As fans of NBC's Outlaw mobilize, here's how to save your favorite show from cancellation
It's like the first real sign of seasonal change: The first organized effort to save a new fall network TV show from cancellation.
That came across my desk this afternoon, as fans of NBC's Jimmy Smits legal drama Outlaw have begun trading emails urging fans to mobilize and save the show. The network stopped filming the show this week and industry experts expect the show will be canceled if ratings don't improve in a hurry (like, before the start of November's "sweeps" ratings period on Thursday, Oct. 28).
But mobilizing when a show has already stopped production can be too late. And just watching won't help much unless you are among the 15,000 or so households sampled by The Nielsen Company to determine national TV ratings.
To help those of you who may be worried about how to save this show or any others that seem vulnerable -- the Whole Truth and The Apprentice, I'm talking to you -- here's a few pointers:
Watch online, buy the iTunes episodes or get the DVDs: Nielsen might not tap your wisdom for their ratings, but every TV network looks at DVD and iTunes sales along with viewer stats for their website and other places. If you want to be counted as a viewer, here’s where every mouse click and minute watching can make a difference.
Talk it up: Families who are measured by Nielsen aren’t supposed to tell anyone. Which means your cubicle buddy could be the deciding vote on Smits'’ TV future. Make sure he knows how much you love Outlaw.
Persuade people like me: I’ll admit, if I could save shows on my own, Pushing Daisies wouldn’t be pushing up daisies right now. But get enough professional TV nerds like me on your side, and suddenly you have newspaper columns across the country begging suits in Los Angeles and New York to wise up. One reason NBC saved Chuck, for example, is because TV critics, a sponsor and fans came together in one huge supportive burst of fanboy love. Which leads to…
Leverage lots of attention with something new: One big problem with many “save our show” campaigns, is that they try something that has been tried before. Once Saturday Night Live let a Facebook fan page convince them to give Betty White a guest hosting gig, every other page was hosed, because that technique was suddenly old hat. So your challenge, as a borderline obsessive fan, is to gather your Twitter tweeps and Facebook freaks to brainstorm the next way your campaign will land on CNN’s homepage.
Get the stars and producers involved: The great “Save Chuck” campaign – basically the last time a show saved by such an effort actually kept going – also had participation of the show’s stars and producers, which equals more press coverage and more attention from the network. Fortunately, in the age of Twitter, it’s more possible than ever to enlist producers and actors in helping you fight to keep their paychecks coming.
Start early: By the time it’s obvious a show is dying, key players may have already found new jobs or networks execs may already have contingencies in motion. So if you dig Will Arnett or Maura Tierney, better start that Facebook page for Running Wilde or The Whole Truth right now. Seriously. Like, yesterday.