United We Fan: Saving Our Favorite TV Shows

Actor Zachary Levi talks about the creative fan campaign to save his series Chuck that saw fans target the show’s sponsor Subway.

United We Fan features many interviews and dives into what goes into the campaigns to save a television series from cancellation.

We see it every year when shows are on the bubble.  A fan campaign will quickly begin, make some waves, and it might just result with positive news.  We saw it this year with FilmStruck.  When it was announced that the streaming service was ending, both fans and filmmakers quickly campaigned to save it.  Ultimately, the service ended in November but the Criterion films will live on in a new streaming service.  But back to the film at hand, there are many shows that the film features.  This comes by way of campaigners, stars, and series creators.

As the film stars out, the filmmakers are asking people at a comic convention about the Trimbles.  People thought they meant tribbles–an alien species originally appearing in Star Trek: The Original Series.  Nope, the filmmakers are clearly asking about Bjo and John Trimble.  The couple started what may very well perhaps be the first fan campaign to save a series.  In this case, Star Trek!  The segment with the Trimbles leads to interviews with Star Trek star Nichelle Nichols, Rod Roddenberry, and Trevor Roth.

If Dorothy Swanson’s name sounds familiar, it’s because she founded Viewers for Quality Television.  Before this, however, she would write letters to newspapers and whatnot with hopes of saving Cagney & Lacey.  While series creators may look back fondly on how VQT would help save their shows, some newsletters featured less-flattering articles about their series.  But for all that bad that VQT may have caused, it did a lot of good over the years.  The organization played roles in saving Designing Women, St. Elsewhere, Quantum Leap, etc.

Kaily Russsell is among those online leading the fight to bring back Person of Interest.  She discusses her interest in the show and why she’s doing what she is.Amy Acker discusses the series as well as the LGBTQ attention given to the show because of Root.  Series creator Jonathan Nolan and executive producer Greg Plageman weren’t happy with the decision made by CBS.

In recent years, fans would turn to the show advertisers as a way of showing support for a series on the bubble.  Whether it was buying Subway for Chuck, Mars for Veronica Mars, or peanuts for Jericho, fans will show up.  Chuck star Zachary Levi just happened to be making an appearance at a convention on the day of the Chuck finale.  He led to way to a Subway around the corner and hopped over the counter to help make sandwiches!  When you talk about actors going above and beyond, Levi certainly did!

Listen.  There’s a lot of work that goes into making a television series.  Even the best of ideas are sometimes lucky to make it to pilot let alone get picked up to series.  In this ever-changing world of television, series are lucky if they survive beyond the initial network order.  When all is said and done, ratings are everything.  A series can have a great Live+3 or Live+7 rating but if you’re not getting viewers when episodes air, it’s not going to be good news.  While fan campaigns can help, they can only do so much.  Take Trial & Error on NBC, for example.  The series was canceled after two seasons on NBC.  There’s a fan campaign that includes sending Twix Bars to Netflix and Amazon in hope of reviving the series.

What United We Fan does very well is that the documentary offers a blueprint for the many television fans wanting to save their favorite series.

DIRECTOR:  Michael Sparaga
FEATURING: Bjo and John Trimble, Dorothy Swanson, Kaily Russell, Nichelle Nichols, Zachary Levi, Scott Bakula, Amy Acker, Adam Bartley, Skeet Ulrich, Enrico Colantoni, Tom Fontana, Barney Rosenzweig, Harry Thomason, Donald P. Bellisario, Rob Thomas, Jon Stwinberg, Dan Shotz, Matt Miller, Jasin Katims, Jonathan Nolan, Greg Plageman

Brainstorm Media releases United We Fan on DVD and VOD on December 4, 2018.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.