Never can say goodbye

Passionate fans attempt to save skeins

Ordinarily, TV viewers wouldn’t think of pooling their cash to buy billboard space and ads in the trades in order to save a favorite program. Then again, as fans of “Once and Again” will tell you, it was no ordinary show.

The critically lauded Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz creation, which had more timeslots than characters, eventually got the ax this spring, but not before a feverish campaign took place that included newspaper ads for roughly $7,000 apiece and a billboard that cost about $13,000. Fans across the country, many of whom were brought together by Internet message boards, were devoted to their cause and weren’t going down without a fight. They raised money and raised hell.

“To me, it was one of the most real shows I’ve ever seen,” says Melinda O’Brien, who lives in Dallas and helped spearhead the rescue effort. “Every episode is something I could relate to on a personal level: ‘Yeah, I’ve been in that position before.’ Every single time. There was always something in the show that moved me.”

In the Internet age, it is now far easier for fans across the U.S. and all over the world to come together and share notes on their favorite shows. When one of those programs risks extinction, watch out.

“We contacted ABC,” O’Brien says of the “Once and Again” campaign. “Most of the time we got voice mail. We did massive snail mail campaigns. I’m sure most of the letters found their way to the (trash).

“We understood the ratings were not the greatest but the show really never had a chance because they kept moving it over and over again. So many people said to me, ‘I didn’t even know it was gone.’ ”

Kim Lisi of Staten Island, N.Y., has a different complaint about her favorite show, “Dawson’s Creek,” renewed for the fall, although she is helping to mount a similar grass-roots effort. It’s a particular bit of missing romance that upsets Lisi and the “Dawson” faithful involved in the Save True Love crusade.

Their efforts are focused on reviving a relationship between the characters Joey and Pacey that was abruptly dropped with no explanation. This rankled fans, some of whom were driven to create the Web site.

“In the entire season No. 5, they never explained why Pacey and Joey broke up,” Lisi complains, “nor did they resolve it. They were together for a year, and a lot of fans were invested in that relationship.”

Lisi and other “Dawson’s Creek” aficionados are raising money by selling scripts and show memorabilia in order to help get the word out. So far, the writers have been somewhat sympathetic and have corresponded, although no assurances about the Pacey-Joey situation have been given as season No. 6 approaches.

Megan Melay of Lancaster, Pa., along with Web friends Paul McLaughlin in London and Isabella Mundim in Brazil wanted desperately to see Aaron Sorkin’s first show, “Sports Night,” last beyond two seasons. When ABC canceled it, they took matters into their own hands. The trio wrote a virtual season No. 3 on the Web site “(I Can’t Believe It’s Not) Sports Night.”

“I wrote a number of mean letters on ABC message boards about the powers that be not knowing quality television when they saw it,” Melay explains. “It was a show that crossed many boundaries. Unfortunately, you had to be an intellectual. I suppose intellectual television viewers are a dying breed.”

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