CBS fan fave now to return midseason

CBS has begun stocking its midseason shelves, reviving the previously dead “Jericho” and greenlighting its Chris Klein-Jeffrey Tambor laffer “The Captain.”

As expected, CBS announced Wednesday that it’s bringing back cult drama “Jericho” for midseason, ordering seven episodes. Move reverses its decision of last month, when it left the show off the fall schedule and declared it dead (Daily Variety, May 16).

CBS Entertainment prexy Nina Tassler revealed her plans in an open letter to fans.

“You got our attention; your emails and collective voice have been heard,” Tassler wrote, adding that she’ll consider more episodes if the show gets good ratings. To that end, she encouraged fans to keep up their campaign on behalf of “Jericho.”

“A loyal and passionate community has clearly formed around the show. But that community needs to grow,” Tassler wrote. “It needs to grow on the CBS Television Network, as well as on the many digital platforms where we make the show available. We will count on you to rally around the show, to recruit new viewers with the same grass-roots energy, intensity and volume you have displayed in recent weeks.”

Tassler said CBS will try to pump up “Jericho” by repeating the show on the net this summer and streaming episodes on its CBS Audience Network. She also made vague mention of “continuing the story of Jericho in the digital world until the new episodes return.”

Eye’s change of heart on “Jericho” comes after fans of the show launched a massive online-based campaign to save the show. Their gimmick: deluging the Eye’s Gotham and L.A. HQ with bags of nuts — nearly 20 tons, at last count, according to a Web site tracking electronic orders for the nuts. Protesters even found the cell phone number of a CBS exec, flooding him with calls and forcing him to change his number.

Such protests are hardly unprecedented in the digital age, going all the way back to the failed online-based campaign to save ABC’s beloved “My So-Called Life.” Way before the digital age, fans of “Star Trek” rallied (unsuccessfully) to get their show back.

Meat-and-potatoes CBS execs aren’t used to such attention. Despite its status as TV’s most-watched web, the Eye doesn’t sport a sked heavy with buzz-friendly skeins (reality staples such as “Survivor” and “Big Brother” notwithstanding).

CBS execs are no doubt hoping to take advantage of all the buzz surrounding the show’s demise — and likely revival — to help further dispel the net’s outdated image as the McGeezer web. Net’s just greenlit several new fall shows with very un-CBS themes (vampires, swingers, etc.), and saving “Jericho” fits right into that media gameplan.

What’s more, CBS no longer has to depend solely on primetime broadcast plays for its revenue. Between DVR playback (“Jericho” added nearly 10% more viewers when DVR figures were counted) and the now broadly accepted practice of streaming shows across the Net, CBS could try to make “Jericho” the poster child for a new business model.

Eye’s new CBS Audience Network, for example, distributes full-length episodes (and clips) to partners across the Net, from AOL to Veoh.

As for “The Captain,” Eye has ordered six episodes of the skein, which revolves around a young writer who moves into an old-school Hollywood apartment complex. Raquel Welch, Fran Kranz, Joanna Garcia, Al Madrigal and Valerie Azlynn also star.

John Hamburg wrote and directed the pilot. He’ll exec produce along with Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen (“Friends”), who are new additions to the project since the pilot was filmed.

CBS Paramount Network Television is producing.

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