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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


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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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6 Times There Were Ties at the Oscars
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Only six ties have ever occurred during the Academy Awards' near-90-year history. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) members vote for nominees in their corresponding categories; here are the six times they have come to a split decision.

1. BEST ACTOR // 1932

Back in 1932, at the fifth annual Oscars ceremony, the voting rules were different than they are today. If a nominee received an achievement that came within three votes of the winner, then that achievement (or person) would also receive an award. Actor Fredric March had one more vote than competitor Wallace Beery, but because the votes were so close, the Academy honored both of them. (They beat the category’s only other nominee, Alfred Lunt.) March won for his performance in horror film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (female writer Frances Marion won Best Screenplay for the film), and Beery won for The Champ, which was remade in 1979 with Ricky Schroder and Jon Voight. Both Beery and March were previous nominees: Beery was nominated for The Big House and March for The Royal Family of Broadway. March won another Oscar in 1947 for The Best Years of Our Lives, also a Best Picture winner. Fun fact: March was the first actor to win an Oscar for a horror film.

2. BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT // 1950

By 1950, the above rule had been changed, but there was still a tie at that year's Oscars. A Chance to Live, an 18-minute movie directed by James L. Shute, tied with animated film So Much for So Little. Shute’s film was a part of Time Inc.’s "The March of Time" newsreel series and chronicles Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing putting together a Boys’ Home in Italy. Directed by Bugs Bunny’s Chuck Jones, So Much for So Little was a 10-minute animated film about America’s troubling healthcare situation. The films were up against two other movies: a French film named 1848—about the French Revolution of 1848—and a Canadian film entitled The Rising Tide.

3. BEST ACTRESS // 1969

Probably the best-known Oscars tie, this was the second and last time an acting award was split. When presenter Ingrid Bergman opened up the envelope, she discovered a tie between newcomer Barbra Streisand and two-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn—both received 3030 votes. Streisand, who was 26 years old, tied with the 61-year-old The Lion in Winter star, who had already been nominated 10 times in her lengthy career, and won the Best Actress Oscar the previous year for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Hepburn was not in attendance, so all eyes fell on Funny Girl winner Streisand, who wore a revealing, sequined bell-bottomed-pantsuit and gave an inspired speech. “Hello, gorgeous,” she famously said to the statuette, echoing her first line in Funny Girl.

A few years earlier, Babs had received a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Fanny Brice in the Broadway musical Funny Girl, but didn’t win. At this point in her career, she was a Grammy-winning singer, but Funny Girl was her movie debut (and what a debut it was). In 1974, Streisand was nominated again for The Way We Were, and won again in 1977 for her and Paul Williams’s song “Evergreen,” from A Star is Born. Four-time Oscar winner Hepburn won her final Oscar in 1982 for On Golden Pond.

4. BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE // 1987

The March 30, 1987 telecast made history with yet another documentary tie, this time for Documentary Feature. Oprah presented the awards to Brigitte Berman’s film about clarinetist Artie Shaw, Artie Shaw: Time is All You’ve Got, and to Down and Out in America, a film about widespread American poverty in the ‘80s. Former Oscar winner Lee Grant (who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1976 for Shampoo) directed Down and Out and won the award for producers Joseph Feury and Milton Justice. “This is for the people who are still down and out in America,” Grant said in her acceptance speech.

5. BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION) // 1995

More than 20 years ago—the same year Tom Hanks won for Forrest Gump—the Short Film (Live Action) category saw a tie between two disparate films: the 23-minute British comedy Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and the LGBTQ youth film Trevor. Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi wrote and directed the former, which stars Richard E. Grant (Girls, Withnail & I) as Kafka. The BBC Scotland film envisions Kafka stumbling through writing The Metamorphosis.

Trevor is a dramatic film about a gay 13-year-old boy who attempts suicide. Written by James Lecesne and directed by Peggy Rajski, the film inspired the creation of The Trevor Project to help gay youths in crisis. “We made our film for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider,” Rajski said in her acceptance speech, which came after Capaldi's. “It celebrates all those who make it through difficult times and mourns those who didn’t.” It was yet another short film ahead of its time.

6. BEST SOUND EDITING // 2013

The latest Oscar tie happened only three years ago, when Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall beat Argo, Django Unchained, and Life of Pi in sound editing. Mark Wahlberg and his animated co-star Ted presented the award to Zero Dark Thirty’s Paul N.J. Ottosson and Skyfall’s Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers. “No B.S., we have a tie,” Wahlberg said to the crowd, assuring them he wasn’t kidding. Ottosson was announced first and gave his speech before Hallberg and Baker Landers found out that they were the other victors.

It wasn’t any of the winners' first trip to the rodeo: Ottosson won two in 2010 for his previous collaboration with Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker (Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Sound Mixing); Hallberg previously won an Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing for Braveheart in 1996, and in 2008 both Hallberg and Baker Landers won Best Achievement in Sound Editing for The Bourne Ultimatum.

Ottosson told The Hollywood Reporter he possibly predicted his win: “Just before our category came up another fellow nominee sat next to me and I said, ‘What if there’s a tie, what would they do?’ and then we got a tie,” Ottosson said. Hallberg also commented to the Reporter on his win. “Any time that you get involved in some kind of history making, that would be good.”

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10 People Who Have Misplaced Their Oscars
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Winning an Oscar is, for most, a once-in-a-lifetime achievement. Unless you’re Walt Disney, who won 22. Nevertheless, owning a little gold guy is such a rarity that you’d think their owners would be a little more careful with them. Now, not all of these losses are the winners' fault—but some of them certainly are, Colin Firth.

1. ANGELINA JOLIE

After Angelina Jolie planted a kiss on her brother and made the world wrinkle their noses, she went onstage and collected a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Lisa in Girl, Interrupted. She later presented the trophy to her mother, Marcheline Bertrand. The statuette may have been boxed up and put into storage with the rest of Marcheline’s belongings when she died in 2007, but it hasn’t yet surfaced. “I didn’t actually lose it,” Jolie said, “but nobody knows where it is at the moment.”

2. WHOOPI GOLDBERG

In 2002, Whoopi Goldberg sent her Ghost Best Supporting Actress Oscar back to the Academy to have it cleaned and detailed, because apparently you can do that. The Academy then sent the Oscar on to R.S. Owens Co. of Chicago, the company that manufactures the trophies. When it arrived in the Windy City, however, the package was empty. It appeared that someone had opened the UPS package, removed the Oscar, then neatly sealed it all back up and sent it on its way. It was later found in a trash can at an airport in Ontario, California. The Oscar was returned to the Academy, who returned it to Whoopi without cleaning it. “Oscar will never leave my house again,” Goldberg said.

3. OLYMPIA DUKAKIS

When Olympia Dukakis’s Moonstruck Oscar was stolen from her home in 1989, she called the Academy to see if it could be replaced. “For $78,” they said, and she agreed that it seemed like a fair price. It was the only thing taken from the house.

4. MARLON BRANDO

“I don’t know what happened to the Oscar they gave me for On the Waterfront,” Marlon Brando wrote in his autobiography. “Somewhere in the passage of time it disappeared.” He also didn't know what happened to the Oscar that he had Sacheen Littlefeather accept for him in 1973. “The Motion Picture Academy may have sent it to me, but if it did, I don’t know where it is now.”

5. JEFF BRIDGES

Jeff Bridges had just won his Oscar in 2010 for his portrayal of alcoholic country singer Bad Blake in Crazy Heart, but it was already missing by the next year’s ceremony, where he was up for another one. He lost to Colin Firth for The King’s Speech. “It’s been in a few places since last year but I haven’t seen it for a while now,” the actor admitted. “I’m hoping it will turn up, especially now that I haven’t won a spare! But Colin deserves it. I just hope he looks after it better.” Which brings us to ...

6. COLIN FIRTH

Perhaps Jeff Bridges secretly cursed the British actor as he said those words, because Firth nearly left his new trophy on a toilet tank the very night he received it. After a night of cocktails at the Oscar after-parties in 2011, Firth allegedly had to be chased down by a bathroom attendant, who had found the eight-pound statuette in the bathroom stall. Notice we said allegedly: Shortly after those reports surfaced, Firth's rep issued a statement saying the "story is completely untrue. Though it did give us a good laugh."

7. MATT DAMON

When newbie writers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck took home Oscars for writing Good Will Hunting in 1998, it was one of those amazing Academy Award moments. Now, though, Damon isn’t sure where his award went. “I know it ended up at my apartment in New York, but unfortunately, we had a flood when one of the sprinklers went off when my wife and I were out of town and that was the last I saw of it,” Damon said in 2007.

8. MARGARET O'BRIEN

In 1945, seven-year-old Margaret O’Brien was presented with a Juvenile Academy Award for being the outstanding child actress of the year. About 10 years later, the O’Briens’ maid took the award home to polish, as she had done before, but never came back to work. The missing Oscar was forgotten about when O’Brien’s mother died shortly thereafter, and when Margaret finally remembered to call the maid, the number had been disconnected. She ended up receiving a replacement from the Academy.

There’s a happy ending to this story, though. In 1995, a couple of guys were picking their way through a flea market when they happened upon the Oscar. They put it up for auction, which is when word got back to the Academy that the missing trophy had resurfaced. The guys who found the Oscar pulled it from auction and presented it, in person, to Margaret O’Brien. “I’ll never give it to anyone to polish again,” she said.

9. BING CROSBY

For years, Bing Crosby's Oscar for 1944’s Going My Way had been on display at his alma mater, Gonzaga University. In 1972, students walked into the school’s library to find that the 13-inch statuette had been replaced with a three-inch Mickey Mouse figurine instead. A week later, the award was found, unharmed, in the university chapel. “I wanted to make people laugh,” the anonymous thief later told the school newspaper.

10. HATTIE MCDANIEL

Hattie McDaniel, famous for her Supporting Actress win as Mammy in Gone with the Wind, donated her Best Actress Oscar to Howard University. It was displayed in the fine arts complex for a time, but went missing sometime in the 1960s. No one seems to know exactly when or how, but there are rumors that the Oscar was unceremoniously dumped into the Potomac by students angered by racial stereotypes such as the one she portrayed in the film.

An earlier version of this post ran in 2013.

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