March 12, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

Is there any way to save ”Angel”?

I’ve read that The WB is canceling my favorite show, ”Angel.” Have you ever heard of a canceled show that was saved due to the intensity of fan reaction? Is it too late? — Diane Blumenthal

”Designing Women” is the classic example of a show that was saved from cancellation by mobilized fans — in fact, it was one of the first shows championed by a group called Viewers for Quality Television, which helped support other endangered shows like ”Beauty and the Beast,” ”Cagney & Lacey,” and ”Party of Five.” Usually networks lose faith in a show and don’t respond to viewer pleas, but that doesn’t stop competing networks. NBC canceled ”The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd” in 1988, but the Lifetime network heard fans’ pleas and picked it up for another two seasons. NBC yanked ”JAG” in ’96, yet CBS took it on with great success. Even that trash-TV classic ”Baywatch,” beached by NBC after one season, inflated in syndication for another decade. As for ”Angel,” I hear you, Diane — and hey, UPN, I’m getting tons of mail hoping ”Angel” can be resurrected. (Viewer campaigns have also started at and But these days, DVDs are proving a way out: Increasingly, the production company and creators will let a show die after cancellation, knowing that there’s gold in selling the complete run of a series with added features. This may not bode well for reviving future fan faves.

Okay, Ken, I have to ask: What is the deal with ”I Love Lucy”? It consistently tops ”The Best of…” lists and I find it unwatchable. Is it just that it established so many sitcom clichés? Or is it just overrated?

Good for you for challenging accepted wisdom! You’re right: ”I Love Lucy” (1951-57) tops so many sitcom lists because it established so many of the themes, scenes, and performance styles that seem cliché to viewers now. (It has also been rerun into the ground — even I, who think Ball’s tipsy ”Vitameatavegamin” is a stitch, am kinda sick of seeing it excerpted on every sitcom-salute show.) But you have to consider the series in context. Lucille Ball was the original wacky housewife; as producers, she and hubby Desi Arnaz practically invented slapstick domestic comedy, the concept of the four-camera shooting format, and the idea of having funny friends or neighbors (Vivian Vance and William Frawley), and made the celebrity guest-star cameo (from John Wayne to Orson Welles) a sitcom staple. If you look at Lucy with an eye trained by ”Seinfeld” or ”Everybody Loves Raymond,” it can seem trite, but if you adjust to the ’50s black-and-white look, and slower pacing, and can groove on Lucy’s crazy energy, you may never love Lucy, but you’ll respect her a little bit more.

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