If television uber-fans have taught the networks anything, it’s that they are unwilling to let ratings dictate when a show gets axed.
The CBS series "Jericho" was dying a slow death in 2007 at the hand of the Nielsen ratings, but an online movement resurrected the doomsday-scenario drama. Fans shipped bags of peanuts to network executives, an homage to a "nuts" reference made on the series.
Such wild behavior actually got "Jericho" back on the air, if only for a short while. It was quickly canceled, again. Executives must learn from this mistake. Toss a geek a bone and they will beg for scraps every time a show’s fate looks grim.
Another case in point is NBC’s hit-or-miss action comedy "Chuck," starring Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski. When the series debuted in 2007, it attracted more than 9.2 million viewers. It saw a drop of more than a million for the rest of the season, but was pulling in a respectable weekly score, averaging more than 7 million. As the second season began, however, viewers started to jump ship. This season’s opener only had 6.6 million viewers.
So, nerds have started to unite. Chucktv.net is running a letter-writing campaign in the hopes of squeezing a third season out of the network. The movement urges fans to write letters to NBC’s Ben Silverman and Angela Bromstad. The site provides an entire list of guidelines that fans should follow when writing these pleas for a stay of execution. No complaining about storylines. No threats. And no form letters.
"Chuck" creator Josh Schwartz recently told E! News that he’s a dreamer just like his fan base. He claims to be "optimistic" that a third season is in the cards, yet admits it’s in "the single most competitive time period on TV."
NBC recently gave a valiant effort in hopes of boosting "Chuck’s" ratings. The network aired a special 3D episode the day after Super Bowl Sunday. Sci-fi fans appeared to appreciate the move, and thanks to a heavy promotional push, the episode drew a record number of viewers (8.35 million). But the stunt didn’t build a following. More than 1.8 million viewers failed to return the following week.
Now it appears NBC has ditched the technical route and has now resorted to stunt casting. This week featured guest spots by Chevy Chase and Scott Bakula. Promos leading up to Monday’s episode played on the nostalgia angle, having Bakula make reference to his days on NBC’s "Quantum Leap." Both actors are set to appear in the next few episodes. But neither of them can mine the ratings gold of their respective heydays. "Star Trek’s" failed series "Enterprise" anyone?
While risks must be taken in order to cultivate quality programming, "Chuck" has had its chance. With Jay Leno’s new primetime show killing an entire hour of NBC programming, scheduling is more important than ever.
Don’t let another bag of peanuts cause precious resources to be wasted.