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7 Television Shows Saved by Their Fans

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Never doubt the power of a devoted audience: Time and again, adoring fan bases have brought television shows back from the brink of cancellation—or actual cancellation. Shows like Family Guy and Futurama were resuscitated long after cancellation by the indirect fan actions of DVD purchases and the ratings of reruns on other networks, but sometimes fans take a much more direct role in rescuing their favorite programs. Here are some of the most fantastic examples of shows saved by their passionate audiences.

1. Chuck


If you ever want to head a campaign to save your favorite show, the one that kept Chuck on the air should be the first place you look for inspiration. The campaign—which was launched after the show received low ratings in its second season—involved a strong three-prong strategy that hit the minds, hearts, and pocket books of network executives.

Petitions and letter-writing campaigns were just the first part of the successful plan. Fans also started a “Have a Heart, Renew Chuck” program, which asked fans to donate money to the American Heart Association on behalf of NBC. By the time the effort ended, over $17,000 was donated to the charity.

Lastly, fans reached out to Subway, one of the show’s biggest sponsors, to help show that their financial support of the show was worth it. Fans organized to head to Subway to buy a footlong sub on the day of the second season finale and to drop comment cards at the restaurant saying they visited to support Chuck. This movement became so big that even the star of the show, Zachary Levi, participated by leading nearly a thousand fans to a Subway in England.

If there is one thing network executives love more than viewers, it’s money, so when Subway announced that it would become an even bigger sponsor of the show, it was pretty hard for the powers-that-be to deny the show a third season. Eventually, the show lasted a total of five seasons and won two Emmy awards and three TV Guide Awards.

2. Star Trek


Photo courtesy of Geek Rest.

After the second season of Star Trek aired in 1967, rumors began to circulate that the show was going to be canceled. Trekkers/Trekkies jumped into action, creating arguably the most successful letter-writing campaign in television history. Young fans even held protests at their schools. The largest was at Caltech, where 200 students marched from campus to NBC’s studio in Burbank carrying signs with such great slogans as “Vulcan Power” and “Draft Spock.”

NBC denied the cancellation rumors. In fact, after the March 1st episode, the network aired the following message: "And now an announcement of interest to all viewers of Star Trek. We are pleased to tell you that Star Trek will continue to be seen on NBC Television. We know you will be looking forward to seeing the weekly adventure in space on Star Trek."

One season later, Star Trek was actually canceled. But the show thrived in syndication, even occasionally attracting more viewers on rerun nights than on the days the original episodes had aired. As the show continued to gain fans, eventually it inspired an animated series, many movies and spin-off television shows, and developed one of the most dedicated fan bases in geekdom.

3. Jericho


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If you’ve ever wondered how residents of a small town would survive after a nuclear war, then you should definitely check out Jericho. When you get to season two, thank the fans who kept the show on after one of the silliest campaigns to save a program.

When Jericho was canceled after its first season, the show's fans—inspired by the main character shouting “nuts” during an epic battle in the season finale—sent over 20 tons of nuts to CBS studio executives, who then decided to review the show’s ratings. Network researchers looked at the numbers and announced that the show actually had quite a few more viewers than Nielsen reported because the show received so much online streaming and was viewed so often on DVRs.

As a result, Jericho was renewed for one more season, but when ratings still declined, it was canceled for good—even after a second “nuts” campaign. The show’s storyline was continued in a six-part comic book series though, which allowed creators to wrap up the plotlines. In fact, some fans call the comics the “third season” of the show.

4. Friday Night Lights


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If networks actually find use for the things fans send in to help support their shows, then NBC must have really appreciated the campaign to save Friday Night Lights. That’s because fans hoping to save the show after its second season took the program’s name literally and sent the studio light bulbs—something everyone can find a use for (assuming they didn’t break in transit). Fans also sent in eye drops as a reference to the show’s motto "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose," although executives presumably found those less useful.

Fans also created positive PR for their cause with their “Save FNL Campaign,” which raised money to send troops stationed overseas 20,000 footballs and Friday Night Lights DVDs. Despite the show’s low ratings, the efforts proved to be enough to get NBC and DirecTV to work together on a cost-sharing partnership that kept the show on the air for a total of five seasons.

5. Arrested Development


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Arrested Development fans mourned the show when it was canceled in 2006. But its untimely end almost came much sooner. Fox almost canceled the series after its second season, which was cut from 22 episodes to only 18 due to low ratings. Fortunately, fans took to sending letters to the network and even sent executives crates of bananas, a tribute to the Bluth family business. Realizing there had to be some money in this banana stand, the network agreed to renew the show for one short season.

Later this year, Arrested Development will get a new season that will air on Netflix; there might even be a movie coming after that.

6. Firefly


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It’s almost like Fox hated Firefly from the start—the network barely promoted it, changed the time slot constantly, and aired the very linear story out of order. It’s no wonder the show never managed to get enough followers to stay on the air. Ultimately, Fox canceled it without even showing all 13 episodes.

Even though diehard “Browncoats” couldn't save the show from cancellation, they kept writing Fox demanding the network release the show on DVD as soon as possible. When the DVD was finally released, they surprised everyone by buying so many copies that stores had a hard time keeping it in stock.

As a result of those massive sales, Universal Pictures offered Firefly creator Joss Whedon the chance to wrap up the storyline with a movie, Serenity (the name of the ship in the show). While Serenity didn’t do well in the theaters, it again scored high in DVD sales. In fact, it was Amazon’s best selling DVD the year it was released. Rumors of a Serenity sequel still buzz around the net here and there, but 10 years after the show originally aired on TV, it seems unlikely that Serenity will ever fly again.

7. Roswell


Photo courtesy of Early Nerd Special.

After the end of its first season, the fate of this show about teenage aliens disguised as high school students—which debuted favorably but was plagued by low ratings—was up in the air ... at least until fans launched an unusual campaign to save it. They sent the powers that be at the WB bottles of Tabasco sauce—a favorite condiment of the alien characters on the show. Thanks to the fans' spicy support, Roswell was renewed for a second season on the WB, and made the jump to UPN for its third season, after which it was ultimately canceled.

I’m a big fan of many of these shows, but I’ve never actually participated in an effort to bring back a show from the brink of cancellation. If any of you have tried to save your favorite programs this way, please tell us about it. What did you do to help your favorite show? And were your efforts ultimately rewarded?

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15 Must-Watch Facts About The Ring
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An urban legend about a videotape that kills its viewers seven days after they see it turns out to be true. To her increasing horror, reporter Rachel Keller (then-newcomer Naomi Watts) discovers this after her niece is one of four teenage victims, and is in a race against the clock to uncover the mystery behind the girl in the video before her and her son’s time is up.

Released 15 years ago, on October 18, 2002, The Ring began a trend of both remaking Japanese horror films in a big way, and giving you nightmares about creepy creatures crawling out of your television. Here are some facts about the film that you can feel free to pass along to anybody, guilt-free.

1. DREAMWORKS BOUGHT THE AMERICAN RIGHTS TO RINGU FOR $1 MILLION.

There were conflicting stories over how executive producer Roy Lee came to see the 1998 Japanese horror film Ringu, Hideo Nakata's adaptation of the 1991 novel Ring by Kôji Suzuki. Lee said two different friends gave him a copy of Ringu in January 2001, which he loved and immediately gave to DreamWorks executive Mark Sourian, who agreed to purchase the rights. But Lee’s close friend Mike Macari worked at Fine Line Features, which had an American remake of Ringu in development before January 2001. Macari said he showed Lee Ringu much earlier. Macari and Lee were both listed as executive producers for The Ring.

2. THE DIRECTOR FIRST SAW RINGU ON A POOR QUALITY VHS TAPE, WHICH ADDED TO ITS CREEPINESS.

Gore Verbinski had previously directed MouseHunt. He said the first time he "watched the original Ringu was on a VHS tape that was probably seven generations down. It was really poor quality, but actually that added to the mystique, especially when I realized that this was a movie about a videotape." Naomi Watts struggled to find a VHS copy of Ringu while shooting in the south of Wales. When she finally got a hold of one she watched it on a very small TV alone in her hotel room. "I remember being pretty freaked out," Watts said. "I just saw it the once, and that was enough to get me excited about doing it."

3. THE RING AND RINGU ARE ABOUT 50 PERCENT DIFFERENT.

Naomi Watts in 'The Ring'
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

Verbinski estimated that, for the American version, they "changed up to 50 percent of it. The basic premise is intact, the story is intact, the ghost story, the story of Samara, the child." Storylines involving the characters having ESP, a volcano, “dream logic,” and references to “brine and goblins” were taken out.

4. IT RAINED ALMOST EVERY DAY WHEN THEY FILMED IN THE STATE OF WASHINGTON.

The weather added to the “atmosphere of dread,” according to the film's production notes. Verbinski said the setting allowed them to create an “overcast mood” of dampness and isolation.

5. THE PRODUCTION DESIGNER WAS INFLUENCED BY ANDREW WYETH.

Artist Andrew Wyeth tended to use muted, somber earth tones in his work. "In Wyeth's work, the trees are always dormant, and the colors are muted earth tones," explained production designer Tom Duffield. "It's greys, it's browns, it's somber colors; it's ripped fabrics in the windows. His work has a haunting flavor that I felt would add to the mystique of this movie, so I latched on to it."

6. THERE WERE RINGS EVERYWHERE.

The carpeting and wallpaper patterns, the circular kitchen knobs, the doctor’s sweater design, Rachel’s apartment number, and more were purposely designed with the film's title in mind.

7. WATTS AND MARTIN HENDERSON HAD A FRIENDLY INTERNATIONAL RIVALRY.

Martin Henderson and Naomi Watts star in 'The Ring' (1992)
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

The New Zealand-born Henderson played Noah, Rachel’s ex-husband. Since Watts is from Australia, Henderson said that, "Between takes, we'd joke around with each other's accents and play into the whole New Zealand-Australia rivalry."

8. THE TWO WEREN’T SURE IF THE MOVIE WAS GOING TO BE SCARY ENOUGH.

After shooting some of the scenes, and not having the benefit of seeing what they'd look like once any special effects were added, Henderson and Watts worried that the final result would not be scary enough. "There were moments when Naomi and I would look at each other and say, 'This is embarrassing, people are going to laugh,'" Henderson told the BBC." You just hope that somebody makes it scary or you're going to look like an idiot!"

9. CHRIS COOPER WAS CUT FROM THE MOVIE.

Cooper played a child murderer in two scenes which were initially meant to bookend the film. He unconvincingly claimed to Rachel that he found God in the beginning, and in the end she gave him the cursed tape. Audiences at test screenings were distracted that an actor they recognized disappears for most of the film, so he was cut out entirely.

10. THEY TRIED TO GET RID OF ALL OF THE SHADOWS.

Verbinski and cinematographer Bojan Bazelli used the lack of sunlight in Washington to remove the characters’ shadows. The two wanted to keep the characters feeling as if “they’re floating a little bit, in space.”

11. THE TREE WAS NICKNAMED "LUCILLE."

The red Japanese maple tree in the cursed video was named after the famous redheaded actress Lucille Ball. The tree was fake, built out of steel tubing and plaster. The Washington wind blew it over three different times. The night they put up the tree in Los Angeles, the wind blew at 60 miles per hour and knocked Lucille over yet again. "It was very strange," said Duffield.

12. MOESKO ISLAND IS A FUNCTIONING LIGHTHOUSE.

Moesko Island Lighthouse is Yaquina Head Lighthouse, at the mouth of the Yaquina River, a mile west of Agate Beach, Oregon. The website Rachel checks, MoeskoIslandLighthouse.com, used to actually exist as a one-page website, which gave general information on the fictional place. You can read it here.

13. A WEBSITE WAS CREATED BY DREAMWORKS TO PROMOTE THE MOVIE AND ADD TO ITS MYTHOLOGY.

Before and during the theatrical release, if you logged into AnOpenLetter.com, you could read a message in white lettering against a black background warning about what happens if you watch the cursed video (you can read it here). By November 24, 2002, it was a standard official website made for the movie, set up by DreamWorks.

14. VERBINSKI DIDN’T HAVE FUN DIRECTING THE MOVIE.

“It’s no fun making a horror film," admitted Verbinski. "You get into some darker areas of the brain and after a while everything becomes a bit depressing.”

15. DAVEIGH CHASE SCARED HERSELF.

Daveigh Chase in 'The Ring'
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

When Daveigh Chase, who played Samara, saw The Ring in theaters, she had to cover her eyes out of fear—of herself. Some people she met after the movie came out were also afraid of her.

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12 Facts About Disney's The Jungle Book
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It may not have followed Rudyard Kipling's book exactly—in fact, Walt Disney preferred that scriptwriters not read the book—but The Jungle Book was a toe-tapping box office success. Here are a few "bare necessities" you should know about the 1967 animated classic, which was released in theaters across America 50 years ago.

1. WALT DISNEY THOUGHT THE FIRST VERSION OF THE SCRIPT WAS TOO DARK.

Writer Bill Peet was brought on to script the first version of the movie, but Disney believed it was too dark. It’s not clear whether Peet left or was booted from the project; either way, a new team was brought in for rewrites. Floyd Norman, one of the new writers, said Walt wanted the film to have more laughs and more personality, and—true to Disney form—he also wanted sign off on every little detail.

2. MOST OF THE SONGS WERE DEEMED TOO DARK AS WELL.

Composer Terry Gilkyson was hired to write songs for the movie, but as with the script, Disney felt they lacked a sense of fun. Though the Sherman brothers (Richard and Robert) were brought in to write a new soundtrack, one of Gilkyson’s songs did remain in the movie: "The Bare Necessities." We'd say he got the last laugh: Not only is “The Bare Necessities” one of the best tunes in Disney history, it was also nominated for an Oscar (the film's sole nomination).

3. IT WAS THE LAST ANIMATED FEATURE WALT DISNEY OVERSAW.

When Disney died on December 15, 1966, the studio closed for a single day. Then they got back to business working on the last animated feature Disney had a hand in. It was released on October 18, 1967.

4. A RHINOCEROS CHARACTER GOT CUT.

Rocky the Rhino was intended to be a dim-witted, bumbling, near-blind character that would provide some comic relief. His scenes were completely storyboarded before he got the boot: He was supposed to appear after King Louie’s scene, but Walt didn’t want to put the funny sequences back-to-back.

5. THEY WANTED THE BEATLES TO VOICE THE VULTURES.

The Sherman brothers wrote the vultures’ song “That’s What Friends Are For” with The Beatles in mind, even giving the characters similar accents. But the Fab Four turned them down. “John was running the show at the time, and he said [dismissively] ‘I don’t wanna do an animated film.’ Three years later they did Yellow Submarine, so you can see how things change,” Richard Sherman said.

Here’s what the version of “That’s What Friends Are For” would have sounded like, as well as a glimpse of Rocky the Rhino:

6. THERE ARE MAJOR MISPRONUNCIATIONS IN THE MOVIE.

According to a guide written by Kipling, the main character’s name is pronounced "Mowglee" (accent on the 'Mow,' which rhymes with 'cow'), not “Moe-glee,” which is how Disney chose to say it. In addition, Kaa the snake is supposed to be “Kar,” Baloo the Bear should have been “Barloo,” and Colonel Hathi is really “Huttee.”

7. KING LOUIE WAS BASED ON LOUIS ARMSTRONG.

Although jazz singer and bandleader Louis Prima voiced the fire-obsessed orangutan, he’s not the Louis who the Shermans originally had in mind when they began writing “I Wan’na Be Like You” for the character. "We were thinking about Louis Armstrong when we wrote it, and that's where we got the name, King Louie," Richard Sherman told The New York Times. "Then in a meeting one day, they said, ‘Do you realize what the N.A.A.C.P. would do to us if we had a black man as an ape? They'd say we're making fun of him.' I said: ‘Come on, what are you talking about? I adore Louis Armstrong, I wouldn't hurt him in any way.'” In the end, Louis Prima stepped in.

8. A JUNGLE BOOK DANCE SEQUENCE WAS LATER BORROWED FOR ROBIN HOOD.

King Louie and Baloo’s “I Wan’na Be Like You” dance was later repeated, frame for frame, in Robin Hood, which also borrowed dances from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and The Aristocats. This was achieved through an animation technique called “rotoscoping,” where animators trace over the frames of old footage to use it in a different environment.

9. THE SONG "TRUST IN ME" WAS ALSO RECYCLED.

Originally written for Mary Poppins as “Land of Sand,” “Trust In Me” was recycled with new lyrics for Kaa to sing while hypnotizing poor Mowgli. Here’s what it would have sounded like:

10. THE YOUNG ELEPHANT WAS VOICED BY CLINT HOWARD.

Ron Howard’s younger brother also voiced another Disney youngster: Roo in the Winnie the Pooh movies.

11. PHIL HARRIS BROUGHT NEW LIFE TO BALOO.

Allegedly, Walt Disney chose Harris to voice Baloo after meeting him at a party. At the time, Harris was retired and nearly forgotten in Hollywood. His first day of recording didn’t go so well at first: Harris found Baloo’s tone wooden and boring, so asked if he could try a little improvisation. Once given the go-ahead, "I came out with something like, 'You keep foolin' around in the jungle like this, man, you gonna run across some cats that'll knock the roof in,'" Harris recalled. Disney loved Baloo’s new personality and rewrote lines to suit the style.

12. THERE WAS A SEQUEL.

It came out in 2003 (not direct-to-video, surprisingly) and featured Haley Joel Osment as Mowgli and John Goodman as Baloo. By most accounts, you shouldn’t bother seeing it; it currently has a 19 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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