Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Jericho: SAVED

This is astounding.

Like many TV viewers with an Internet connection, I enjoy discussing my favorite shows online. I've subscribed to the Jericho thread (spoilers in first post) on Something Awful for a while now - which became a call to action after the show was canceled shortly after the season finale.

The show was supposedly canceled for poor ratings (even though CBS put it up against American Idol - a show more popular than the fucking Superbowl). But the story doesn't just begin and end with the canceling of a show.

CBS did some very intelligent things with Jericho. They offered users their own message board and wiki, right on the CBS site. Good, because it drives traffic to CBS' site (as opposed to an offsite forum like Something Awful), and good because it gives fans a place to rally. Jericho was a story arc show much like recent, successful dramas on network (Heroes) and cable (Deadwood, The Sopranos), which is to say that each episode built on the last. It also meant there was a fair amount of fans trying to figure out mysteries, whether it was the morse code message at the beginning of each episode to the mastermind behind the nuclear attacks in the show.

In short, it was a brilliant stoke of community development online.

So what happens when you've given people the tools to come together as a community around a show they care about, and then suddenly announce that show is canceled?

Fans get upset. They mobilize.

It's happened before, of course. Firefly fans managed to get Serenity made (which still ended up flopping), but CBS was firm: the show was done for and there was nothing that could be done.

Or could there? One guy, who owns a nut company in New Jersey, decided a tie-in to the "nuts!" phrase from the final episode would make an excellent rally point. So he designed a nuts campaign to save Jericho - where he would deliver nuts to CBS headquarters as a statement of support (the nuts would then be donated to charity, and proceeds from sales would go to helping rebuild the town of Greensboro, Kansas, recently devastated by a tornado - Jericho is located in Kansas.) How many nuts have been delivered to date? Almost 20 tons. The YouTube videos of the deliveries are pretty awesome. The campaign became an Internet phenomenon as well, making sites like Metafilter.

The show's actors and producers were surprised by the outpouring of support. So too was CBS; they wanted to find a way to resolve the storyline. Maybe a two-hour movie? Nothing doing. The show's writers refused.

And today, on the LA Times' TV blog, comes this post: Resurrection: The fans save Jericho. The most interesting part is producer Carol Barbee's comments about the inaccuracies of ratings and the shifting face of entertainment:

I really think that what has been learned here is that networks are going to have to look at numbers and who is watching their show and who is downloading their show in a different way from here on out. I think they have to understand that the Nielsens are not telling the story anymore and that the 18-49 demographic they're all so keen on is online and that's how increasingly they are getting their news and entertainment.

That's quite appropriate - since I myself watched the first 10 episodes on my Xbox 360, downloading them from the video marketplace.

It was the Internet that united fans of the show, and it was the online communities created around it that led to the passion, investment, the tools for communicating and mobilization, and the dedication not to give up that saved Jericho.

Whether a company is utilizing the online community to promote their brand or product, a group of dedicated citizens is using it to enact positive political change, or an as-yet undreamed-of use that is still years away - Jericho's being saved is a great example of the wonderful things that a dedicated community can enact when given the tools. Frankly, it makes me proud to be in the line of work I'm in.

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