Recent TV history is rife with passionate fan campaigns to save shows: Tabasco-for-Roswell, peanuts-for-Jericho, Subway-for-Chuck, etc. But in these Internet-fractured, dwindling-audience times, it’s increasingly become the producers and casts of the shows themselves who do whatever it takes to rally viewership. Joss Whedon crusaded to save Dollhouse before it even started; Lone Star creator Kyle Killen publicly (and, it seems, futilely) pleaded for viewers after the first episode tanked. Now the cast of The CW’s charming long-lost-kid-finds-birth-parents drama Life Unexpected is taking their underrated show’s fate into their own hands with a particularly intense flurry of efforts. They made their own posters (complete with little tear-off tags reminding viewers where and when the show airs. They created a funny, slightly salty “behind-the-scenes video” meant to go viral. (There’s nudity and unplanned pregnancy!) They made a Facebook page and a Twitter feed to talk directly to fans. Stars Kristoffer Polaha and Austin Basis stood on Wilshire Boulevard with “SAVE OUR SHOW” signs.
They’ve even blogged and sent mass e-mails exhorting friends and fans to spread the word about the show. Polaha’s helpfully specific instructions included: “So, in honor of public works of art, in honor of a collective, in honor of being arthousey, and in the honor of science, please tell one person this week about Life Unexpected. Strike up a conversation with that hot guy from English 101 and tell him he reminds you of Baze. He’ll ask, ‘Who the heck is Baze?’ At which point you can launch in to a full-tilt PR session about your favorite show. Brag about its great story lines, go on and on about the actors — especially the guy who plays Baze with the funny last name you can’t pronounce; more on the name in a later blog (there’s that word again) — in short, sell it.”
And their efforts have paid off, at least a little: Ratings hit a season high of 1.7 million viewers this week (boosted by a One Tree Hill crossover) and The CW just ordered two more scripts on top of the original 13-episode order for the season. I’m touched that the cast cares so much about their show — this isn’t true of as many shows as you might think. And God knows it’s no picnic to stump for your own work. But there’s a danger of going overboard here, too, and coming off like the guy who calls too soon and too often after the first date. I don’t know if this would draw me to a show I didn’t already watch. (Incidentally, I think Life is a sweet little show; it reminds me of The WB of old.) Do you think this kind of thing can work long-term, PopWatchers? Does a cast or producer begging you to watch make you want to support a show more…or less?