While the producers of “The Quest,” ABC’s critically hailed, ratings-challenged summer reality series, are waiting to hear whether it’s been picked up for a second season, they’ve come up with a unique way to make their case to the network that’s close to the program’s core concept: They’re asking the show’s large social media fanbase to be heroes themselves.
While the hybrid scripted-unscripted show, which put 12 unsuspecting contestants into a scripted fantasy story to find the “One True Hero,” never did much better than 0.5 in the ratings from its premiere on July 31 to its finale on Sept. 12, it amassed a strong and loyal social media following that continues to grow.
One fun fact: According to Nielsen, 6,000 tweets were sent during the show’s premiere and 15,000 were sent during it’s finale.
And now the producers have given the fans a new quest.
The Quest — Project Hero campaign challenges fans to do something valiant, no matter how small, and then publish stories, videos, pictures and artwork about their deeds on Twitter using #Continuethequest and #beahero, all leading up to a Day of Heroes on Oct. 23.
In an Oct. 1 letter to fans calling themselves the Quest Army on Facebook, the producers wrote that they had received thousands of tweets, emails and messages asking about a second season. “(The fans) are doing so much work,” said Rob Eric, one of the series’ six producers. “We said, ‘Let’s see if we can make an impact on a higher level as well.’ ”
In the past, rabid fans of flailing series have had a positive impact by carrying out bold stunts: Remember when “Jericho” fans inundated CBS headquarters with peanuts? The series did get one more season. But Eric and fellow “Quest” producers Michael Williams, Bertram van Munster, Elise Doganieri, Jane Fleming and Mark Ordesky want to reach people on a higher level.
“Some of this is inspired by the fans’ response to the show,” explained Fleming. “From the first episode, we got so much feedback from people saying that it inspired them.” And they’ve come together as a community wanting very much to keep the show going. “They are looking for something heroic to do,” says Eric. “They’re heroes in our eyes. They’re doing so much work, so we said, ‘Let’s just help guide this and see if we can make an impact on a higher level as well.”
The show had a massive challenge to overcome from the start, squaring off against such ratings behemoths as NBC’s “The Big Bang Theory” and CBS’ venerable “Big Brother,” as well as televised Thursday football games.
Review: ‘The Quest’: TV Review
“I don’t think it’s any secret that ABC didn’t promote the show,” explains Eric. “There have been plenty of articles written about this critically acclaimed show that has a rabid fanbase who are generating enough tweets on a Thursday night to put it in the top 10 Nielsen ratings of tweeted shows with shows that have three times its (traditional) ratings. If you can impact this many people on a show that had absolutely no promotion whatsoever off air, imagine what that fanbase could do, how loyal they would be if you did promote a show like this.”
The producers are inspired by the dedication of the fans and their response to the show’s family friendly themes, with its emphasis on heroic endeavors, teamwork and camaraderie — contestants decided who should stay and who should go based on their heroic qualities and the winner doesn’t even receive a cash prize — and they want to keep the show going in some form as well.
“No matter what happens, we believe in what we started and we want to continue,” said Doganieri. “We want to make a change in the world and in people and have a positive effect on everyone’s lives.”
And they do have a backup plan. “We would be bad producers if we didn’t,” said Eric.
“We’re looking at all avenues and hopefully someone will see how valuable this content is and how important is that we have to get this show out there,” said Doganieri.
Ultimately, the question is: If enough of the show’s fans save the day, will ABC save the show?