When Roswell was on the brink of cancellation, fans of the show sent letters--many of them including bottles of Tabasco sauce (a tie-in to the show's aliens-among-us plotline)--to network executives. For years, loyal fans like these have initiated similar campaigns, writing letters to save their favorite comedies and dramas--and sometimes they work. Roswell, for one, was saved from the chopping block (though it's now in danger again). Unfortunately, in many cases, by the time word gets out to the general public that a show is in danger, it's too late. Even a letter-writing campaign probably won't keep a network from pulling the plug at that point.
Christopher Burrell knew this--and he didn't like it. Last December, the 32-year-old launched SaveThatShow.com, a Web site that lets viewers share their opinions on new and endangered shows. Fans vote for their favorites and can write letters via the site that are then delivered to the networks. "I wanted to give people a chance to have their own say," says Burrell, a New York City lifeguard and future law student.
Burrell believes his site gives the networks a second opinion, letting them and their advertisers see that even if the Nielsen ratings for a show are low, there are still people watching. "If they see maybe there's another place where [the program] is showing heavily, that people do watch the show, then maybe they would want to keep the show on," Burrell says.
In the few months that the site, which earns money through advertisements, has been running, Burrell has been amazed by the loyalty people have displayed to their favorite TV shows. "I know people love their shows, but I didn't realize how much," he says. "For example, [with] Once & Again, they mention how this is the only time during the week that a mother and daughter sit down and do something together. Since the show is in jeopardy, they're afraid that if they don't have this, they won't have anything."
So far, most network execs haven't outright responded to the letters from SaveThatShow.com users, but Burrell isn't concerned. He's more interested in the response he's gotten from users, which has made Burrell hopeful about what people can accomplish when they work together: "If people can get together for something like TV, then imagine what else they can do."