decided to cancel the show, inspiring thousands of fans to fight back in quirky fashion. Making it directly clear what they wanted to know about, Jericho viewers sent thousands of pounds of peanuts to CBS, apparently annoying executives enough to give the show a second season.
14 Last Man Standing
Politically conservative people within the media have been complaining about Hollywood and television in general being a liberal medium for so long now, it’s almost impossible to see where the trend began. It is, however, quite easy to point towards their latest piece of evidence, that being the recent cancellation of Last Man Standing by ABC. Airing for six seasons starting in 2011, Last Man Standing starred Tim Allen and focused on his character Mike Baxter’s efforts at living a conservative lifestyle in spite of their wacky liberal stepson. Nine episodes out of ten, the liberal realizes he’s an idiot and the conservative is a genius, and in the tenth episode, the son-in-law admits he was wrong from the start but fights anyway to fill time. Unsurprisingly, this built up a strong conservative fan base, who are now furious that ABC canceled the show. Not only will they miss the Baxter family, but also a rare comedic voice that agrees with them, and some are threatening to protest or even boycott ABC over the decision.
13 Friday Night Lights
Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. With those six words, Coach Eric Taylor lead the Dillon Panthers into dozens of football games throughout the five seasons Friday Night Lights was on the air. Taylor was also inspiring the millions of football fans who watched the show and lived vicariously through its teenage characters, and with his powerful words guiding them, those fans were more than prepared to defend FNL’s honor when rumors hit that NBC was considering canceling the show. Apparently feeling NBC executives would understand the show better if they had a stronger grasp on the motto, clever fans sent the network bottles of Visine, hoping to clear up their eyes. Fearing that wouldn’t be enough, they also sent thousands of light bulbs, a literal take on the show’s title. Rather than face the next strangely clever plague the fans may have had up their sleeves, NBC decided to bring the series back for season three, followed by two more before it ended for real.
Taking the best elements of science fiction and combining it with a Western mentality, Joss Whedon’s Firefly was at once a throwback to old school storytelling and a wildly original, innovative concept. Occurring during a timeline thousands of years in the future, Firefly tells the story of Captain Mal Reynolds and his crew’s adventures through space. On top of that, the world is ruled by a dystopian, authoritative government Reynolds once fought to destroy. These strong characterizations lead to an incredibly loyal fan base, albeit not a particularly large one, and Fox canceled the series in a matter of months after its September 2002 debut. Dubbing themselves “Browncoats” after the rebel army Reynolds fought for, these fans pooled together and raised enough money to place an ad in Variety begging Fox to save the show, all the while writing letters to Fox and other networks they thought had a chance of picking the series up. While these efforts were ultimately unsuccessful on television, they likely were indirectly responsible for Firefly receiving a spinoff film, Serenity, some two years after the show went off the air.
11 Arrested Development
Now the story of a critically beloved series that lost everything, and the devoted fan base that had no choice but to beg Fox to piece it back together. Arrested Development was a sitcom like no other, more layered and difficult to fully absorb than a James Joyce novel, and yet filled to the brim almost exclusively with outrageously funny jokes. On paper, it was about Michael Bluth helping his formerly wealthy family deal with a financial crisis, but each and every second of the show added so much more, to the extent a simple word like “Her?” became one of the most brilliant punch lines ever heard on television. With this sort of dedication going into the writing, fans were bound to be just as dedicated to expressing their love, and then dissatisfaction when Fox dared cancel the show after only three seasons. Remembering that there’s always money in the banana stand, Arrested fans sent hundreds if not thousands of bananas in protest, all to no avail. While the initial protest didn’t work, at least the series was eventually revived by Netflix, giving hope to every other show on this list that has yet to get a revival.
10 Star Trek
As the first series to truly define what it meant to have a “cult audience,” Star Trek boldly took fans where no man had gone before over the span of three little watched seasons from 1966 to 1969, and then somehow spawned more than one massive film franchise. Despite those early low ratings, the future success of Star Trek was hardly a surprise, with NBC executives getting a lesson in the devotion of Trekkies as early as season two of the original show. Whether or not Star Trek was actually up for cancelation has since become a matter of debate, but the fact remains creator Gene Roddenberry heard a rumor it was, inspiring him to call upon his loyal fan base to begin a letter writing campaign demanding the show stay on the air. Just in case the hundreds of thousands of handwritten notes Roddenberry inspired weren’t enough, a group of Caltech students marched to NBC’s California offices to make sure the execs got the picture. It worked, at least for a little while, as Star Trek’s third season soon followed.
9 Kim Possible
In all fairness to the network executives out there, it makes perfect sense to cancel a TV show that gets low ratings, even if the fans who are watching happen to love it. Television is a medium for the masses, not to mention one meant to make money, and if only a handful of people like a show, it makes sense to get rid of it and find something better. On the other hand, the Disney Network executives created some bizarre rule - all of their programs needed to end at three seasons and 65 episodes. Naturally, this included Kim Possible, regardless of the fact it was still amongst the most popular series on the network at the time. Even after the program’s plots entirely resolved in the TV movie Kim Possible: So the Drama, fans wanted more. In fact, it may have been the movie that inspired them to do so, as it found a greater audience overseas than it had during regular production. Ultimately, this larger fan base made Disney decide to break their own weird rule and produce a fourth season of the show two years after it appeared to end.
All’s well that ends well, and fans of The WB/UPN series Roswell can be satisfied their series at least got a chance to say goodbye. Airing for three seasons across two networks, Roswell was a run-of-the-mill teen drama focused on high school students in New Mexico. Also, a couple of them happened to be aliens, so there was definitely a little bit of originality thrown in with all the usual clichés. Oddly enough, the science fiction elements of the show were controversial, both causing some fans to beg The WB for more by sending letters and Tabasco sauce, which aliens apparently love. However, other fans then stopped watching when the network gave in to these demands, causing the show to get canceled basically because it listened to its audience. Of course, what begins with a protest can also end with a protest, so those same sci-fi fans who loved the new direction Roswell was headed towards went right back at it, ultimately helping 20th Century Fox convince UPN to bring it back for one last season.
7 Designing Women
Every time a show gets canceled, some fan will voice the opinion it was the network’s fault, and in the case of Designing Women, that was almost certainly the case. The popular, long running ensemble sitcom starring Delta Burke, Annie Potts, Jean Smart, and Dixie Carter as the owners and top ranking employees of the Sugarbaker and Associates interior design firm and quickly connected with an audience of working women. Unfortunately, CBS legitimately made it difficult for these loyal fans to watch the show, switching the time slot no less than three times in the first season. Each move caused the ratings to drop, and executives were ready to cancel the show outright before long. Unexpectedly, the largest letter writing campaign in TV history up to that point saved the show, and nearly made certain exec’s secretaries threaten to quit their jobs due to all the angry mail they were forced to read. Before long, Designing Women was back on the air, and it soon became one of the highest rated programs on CBS.
6 I Just Want My Pants Back
One needs not have seen the short-lived MTV comedy I Just Want My Pants Back to accurately predict the central mystery of the show. A man lost his pants, and he would like them returned. With writing this simple, it would also be able to guess how the series ended, at least in vague terms—the man finds his pants. There was a bit more than that, as it spiraled out into a more basic look at the lives of pantsless hero Jason Strider and his college age friends, but the central idea remained the same throughout the series. Somehow, a show about pants wasn’t thrilling enough to find an audience, and MTV canceled it after one season. Though the crowd was significantly smaller than most other protests on this list, the way fans responded was still humorously appropriate enough to earn mention on our list. Taking the show’s theme to heart, some 500 annoyed viewers marched to Viacom offices carrying pairs of pants, which they then draped on the building’s signs. Unfortunately for them, this wasn’t quite crazy enough to work, and the series remains canceled and the titular pants unreturned.
Looking at the premise of Reaper, a short-lived sitcom from The CW, it would be easy to assume the show received a fair amount of interest from protests for more reasons than one. For one thing, the concept alone must have had some religious groups up in arms, as it focused on a family who traded their firstborn child to Satan in return for fixing a health problem. Now that child is all grown up and the Devil is ready to collect, forcing hapless Sam Oliver to become a “reaper,” collecting escaped demonic souls and sending them back to hell. Dark as it was, fans responded to the quirky brand of humor, especially Oliver’s goofy buddies Sock and Ben, who helped him perform his newfound devilish duties. Surprising, it was neither the heavily religious concept or simply the fact it was too weird for most people that nearly caused the show to get canceled, but rather the 2007-2008 WGA Strike, which had The CW ready to cut their losses. However, inspired by their favorite character, enough fans sent literal socks to The CW as a sign they wanted Reaper to stay, and they earned a second season for their efforts.
4 Cagney & Lacey
It says a whole lot about modern society that people still consider it a huge deal when women on television perform jobs historically performed by men. Nowadays, we see this whenever a series is made about an especially high ranking female politician, and it all began back in the late 70s and early 80s when television police squads started allowing women to join the ranks. The first such series was probably Police Woman, but that paled in comparison to the popularity and long term impact of Cagney & Lacey. While it ultimately survived seven seasons and won co-stars Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless both an envious amount of Emmys, CBS tried canceling Cagney & Lacey well before the successful era of the show began. Worse than most other cases on this show, an executive was quoted as calling the show off putting due to the tough female leads, referring to them with a homophobic slur. This intensified the protests and fan support of the show immensely, causing that exec to eat his words for seven years in a row when the cancellation was reversed and it went on to flourish.
3 One Life To Live
Soap operas make up an interesting place in the television landscape, as their production schedule at once leads to occasionally subpar writing and a rabidly loyal fan base. It doesn’t necessarily matter if they produce art on a daily level, simply that viewers get to reconnect with their favorite characters and learn all about them. To many fans, One Life to Live was part of their daily routine from the day it premiered in 1968 all the way up to 2011, when rumors began swirling that ABC was done with the long running show. Naturally, this idea outraged the many fans who treated the lives of the Lord, Wolek, Riley, and Gray families, especially lead character Viki Lord, like it were their own. It didn’t help that One Life to Live wasn’t the only show getting the axe, as the equally long running drama All My Children was also getting canceled, replaced by cheaper to produce reality shows. Despite fans storming ABC offices in protest, the network got rid of both shows anyway, and an outside party needed to step in…
2 All My Children
Two years after ABC created One Life to Live, a companion soap opera named All My Children was added to the schedule, and the two shows ran together for nearly three decades to an always loyal and at times massive daytime audience. Before long, All My Children and the villainous lead Erica Kane were pop culture phenomenon that transcended soap operas, and yet by 2011, the ratings had sagged enough it was as disposable as all the rest. The same fans protesting the cancellation of One Life to Live were even more outraged that All My Children was gone as well, and through their combined efforts, it looked like something could actually be done about it. While ABC wasn’t going to budge, independent producers were more interested, specifically the independent company Prospect Park. It took a little while for them to get everything in order, but soon enough, brief revivals of both One Life to Live and All My Children found their way to the Internet. However, they never reached their past popularity, and the revived version lasted only one season.
To this day, British television and American television have very little in common, at least insofar as the production schedules are concerned. It’s rare for a BBC programme to last more than a few short series, while American audiences expect several years of fully fleshed out seasons. As the first transatlantic production created by the new BBC America, Copper looked to bridge the gap between these two philosophies through the story of Civil War era Irish immigrants and New York City police. By the end of Copper’s second season, the lead characters were gearing up to get involved with the Civil War proper, generating great interest amongst its small but loyal fan base. Unfortunately for these viewers, BBC America canceled the show just as things were heating up. Despite the loyal audience taking to Twitter and Facebook to voice their complaints, plus the usual letter writing campaigns to the network, BBC America stood firm in their decision and Copper’s take on the Civil War was never to be.
Sources: Washington Post, Yahoo, The AV Club, ABC News, NY Daily News, Irish America