Fans campaigned to save these shows: who succeeded?

By Adia Miller

Every few years, a show comes along that captures the hearts of fans but is panned by critics or languishes in the ratings game. Which shows have been saved by dedicated fans, and which have been put on the chopping block?


Firefly (2002) – Firefly was a 2002 sci-fi show that came from the same head that brought us Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, and The Avengers: Joss Whedon.

The show takes place 500 years in the future, after a universal civil war led to the only two remaining countries, the US and China, fusing into one central governing force known as the Alliance. A group of rebels captained by Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and first mate Alleyne (Gina Torres) take up whatever jobs they can while trying to avoid both the dangers of the galaxy and Alliance forces sent to kill them. As Captain Reynolds says, “A Captain’s goal was simple. Find a crew. Find a job. Keep flying.”

After a 13-episode long season, the show was canceled due to low ratings, but the fandom grew quickly after and was ready to fight for the show.

Firefly featured a fusion of East-Asian and Western culture with distinct class differences as well as a mix of space and Wild-West motifs and archetypes that made the show easily recognizable. Described as “charming” and “quirky” as often as it was “jarring” and “absurd,” the show’s cancellation only three months after it aired resulted in immediate fan feedback.

The fans began a postcard campaign to broadcasting company UPN and raised money to take out an ad in Variety, pleading for the show’s cancellation to be reconsidered. The show didn’t come back, but after the season’s DVD sales spiked exponentially, Universal Pictures approved Joss Whedon’s pending script and the fans got a movie titled “Serenity” three years after the show’s conclusion.

The film failed commercially, but a fan-made documentary and non-canon sequel was later released with Whedon’s blessing. In the end, Firefly was classified as a cult classic and a gem for true fans.

Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments (2016-2019) – Shadowhunters was a Freeform television series based on the best-selling The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.

The show stars Clary Fray (Katherine McNamara), an eighteen-year-old girl who after witnessing a shocking sight nobody else around her could see, comes home to find her apartment in disarray and her mother missing. Fray discovers she is part of a half-angel, half-human species sworn to fight demons, and the prejudiced madman who took her mother is intent on destroying all vampires, werewolves, seelies, and warlocks, good and bad.

Assisted by fellow Shadowhunters Jace Wayland (Dominic Sherwood), Alec Lightwood (Matthew Daddario), and Isabelle Lightwood (Emeraude Toubia), as well as childhood friend Simon Lewis (Alberto Rosende) and age-old warlock Magnus Bane (Harry Shum, Jr.), they must put an end to Valentine who has returned with a vengeance to carry on his evil deeds.

The show was beloved by fans, lasting three seasons and culminating in a two-part season three that would serve as the end despite an adamant fan-led campaign that included petitions and even a billboard in Time Square. Unfortunately, #SaveShadowhunters was not successful, though two years later Kat and Dom would start a podcast called Return to the Shadowhunters where they along with the occasional cast member would rewatch the show.

Shadowhunters was a show many fans could connect to thanks to its representation. The main cast included people of many races (Izzy, Maia, Luke, Raphael, Magnus). It grew to specifically preach a message of cultural integration and inclusivity as well as defying totalitarian governments, and the most popular couple consisted of two men, Magnus who identifies as bisexual (a rarity when the books came out) and Alec who identifies as gay. The fictional couple also acts as a comment on mixed-race couples as one is a warlock and one is a Shadowhunter.

The show may be over, but fans still haven’t given up hope. Fan conventions made specifically for the show still occur each year and are attended by cast members, and fans are still insistent that there’s still time for the show to come back if the cast would want to.

I Am Not Okay With This: (2020) – A show starring Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves and the It reboot actress Sophia Lillis, I am Not Okay With This was an unfortunate casualty of the COVID pandemic.

Based on a graphic novel of the same name, the story follows Sydney (Lillis), a temperamental teen who finds herself navigating school, relationships, and figuring out her sexuality, while also developing telekinetic powers that are controlled by her anger.

Awkward, comedic, shocking, violent, and featuring some frightening moments, the show only lasted one season and while viewers did enjoy it, Netflix saw it best to end it as it was, on a massive cliffhanger.

The show was supposed to run two seasons, the second of which was already written and ready to be filmed in the summer, but even amongst the abrupt cancellation, co-creator Jonathan Entwistle was determined to give fans a satisfactory ending. He begged Netflix to let him recut the finished season, but sadly the network didn’t see it as worth it and the show ended with a cloaked figure looking at a blood-soaked Sydney, saying, “Let’s begin,” only for that beginning to never come.

Fans wrote to the creators and made online petitions and posts in order to save the show. But unfortunately, COVID just shut it down too quickly. The graphic novel by Charles Forsman is available for purchase, but be warned, it is even darker than the show, including much more violence, examples of suicide, and much graphic imagery.

Teen Titans: (2003-2006) – Before the bumbling cartoon that appears on Cartoon Network, there was the original Teen Titans animated show.

Drawn in an anime style and hailing from DC Comics, the show was an instant success for the network that ran for five seasons and could have run for many more. The show tells the story of a teen superhero group, The Teen Titans, which features Batman’s former sidekick Robin (Scott Menville), half-demon Raven (Tara Strong), alien princess Starfire (Hynden Walsh), former football star turned part-robot Cyborg (Khary Payton), and the fauna shifting green Beast Boy (Greg Cipes) as they fight crime with their superpowers and teenage angst.

The show ended on a cliffhanger with Beast Boy running towards a blinding light. The fates of the heroes were left in the air and never resolved.

There are a couple of theories as to why the show was never continued. One is that the final season was just too scary for kids. Robin got beaten to a bloody pulp by Slade, we saw the villain’s unmasked skeletal face akin to the Phantom of the Opera, Raven’s demon father was featured a lot more heavily, and the continuing existence of the unknowable Red X meant danger for our characters at every turn. Ratings decreased, but it was still one of the network’s most popular and profitable works.

Another thought is that a decrease in toy sales just made it obsolete to producers.

But one of the most widespread theories was because the show’s fanbase had grown from being primarily young boys to being mostly young girls which decreased viewership numbers in Cartoon Network shows “designed for girls.” Young Justice and Green Lantern: The Animated Series were thought to be canceled for the same reason.

The sudden end to the show left a lot of confusion and questions for the fans with so many things going unresolved. They never find out who Red X is, though fans theorize that it may be Jason Todd, the second Robin who died brutally at the hands of the Joker, or an alternate version of the show’s Robin (Dick Grayson) who went evil.

Fans never find out if Terra regains her memory, or even why she lost it in the first place. Slade never got defeated. Not to mention fans never got to see what was in Robin’s briefcase, find out why he left Batman, or even see his face without his mask.

There is a saving grace since Teen Titans is an animated show: if CN ever wanted to bring it back, it would be possible. Petitions are still running today to get this show back on the air, especially after old fans were disappointed with the lowbrow comedy in Teen Titans Go. Technically there’s still a chance, but after seventeen years off the air, it’s much more likely they’ll reboot the Teen Titans again than continue on where they left off.

Hannibal: (2013-2015) – Acting as a prequel to the story of Silence of the Lambs, both the movie as well as the original 1988 novel, Hannibal (the show, not the film’s sequel) is a psychological thriller that follows a younger Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) who works as a forensic psychiatrist as he “helps” FBI agent Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) investigate a serial killer case.

When Lecter finds out that Graham has a reluctant empathy for serial killers, he starts pushing the bounds of Graham’s sanity in order to turn the man into a killer himself.

The show was highly successful and praised by critics and fans alike, but ultimately, the network decided the show was just too costly to continue, so it was canceled. Since 2015, fans have been petitioning, begging, and attempting to fund a fourth season. The original petition from 2015 currently has over 112,000 signatures.

There are two complete released cuts of the show for fans to watch, one unrated in the US with more nudity and violence, and a more censored version rated at PG-14, both of which are available on Blu-ray as well as on Hulu Plus. Some fans still think there’s some hope for the show, but with eight years passed, it’s unlikely that Hannibal will be picked up again, at least how it was before.


Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-1969) – Now one of the largest franchise juggernauts with feature films, books, comics, and more, it’s a wonder to think that there was a time when fans had to beg and plead for more Star Trek.

The show follows a star fleet captained by James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and their five-year-long mission to explore unknown worlds. Featuring some of the most iconic Star Trek characters ever including Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Lieutenant Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), Scotty (James Doohan), and Leonard McCoy (Deforest Kelley), it’s impossible to be a Star Trek fan without having seen, and at the very least, appreciated the original show.

Revolutionary for many reasons, it was credited as having one of the first onscreen mixed-race kisses and a diverse cast, for its time at least, which has led to many amazing stories. For example, Nichelle Nichols reportedly was debating leaving the show after the first season, but after a chance meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., who was a fan of the show, she stayed on with his encouragement, saying that her presence was important and in her own way she “was marching.” You can read Nichols’ full story of the encounter in this NPR interview transcript.

Star Trek screenwriter/co-creator Gene Roddenberry believed in “Infinite diversity in infinite combinations,” and tried to carry that vision into the show. While it’s nothing grand nowadays, it was incredibly impactful in its time and the franchise has since and continues to learn and develop accordingly.

Originally meant to go on for five years, as long as the mission the characters were sent on, the network wanted to finish the show with season two due to low ratings caused by the network constantly switching up show times.

After the first ever letter-writing campaign to save a television show, the network decided to keep it going one more season, which fans also rallied for it to continue at that season’s end. Unfortunately by then, the network was done and the show was officially canceled, though evidently, the Star Trek universe itself was far from over.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: (2013-2021) – Running from 2013-2021, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a workplace sitcom about the lives of nine police department employees in New York.

Featuring already established stars including Terry Crews and Andy Samberg as well as introducing future Hollywood mainstays to the masses such as Stephanie Beatrice, Brooklyn Nine-Nince was a show beloved by many and has been since the start. That’s why it came as a shock to many when in 2018 FOX announced that they were canceling the series after five seasons because Dana Walden (FOX chairman and CEO) said they wanted the better time slots previously awarded to Brooklyn Nine-Nine to go to the higher-rated Bob’s Burgers.

But with beloved characters and plot lines that didn’t rely on the normal sitcom tropes, fans saw the potential for more content and weren’t about to let the 99th precinct go without a fight. Using #SaveB99 and supported by stars such as Lin Manuel Miranda and Mark Hamill, the show was picked up by NBC just a day after it was canceled.

The show ran for three more seasons and featured four of the highest-ranked episodes on IMDB. B99 is considered to be one of the best sitcoms of the 21st century (so far).

Community: (2009-2015) – Taking place in the fictional community college of Greendale, a disgraced lawyer who never passed the bar goes back for his degree alongside a group of misfits who all attend for their own, often dark, reasons.

The show was finished for several reasons, but most think it had to do with a controversy between problematic actor and comedian Chevy Chase and the show’s creator Dan Harmon.

After much arguing about the creative direction of the show as well as multiple acts of misconduct to crew members of different races, female crew members, and saying people only found costar Donald Glover funny “because he was black,” Chase was fired and disappeared mid-season four.

Chase wasn’t the only one who was fired. Dan Harmon was also let go due to reportedly being difficult to work with and failing to produce the hit NBC wanted. With the show’s most seasoned and perhaps well-known actor fired, as well as the show’s brain displaying a serious decline in quality, the network decided to cancel the show.

Community was saved by fans in the most obvious, but effective, way. They started tuning in live to watch the show rather than DVRing it and created media campaigns to encourage others to do the same, proving that even if NBC canceled the show, another network would pick it up and produce a considerable profit.

The show concluded after six seasons, and now fans are campaigning to make a running joke on the show a reality by getting a movie made, whether that be at a studio’s hand or via fan-funded organizations like Veronica Mars did.

Lucifer: (2016-2021) – Based on a DC comic series of the same name, Lucifer follows the story of the fallen angel himself.

Only in this iteration, he’s left hell in favor of LA to delight in as much debauchery and mischief as he can. Along the way he meets Detective Decker (Lauren German) and starts consulting on crime scenes in order to punish people…through the American justice system.

After three seasons and finally revealing Lucifer’s true demonic form, Fox canceled the show saying they couldn’t justify spending the money to broadcast a show from another studio (Warner Brothers).

Fans flocked to social media, starting the #SaveLucifer and #PickUp Lucifer which got Netflix’s attention.

Only a month later, the streaming service picked up the show that would run for three more seasons. Not to mention that as a DC property, Lucifer was also featured in the final ultimate Arrowverse crossover, meeting Mia Smoak (Katherine McNamara), Constantine (Matt Ryan), and John Diggle (David Ramsey) and aiding them in their entry to purgatory to save Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell).

Fans were much more pleased with the show having six seasons of content than three, and while they were of course sad to see the show go, this time they let it rest.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.