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Maggie Furlong Headshot

Hey, Save Our Show Campaigners: You're Doing It All Wrong

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save our show


Hi TV superfans! You've been emailing, tweeting and commenting at me and my fellow TV journalists for the past several weeks about a few changes in the TV landscape that you're unhappy about.

I hear you. Really, I do. But I don't want to hear anymore.

Now, don't take this the wrong way, but you're doing it wrong. And I don't say that to be mean -- I say it because there's a reason most Save Our Show campaigns fail, and because there's a way to do it smarter.

My message is simple: TV is great. I've made a career out of loving it (and loving to hate it when it comes to certain shows). But TV is, above all, entertainment, and what good is entertainment if you stop letting it entertain you and start letting it get you absolutely enraged?

Save Our Show! Bring This Actress Back! These are all understandable reactions when news breaks that a series you love has been canceled or a star you love will be leaving a show. And covering the news of TV, I've done my fair share of last-minute pleas for tune-in's and show-saving. But when that news settles in, the dust should settle with it, because beyond being entertainment for the consumer, TV is also a business.

I'm not going to name names here, mainly because I don't want to give any fan groups the satisfaction (or ammo), but you know who you are. The networks have smelled your sardines and seen your planes and they've listened to your requests to quantify how much a "truckload of money" actually is. I don't think TV should ever make you angry enough to organize petitions and ALL CAPS spam people, but in almost all of these cases, the bigger issue is that you're directing your anger at the wrong people.

If a show gets canceled, it's usually because the ratings weren't there. Don't be mad at the networks and studios for cutting off a bleeding limb -- be sad that the people you told to watch the show didn't. And if you didn't tell people to watch the show while it was on, be mad at yourself.

In some rare cases, shows are revived and saved by other networks, and the speculation is something we report on if it's a legitimate option (as we did recently after ABC axed "Happy Endings"), but that's the exception, not the rule. When all roads lead to cancellation, your road should take you straight out of RageTown and into Time To Find A New Favorite Showville.

That's not to say you have to stop loving the show as it once was. You can buy the series box sets or get your friends hooked when the show becomes available on Netflix and online streaming. Then and only then, in the rarest of circumstances, can your rally cries possibly be heard -- because you're backing them up with actual evidence that the show has gained traction and popularity in its afterlife. It happened with "Arrested Development," which got revived by Netflix after they saw a continued strong demand for the series.

But did it actually work? Years later, was that actually the show you wanted to see return? "Arrested Development" Season 4 premiered to very mixed reviews, proving that sometimes the end should just be the end. Not enough of a good thing is still better than too much of a sort-of-still-good thing.

Also rare, but totally plausible, is the Kickstarter approach. If you believe so strongly that you're not alone in your love for a certain show, Kickstart a movement to bring it back -- either to TV, online, or in the case of "Veronica Mars," as a movie. Instead of spending time and energy emailing critics to help you fight your fight (we can't), be truly proactive and take that battle to the next level yourself.

And if a star leaves a show, it's not because someone high up has an ulterior motive or a grudge against that person. It's because they've either a) chosen to leave, b) demanded more money than the higher-ups thought they were worth, or c) been written off the show for creative reasons.

This seems to be a touchy subject with fans, and I understand why: When you love watching a show, you allow it and the stars on it into your homes, week in and week out. It feels intimate, personal, like they're part of your family. But that divide between character and actor can't be blurred too much -- sometimes characters go away because the actors that play them want them to. Plain and simple.

Short of inspiring the writers and producers to bring a written-off character back for an episode or two here and there (if they haven't killed them off, that is), the fight that comes after someone leaves a show is pointless. Contracts are done, decisions are made -- it's time to move on. And in that moving on, remember to give the show a chance before writing it off completely. If you've enjoyed the show enough thus far that you're compelled to complain about changes, they might surprise you with how they handle those changes. You just have to give them the chance.

So if you love something, watch it and enjoy it. If things change, trust that the people running the show have a plan and watch what comes next before storming the castles and bemoaning the end of the world. And if it turns out that the changes did, in fact, ruin the show, then you have the choice, as a viewer, to stop watching, and you can complain all you want.

Just don't expect everyone to listen.