The recent saga around Brooklyn 99, FOX’s critically-acclaimed darling about a New York City police precinct, felt like a roller coaster for fans. The network cancelled it in advance of its sixth season, only for it to be scooped up at the 11th hour by rival network NBC. Fans rejoiced on Twitter, the platform on which they’d been cursing FOX for days prior. It’s a story with a happy ending (PS, NBC, can you resuscitate Happy Endings while you’re at it?). But, it begs the question: Before Twitter, what did devout fans used to do when their beloved shows were on the brink of cancellation?
Prior to today’s bevy of streaming options available to pick up shows whose lifespans are cut too short, fans had to think outside of the box to get networks to reconsider. Here are some of the most creative antics fans got up to in the name of saving television.
Friday Night Lights
Twitter was around during most of the show’s five-season run, but the critically-acclaimed Jason Katims show was never on truly solid ground in the ratings. Fans organized via Facebook groups and mailed light bulbs with the words “Lights On” written on them to NBC as a show of support for the Dillon Panthers. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose! The show’s fifth season ended up getting shuffled over to DirecTV, but the series stuck around long enough to have one of the best series finales of the decade.
This WB show similarly changed networks in lieu of cancellation, but fans made their love of the sci-fi teen drama known in 2001 by mailing bottles of hot sauce to executives – a nod to the favorite condiment of the aliens on the show. Also a Jason Katims-developed show, Roswell stuck around for three seasons, rounding out its third and final season on UPN.
In 2007, fans mailed thousands of peanuts to CBS to protest the cancellation of Jericho, a show about post-apocalyptic drama about the residents of the fictional Jericho, Kansas, in the wake of a nuclear attack across a large swath of the United States. The nuts idea was inspired by a character’s single-word line of “nuts” in a pivotal scene. And it worked! Kind of. The show came back for another seven episodes after the peanuts stunt. Rather than a finale-style movie, a la the Serenity to Joss Whedon’s Firefly, the story was continued in comic book form.
NBC’s Chuck took things to the next level in 2009. If you worked at a Subway that year, you probably had some customer tell you that Chuck had sent them. That’s because fans of the spy comedy wanted studio executives to get the word that Subway, a big product placement sponsor of the show, was getting their business because of Chuck and company. After this gimmick, Chuck held on for a fifth season, its last.
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
It’s hard to believe it now, but NBC cancelled the Will Smith-driven show after season four in 1994, mere episodes after the airing of the now-iconic, emotional “Papa’s Got a Brand New Excuse” episode. A massive letter-writing campaign commenced, and execs reconsidered. It went on to have not one, but two more seasons.