The Outer Limits Opening ScreenAs someone who, in 1965 at the age of 14, wrote an indignant letter to a Raleigh TV station when The Outer Limits got cancelled, I really appreciated the entry on Boing Boing today by guest blogger Craig Engler of Syfy — see “How to REALLY save your favorite sci-fi show from cancellation.”

One thing I learned from this insider’s perspective on advocating for your dying precious is that writing a letter (or an email) these days will have no more effect than it did in 1965 — and probably even less.

Engler says that even a few thousand written pleas are nothing:

[T]oday EVERY canceled show has a write-in campaign, often accompanied by some clever item… Jericho fans sent peanuts, Lexx fans sent dragonflies, etc. It’s so pervasive that it’s become background noise. People even start write-in campaigns if we change a show’s timeslot, or if an actor leaves a show.

Letter campaigns just won’t make a difference, he says. Interestingly, according to Engler, today’s media environment offers a way to campaign for keeping a show alive — and social media can play a role:

If a show isn’t successful with 900,000 viewers, it’s not going to start working with 950,000 viewers. It’s going to take a few hundred thousand new viewers to make an impact.

The way to do that is to go big. Instead of talking to us, talk to the critics and TV bloggers out there who have the most readers and try to get THEM to talk about the show. Do something so unique that your “save the show” campaign gets covered on the homepage of CNN. Find a way to get Jon Stewart to joke about your campaign on his show. Use tools out there like Twitter and Facebook that let you reach people on a mass scale. If you’re sending letters to the network, send them to your friends too. And send them to your friends’ friends.

But all this has to be done quickly, Engler cautions, because once a show’s cancellation is announced, entropy has already set in — actors and crew get fired, sets get struck.

What really works, Engler thinks, is to be a real fan of the show and advocate for it before trouble starts:

“Save our show” campaigns rarely work in reality, so ideally you don’t want to let it get to that point. You want to get in early with “pre-save” campaigns, because once a show is perceived as needing to be saved, viewers become a lot more reluctant to tune in. The best “save the show” campaign I’ve seen is the one you don’t have to use.

AB — 6 May 2010

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