The People Have Spoken! How A Fan Base (Sort Of) Saved a Series

Outrage has always been one of the most successful ways for the public to get what they want, even if they do sound like a giant collective toddler throwing a temper-tantrum (see: The public’s reaction to the NFL Replacement Ref situation. It’s just my personal opinion, don’t get angry with me!). However, in the world of Television, ratings and money are joint kings, and even such powerfully devoted fan bases could not save shows like “Firefly”, “Jericho”, or “Roswell”. All of these shows were critically acclaimed, but just could not find the rating needed to match their brilliance, and despite their passionate fan base, were ultimately canned. There is, however, one exception: “Friday Night Lights”.

To an extent, the fan base of “Friday Night Lights” matched John Tulloch’s “powerless elite” idea- they could not alter the series from network ideas. However, their power came in helping save it from being cancelled every off-season of it’s 5 seasons. “Friday Night Lights” had notoriously low ratings, being consistently ranked below 50- a death sentence for a big budget broadcast drama. However, as the Henry Jenkins article says, “As the community enlarges and as reaction time shortens, fandom becomes much more effective as a platform for consumer activism”(pg. 4). Huge campaigns were organized through Facebook groups such as these. Traditional campaigns using petitions were enacted, as well as non-traditional, such as sending lightbulbs (as sponsored by VH1), as well as Clear-Eyes Eye Drops (this is a reference to a phrase said in the show).

Further down page 4, Jenkins mentions that “As fandom diversifies, it moves from cult status towards the cultural mainstream, with more Internet users engaged in some form of fan activity”. Culturally, these fan activities are normally considered to only belong to certain genres of television or film- science fiction, Japanese animation, fantasy- genres that would generally allow a fan’s imagination and writing to expand beyond the boundaries that the show would creates within itself. “Friday Night Lights” is no exception to this world. If one were to go to FanFiction.Net, you would find 468 pages of “Friday Night Lights” fanfiction. A brief skimming of some of the scripts shows that these fan pieces allowed the fan base to have particular story lines conclude with different endings, or create entirely new ones that may not have sat well with individual audiences. I have not seen any of the flame wars or disagreements between sections of the fan base like Jenkins mentions, however, I’m sure that it exists. Furthermore, “Friday Night Lights”‘s Reddit Page is still surprisingly active, though not nearly as frequently as it was in the past, when the show was still active. The “Friday Night Lights” fandom still exists, and it’s community is still interacting with each other semi-frequently, despite the show having finally gone off the air 2 years ago.

Ultimately, “Friday Night Lights” fate was sealed in the end. However, because of the fan intervention and use of the computer, as pointed out in the Jenkins article, that loyal fan base was able to hold on to their for far longer than the NBC executives wanted.

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