The aliens on “Roswell” used to slurp down massive quantities of hot sauce. You know how I know this? Not from watching the show, it didn’t appeal to me. But it obviously appealed to a loud minority who campaigned to save the show from cancellation in April 2000.

Paul Wong
Ryan Blay, State of the Arts

The show, which had mild critical acclaim and a devoted following, gained a great deal of press from the campaign. Thousands of bottles of hot sauce later, the WB network moved it to a new timeslot, where it eventually died the death of most shows that run on the WB.

Still, there is something to be said for dedicated television watchers. Should the fans have to suffer because a show couldn’t find a niche on the WB? Or should there be a place to find shows that just couldn’t make it in this ratings-crazed environment?

It would be too easy to put “Roswell” and the recently canned “Farscape” on the Sci-Fi Network. Here’s a more novel approach: Create a network restricted to shows the networks cancel because of ratings – not because they suck (sorry, “Caroline in the City”). I’m talking shows that people care enough about to start internet sites like Savefarscape.com.

Wouldn’t it be clever of a network to take the initiative and put forth a network lineup of “Futurama,” “Roswell,” “Farscape” and “Once and Again?” Many shows don’t peak until well into their third season or later, and by pairing these shows with one another, perhaps the stations can develop interest by cross-marketing to viewers.

The current total of 148,616 signatures on the “Future for Futurama” petition indicates that people care about the show. The petition correctly points out that the recent season – one DVD release indicated strong sales, and the Sunday time slot was often pre-empted by NFL football or other Sunday night events. (note: Reruns of “Futurama” were recently acquired by the Cartoon Network). Why FOX would do that to a Matt Groening show that actually showed potential is beyond my comprehension, but the fact remains that no new episodes are in production after the backlog of episodes is finished running. Thanks a lot, viewers, you’re no longer needed.

Is there a coincidence that three of the shows mentioned above all have a sort of science fiction element to them? Are the networks just incapable of producing long term series about space anymore, a la “Star Trek” and its successors? The few science-fiction themed shows to stay on the air are “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and its spin-off, “Angel,” “Enterprise,” a “Star Trek” spin-off, and the new hit “The Dead Zone” on USA. Does this mean that we should expect more cancellations of these (for the most part) critically acclaimed shows?

Comedy Central periodically holds voting to see which episodes of “South Park” the viewers want to see again. The “FX” network did the same with old “X-Files” reruns. It appeals to our sense of democracy to see network executives in New York and Los Angeles respond to viewers in Ann Arbor or Omaha. So why can’t there be a network dedicated to underrated shows like “Freaks and Geeks” and “Undeclared” (over 8,000 signatures on http://www.saveundeclared.8m.com)?

How many signatures will it take?

Ryan Blay can be reached at rblay@umich.edu

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *