Buzz Saves TV Shows?


By Molly Freeman

Photo courtesy of Emily Tan.

In recent years, Hollywood has seen an influx of reboots, revitalizations, remakes, and other forms of revisiting old properties. On the big screen, classic blockbuster properties are returning in the form of new or continuing franchises like Jurassic World, Terminator Genisys, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens–just to name a few.

Additionally, movie studios are starting to establish big-budget shared universes, which is when more than one standalone film (or TV show) contributes to an overarching narrative. Arguably, Marvel Studios kicked off this current trend with its ongoing Avengers series. Since then, Warner Bros. has teamed up with DC Entertainment to form a DC cinematic universe, Paramount is expanding its world of Transformers into another universe, and Universal Pictures is crafting a shared storyline using classic movie monsters.

This trend has only emboldened dissatisfied movie fans who claim there isn’t any creativity left in Hollywood. However, the TV side of the industry isn’t faring much better. Although still technically original, the major networks have also gone the franchise/shared universe route. CSI has the NCIS and CSI franchises; NBC has a shared universe between Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit; and The CW has The Vampire Diaries, its spinoff series The Originals, and its own DC TV universe that includes Arrow, The Flash, and the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped TV networks from adapting movies into serialized dramas. MTV brought the ’90s horror classic Scream to the small screen this summer and this fall will see new premieres based on sci-fi films Limitless and Minority Report. However, television isn’t above rebooting its own media, either.

Recently, high profile TV reboots like Fuller House–a new series based on Full House coming to Netflix–and The X-Files–reuniting Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) on Fox–have brought certain shows back from the dead for new episodes. Plus, it seems every week there’s news of another series that may be rebooted; last week it was Xena: Warrior Princess.

However, while TV networks may be attempting to cash in on fan-favorite series by bringing them back, other networks or online streaming services are reviving series that viewers actually want to see return. Netflix revived the cancelled series Arrested Development for a fourth season (and possibly a fifth), Yahoo! Screen saved Community after it was axed by NBC. More recently, Netflix is gearing up to air a new Degrassi series after that show was canned by Teen Nick.

The pattern isn’t necessarily a new trend. After Firefly fans showed their support of the cult series, which was cancelled after a short first season by Fox, creator Joss Whedon reunited the cast for a movie conclusion, titled Serenity. Additionally, a few years ago the two-season detective series Veronica Mars notoriously gained massive support (and funds) from fans on Kickstarter to bankroll a movie conclusion to its own axed-too-soon show.

However, there’s a difference between those series that were saved because the fans protested their absence and those that networks are bringing back of their own accord: buzz. Even years after cancellation, fans consistently talked about reviving Arrested Development, Firefly, and Veronica Mars. Even after Serenity, when Veronica Mars fans successfully funded a Kickstarter, many wondered if Whedon would revisit Firefly–again.

Additionally, Community has become one of the most buzz-worthy TV series in terms of fans attempting to prevent its cancellation. NBC came close to axing the series many times before finally pulling the plug after its fifth season.

Of course, buzz doesn’t necessarily mean a show will be saved–especially if there isn’t enough of it. Fans of another cancelled NBC show, Constantine, attempted to convince the network to renew the series for a second season using the campaign #SaveConstantine. Nevertheless, NBC decided not to continue the series (although there is a possibility that the show’s star could appear on another network’s program).

So, is buzz enough of a force to save a TV show from cancellation–or even bring a series back from the dead? Not alone. However, with the increasingly mutual relationship between viewers and creators of TV series, buzz can certainly help. Since it seems movie studios and TV networks will continue rebooting or returning to old series, fans may as well point to those they’d most like to see.

As Ryan Reynolds pointed out at Comic-Con International in San Diego this year, fans have the power to even get blockbuster films made. If they can do that, they can certainly influence other aspects of media, too.