Two Houses
previously: 1, 2 ...

"Bring it Back Now – We Won’t Take Less!"

TV You’ve logged onto the internet or looked in the latest issue of whatever TV magazine you read during your lunch break and you find out that your favourite television programme, the one show you’ve been pouring your heart into for the past year or so has been cancelled.

Within a month the gentle banter/massive plot twists/keen eye for detail won’t be around any longer and will be seen only in repeats or reruns (or in really lucky cases DVD releases). You’re shocked, stunned and braying for the blood of the person who had the audacity to remove this piece of art from public consumption. What can you do? Is there anything you can do?

Can I save my show?

Firstly, calm down. This isn’t the first time that for whatever reason a television programme has been cancelled, in fact in the US it happens with even greater regularity than in the UK (and often in the middle of series). You are not alone. Because this isn’t the first time, you can learn from the mistakes and successes of those who have gone before you, build up an action plan and go forth. Yes, OTT is here with a step-by-step guide to getting your favourite show back on the air …

Is my favourite show worth saving?

The easy answer to this question would be yes! You’re a fan of it aren’t you? There must be millions like you. But in truth, the actual answer is probably closer to maybe. The reason you have to ask this question is because over the next few months you’re going to be dumping your life and soul into this. Look at the thing carefully. Ask what other people think, maybe play some episodes to someone who has never seen it before because they’re the people you’re going to have to convince and convert in the long run. If they have a rational argument as to why the show is no good take another look yourself.

Also remember the geography rules. You will find that the majority of “prematurely” cancelled programmes are in the United States. This is because they have a much more commercial orientated television market. If a show fails to make a splash in its first week, with high enough ratings in the demographic it was aimed at it may be yanked after two weeks. The American versions of This Life (First Years over there) and Cold Feet both suffered this fate. This article won’t be considering those kinds of programmes, however, because they aren’t the sort which engender these kinds of campaigns – they aren’t on long enough to even have fans. But it is worth noting that if your show managed to last a season or even two someone will have been watching to begin with and there might be enough goodwill to stand you in good stead.

In Britain, television shows are very rarely cancelled in the middle of a season, and in fact there have been very few occasions worth noting (although Duck Patrol, Hardwicke House and Sin on Sunday are notorious). That’s because, with the exception of soap operas and faux-soaps such as Casualty, the series is already in the can before it’s shown. Here unsuccessful shows are quietly buried late at night so that only the dedicated can see them (Chris Evans’ Boys and Girls) – and frequently the final episode will appear on a different day making way for something that the network actually think people will want to watch. At the time of writing the most recent example of this has been Hugh Laurie’s return to television, Fortysomething, which failed to ignite the post-Heartbeat slot on ITV’s Sunday night (after starting with 6.2 million viewers it quickly dropped to 4.3 million) and found itself lost at 11.05pm on a Saturday after only two episodes.

As a rule campaigns in the UK are a very rare occurrence (there have been some high profile exceptions which we’ll come to) but in the main shows are usually allowed to die a natural death, even if like the Paul McGann lawyer drama Fish or the classic before its time North Square they were very, very good.

So, is your favourite show worth saving? If the answer is still “yes”, read on.

So what’s the first step?

It’s important not to get too disheartened at this early stage, so let’s look at a perfect situation that proves that with the wind in the right direction you won’t be wasting your time. This is the story of Bjo Trimble who actually entered the inner circle and become friends with a show’s creator. Trimble was the brains behind the campaign to keep Star Trek on air into a third season beyond its original cancellation due to low ratings. She has been the I-Ching for similar campaigns over many years and it’s always worth looking back to her example.

It was at the World Science Fiction Convention in 1966, the year that Star Trek began, that she ran into series creator Gene Roddenberry. At a previous convention Trimble had organized a futuristic fashion show and although she had been asked to organize one this time, a prior commitment meant that she gave the job to a friend who subsequently fell ill which meant Trimble ended up bringing it together anyway. This was at the dawn of the Star Trek production schedule, but as part of the publicity for the show, Roddenberry turned up with three costumes he was particularly proud of. Trimble originally refused to accommodate him as her allotted time on the stage had already been filled, and didn’t see why she should give preference to someone she hadn’t even heard of. But the organizers advised that they had made promises so she relented.

The producer had brought his own models who also helped out with amateurs backstage and the show didn’t overrun. Some episodes of the new series were played, everyone was happy and Roddenberry and Trimble became acquaintances; friends enough, in fact, so that whenever Trimble and her husband were in town the producer would invite them to visit the sets and have dinner. Welcome to the inner circle. Sometimes you can luck yourself in there without even being a fan of the show – in fact that might even help. Once the campaign had ended Roddenberry hired the Trimbles to set up a Trek mail-order company for him and she also ended up answering his mail. But of course, none of this will ever happen to you.

So that’s not actually the first step?

Well no. But …

This isn’t helping. Now that people have found out my favourite show is ending, some of the casual audience can’t be bothered and are looking elsewhere. I need help now!

How do you know that people have stopped watching?

I looked at the ratings.

In that case you’ve taken the first step already. You’re researching. Television is about ratings. If your show was in the top 10 week in week out, the channel or network wouldn’t even consider pressing the stop button. Find out how many other people have been watching TV at the same time, and work out why they weren’t tuning in to the same channel at the same time as you.

Not all shows are as heavily promoted as something like EastEnders or ER. It’s not as uncommon as you might think that a network will commission a programme, put it on somewhere and hope it gets an audience without any promotion at all. It’s argued that Joss Whedon’s attempt at a non-Buffy series Firefly befell this fate being shown at 8pm on a Friday when its target audience would be out (echoes of Star Trek here, which eventually on its first run at 10pm on Friday night when the key demographic were not in front of their TV’s).

But the thing is, programmes can also disappear even when they do get high ratings if the people watching aren’t who the network want to be watching. Murder, She Wrote, the popular detective series with Angela Lansbury was supposed to be attractive to a wide demographic. During its run, the network began to take notice of the Nielson ratings (the US version of BARB) and cancelled it because the audiences were over 55; an unattractive age group for advertisers.

But conspiracy theorists will argue that a network will also follow this lead if they want to actively “kill” a show. Time to evoke the prime UK example of Doctor Who. In 1989 after a rocky (and record breaking) 26 series, the Time Lord and his companion drifted into the sunset for the final time. The last series had been hardly promoted at all, and then appeared in a non-traditional Wednesday night slot, with Coronation Street on the other side. Cancellation came with the BBC claiming that the appetite for the series had subsided. Fans argued that the quality of the show had increased in the latter couple of years and that if it had been in its traditional Saturday night slot and advertised properly it would have been garnering a decent audience. They felt that the Corporation just wanted rid of something from the old regime and that this mad rescheduling was just an excuse, although this did conveniently ignore the fact that during its last year on Saturday nights the show’s viewing figures had vacillated disappointingly between 3.9 and 5.6 million).

Well, I’m really angry about this – I want to do something. I know there must be other people like me.

Time to form an action group, then. There are no hard and fast rules for this. If you’re already a big enough fan of the show you might be part of a club in the real world or nowadays online. Your seniority in that club will dictate how involved you’ll be in the attempt to save the show. But just remember that all of this should be through mutual consent. You can’t and shouldn’t try and force people to help you. If you find yourself becoming obsessive and abusive it might be time to take a step back from the screen and realize that your expending a lot of energy over a television programme. You won’t get anywhere by annoying the very people you eventually want to continue watching. It will just spoil it for everybody.

Unlike many fans Bjo Trimble found out about the cancellation from the Vulcan’s mouth. Her husband had finished work early one day and they had decided to visit the Star Trek set. They’d noticed that although the actors were working hard on screen, they didn’t have the same camaraderie between takes. After asking around they heard that the show was due to end and decided they were going to try and keep Star Trek on the air. However, before proceeding they called Gene Roddenberry to make sure he was still interested and hadn’t given up himself. He advised that had already been discussing with his staff ways of letting the people who had been watching that there might not be a third season. Startlingly the makers of Star Trek weren’t even aware of the fact that the show had built up a fanbase. People had been writing to them but the letters hadn’t been getting through the filter of both Desilu (the production company) or NBC (the network). Luckily Trimble already knew were to begin:

“So we got the Tricon mailing list [where SF fans had first seen some Trek episodes] and a book dealer’s mailing list. Then we asked Gene to get the fan mail so we could use those addresses. When he called the mailroom, they said there were 40 sacks of Trek mail that had never been opened! So we got several hundred addresses from those, but we had no time to answer that mail. Remember, this was before computers were common household appliances, so everything we did had to be done by hand or on a typewriter.”

Trimble’s campaign turned out to be a temporary force, but there is one organization which has remained on the radar of all the television networks in America; the recently disbanded Viewers for Quality Television. The organization began when Cagney and Lacey were making their premature final arrest after a season and a half in 1984. Believing that the show offered a unique quality other programmes at the time did not (a strong role for women, for example) VQT’s founder Dorothy Swanson personally wrote 500 letters of support signing the names of friends and relatives (in a story recounted her book The Story of Viewers for Quality Television: From Grassroots to Prime Time). Her gambit helped to influence the network to continue with the cop show.

Over the years, the VQT spearheaded campaigns which successfully saved amongst others Designing Women, Homicide: Life on the Street and I’ll Fly Away (well, at least for a season). It became large enough to organize conferences and an awards ceremony that would purposefully honour shows ignored by the Emmys. It even had a respected list of endorsed shows which looked at programmes from all ends of the rating scales. Swanson remained very picky, and although she became friends with the creators of both Cagney and Lacey and Designing Women she quickly fell out with them after refusing to endorse their follow-up programmes.

There is little doubt that a void has been left by the cancellation of the VQT – perhaps you’ll be the one to fill it. The fact they tried so save shows set in “the real world” also puts lie to the misconception that it’s only science fiction fans who mount these kinds of campaigns.

Well then, what’s the quickest and simplest way I can get in touch with the people in power?

If you feel the need to say something right now you could try ringing the television channel involved. All have different policies on receiving telephone comments, but they can sometimes really work. The BBC has a duty office set up for the purpose and news stories are frequently spun on the number of complaints about something broadcast which are recorded here. Whilst there haven’t been any recorded examples of programmes being renewed based solely on this method, the BBC are nonetheless wise to the duty office being a focus for campaigning. In an essay for a recent Doctor Who Magazine Special about the programme’s years off the screen, archivist Andrew Pixley uncovered how the BBC prepared themselves for a day of action which took place in 1990:

“On Monday 26 November, the BBC’s Premises Operations issued a warning to BBC staff about the potential disruption on Friday 30. On the day itself, callers were greeted with a message informing them ‘We apologise, but within our limited space/time continuum lines to the duty/information office are busy at the moment, but rest assured an automatic record is being kept of all telephone calls on this subject … Certainly a break for the Doctor could not be seen as a one-way ticket to Gallifrey. Thank you for your interest.’”

And so you might prefer to email. One of the first high profile utilizations of this was “Operation Life Support” set up to save My So-Called Life, the teen show from the early 1990s. Even though the internet was yet to become as commonplace a medium as today, the network which cancelled Life, ABC, reportedly received up to 5,000 messages pleading for the show to be saved, and over 2,500 postings on the channel’s discussion boards. Their opinion was clear. As one fan put it: “May the fires of Hell split the Earth and envelop you and all your evil cohorts who have so heinously murdered such a fine program.” Hmmm. Can I suggest a bit more tact?

Good idea. Perhaps it’s a good job I don’t have much access to the internet. Should I just give up now?

Not necessarily. When The Sentinel, the story of a cop with heightened senses returned for another season, their campaign organizer Karen Irving argues it was because they “spent a lot of time suggesting that individuals not represent themselves as part of an Internet campaign.” In an article from online magazine Salon, Dorothy Swanson of the VQT explains: “[It] used to be, a viewer would have to get out a piece of paper, put it in the typewriter, type it, place it in an envelope, put a stamp on it and take it to the mailbox. That showed commitment and forethought,” she argues. “Now, [you] click on an icon and can send an immediate message. While that’s fine, executives know it doesn’t require much effort to do that, and they don’t know whether it was a 4 year-old or someone in their desired 18-to-49 year-old demographic group.” Which is why you’ll notice that the successful campaigns may have gathered on the internet but were taken note of because of the ancient art of letter writing.

How many letters does it take?

Don’t know. You see there isn’t a hard and fast rule. For some commissioners it’s enough that a lot of people in a key demographic care. For others it’s a general spread throughout the audience. Some like the idea of a passionate group of fans banding together to make a noise, some don’t like the idea of being told what they can and can’t produce, still others don’t care either way and it’s all about the ratings.

You said earlier that British shows don’t tend to get cancelled, instead they disappear to another timeslot or reach a natural end. If that happens is it even worth starting a campaign?

Although it’s true to say that programmes in the UK tend to end with a lot less fanfare than elsewhere, there have been a fair few low key campaigns. When Ballykissangel reached what some would call a natural end in 2001 Save BallyK began with a simple website and claimed to gather 450 signatures. Similarly when This Life ended the fervour amongst television writers, especially in the broadsheets was extraordinary. Rather like the recent State of Play, it was case of the media focusing much more interest on something than the viewing public. A typical reaction from Cristina Odon in The Daily Telegraph:

“The phone calls from my desperate, furious friends began earlier this week: ‘Can you make them see sense?’ ‘Can you change their minds?’ The Daily Telegraph had published a news item that revealed that the success of This Life, with an audience figure of three million and rising, had taken the BBC completely by surprise … Here, finally, was a successful series that attracted that elusive youthful audience: why didn’t the BBC nurture and cherish a series the rest of us were mad about?”

But not even the intervention of influential writers changed the BBC’s decision.

What the British actually seem to be very good at is forcing schedulers and programme-makers to reverse changes made to shows still on air. An early example is The Magic Roundabout. When that began it was shown in a 5.50pm slot, and although developed for children the subject matter and writing had led to garner an adult audience as well. For scheduling reason the BBC moved it backwards to 4.55pm and caused utter consternation amongst an audience who weren’t getting home in time for their fix of Dougal. BBC4′s Time Shift recently remembered how adults began to flood Junior Points of View with letters of complaint:

“I hope that at the age of 20 I am not too old to write to your programme. I am a dedicated Dougal fan and I may probably never see him again as I don’t get home from work until 5.15pm. What about the workers!”; “May I as a dad express my grief. I used to cancel business appointments in order to get home for this programme … Three un-cheers for the men who rearranged the programmes!”; “Pay freeze, £50 travel allowance, high taxes and now you’ve altered the time of The Magic Roundabout!” And then a couple of letters, one magnificently signed “26 office clerks” and the other one even better: “100 angry draftsmen”!

Needless to say ‘Roundabout was shortly returned to its original slot.

Similarly when the BBC’s perennial medical drama Casualty reached its seventh series, a new production team, eyeing American dramas and in particular ER, began to treat the video footage they were shooting to give it a “filmic” look (see also recent Brookside). Unfortunately the viewing public reacted very badly the consensus being it gave the show an artificial look and had the knock-on effect of making them feel as though the whole programme had completely changed. Although there wasn’t an organized campaign, hundreds of phone calls to the duty office and letters to the Radio Times and Points of View reversed the decision, to the point that episodes that had already been processed were scrapped and broadcast in their video-taped versions. Now both Casualty and its spin-off Holby City are the only prominent primetime non-soap drama series made in this way.

So, the viewers can influence things, but only to a limited degree?

Well, there are other things you can do. Some fans actually use the media to further their own causes, exploiting the same information channels and techniques as the networks to put their point across.

When Steve Joyner of Operation Life Saver put his proposal for advertising the campaign to contributors at the discussion board for the show (which ABC had set up at America Online) it piqued the interest of a New York Post reporter who wrote a story. This was picked up by USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, People, and even on Entertainment Tonight and CNN. The resultant pledges the campaign received (which peaked at £6000) were used to order spots in Variety and Hollywood Reporter, a move which had helped other similar campaigns to success in the past.

More impressively fans of the space series Farscape managed to put enough money together to produce a television commercial. It was a stylish affair (aping the popular Apple Mac “Switch” campaign) in which fans from all walks of life were shown saying “I am Farscape“. It appeared on 24 major channels in the US and although the fans could only afford slots in “the middle of night” in some places – and the commercial only appeared once – the fact that some people who like a television show would go to these lengths created publicity with column inches and mentions on many news programmes. Some of this coverage is of course out of curiosity, but it was all publicity for the cause. In June 2003 (some months after the initial cancellation announcement) a second campaign of shorter 10 second “spots” was planned by the Save Farscape website, with the goal of raising $100,000 so that there campaign could secure more visibility on primetime on more popular channels.

Now that’s depressingly expensive!

But a pittance in comparison to the average budget of a television show. Fund raising really can work. If there are people as passionate as you who knows what could be accomplished? And if you do raise this kind of capital you could use it to make more cash. Sink it into another revenue stream by merchandising.

T-shirts and badges?

To begin with. Or you could do what the Doctor Who fans did and release a record.

I can’t sing.

That didn’t stop them. However, in truth this is the option that is least likely to succeed but you might at least have some fun doing it. At the end of its 22nd series Doctor Who was taken off air for an 18 month break while its producer John Nathan Turner was asked to rework it for a modern audience. Smelling the series might actually have been cancelled for good, future Take That producer Ian Levine spied some Live-Aid style charity record potential and talked the then lead actors Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant into a recording studio with a raft of “celebrities” (Faith Brown, Justin Hayward from the Moody Blues, Hazel Dean, Mike Nolan of Bucks Fizz) and formed the “supergroup” Who Cares? The idea was to raise money for the campaign but sensing this might not spark record sales the final beneficiary was a Cancer charity.

That’s nice. But say I do raise a load of money and the network still refuse to make the show – what then?

Offer to pay for the show yourself. This isn’t an entirely stupid concept. While Firefly was being shopped around alternate networks, much discussion appeared in prominent sites about the possibility of the show going pay-for-view with some speculating that they’d be willing to pay over $10 an episode, perhaps with the series going straight to DVD or even cinema. When Doctor Who ended within a few months fans were setting up video and audio production companies to make and distribute their own stories via the sell-through market which skirted the edges of Who. So The Doctor became The Stranger or The Professor as played by bona-fide Doctors Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy. Bill Baggs’ BBV production company even licensed the rights to some of the monsters from the series and carried on their stories. A decade after cancellation Big Finish productions are producing officially licensed new adventures featuring “official” BBC casts, even continuing the story of the eighth Doctor Paul McGann. The net result of all this? The BBC itself has been shown a potential new avenue for the franchise and this month announced another in a series of brand new “official” Doctor Who adventures debuting online, before being made available in the sell-through market, this time featuring a ninth Doctor Richard E Grant.

That’s fine but I want my show to stay on television.

Something which has worked in the past is pleading with other networks. Although it was in no position to fund a new season of the show itself, MTV took the unprecedented step of stripping episodes of My So-Called Life on a daily basis. This gave Operation Life Support renewed impetus, but almost had the effect of crippling them financially. A week into the run, an interview was aired with Steve Joyner along with the OLS toll-free number. 25,000 phone calls later their operational costs grew to the point where the volunteers who had gathered from throughout America could not keep up with the response.

When the British TV channel five began, one of its highest rated shows was US-import Sunset Beach, an Aaron Spelling attempt to create a daytime soap opera. It was a campy mess, but it played up its own trashy extremes, tricked about with its format and became extremely popular with some viewers who watched both ironically and not. At its peak the ratings in Britain were even higher than in the US. Unfortunately the show was then cancelled. Its network NBC weren’t used to getting 1.5 million viewers for anything and they wanted to try something else in the slot. Realising they were about to get a hole in their schedule and lose one of their “best” shows, five began a campaign to “Save Our Sunset”, giving out the postal address for NBC and other stations on air to aid the rescue. Like MTV they were tapping into and organizing the natural impulses of the fan. Jeff Ford, the then Head of Acquisitions explained at the time: “We want to try and mirror what happened when Baywatch was axed in the US … Sunset Beach doesn’t rate highly in the US but it does have some value here.” But unlike Baywatch it lacked a global appeal and the sun set in December 1999.

What happens if nothing works? None of the networks want to keep the thing on the air, interest is drifting away and the final episodes were shown after midnight.

Was there a cliffhanger ending?

Why’s that important?

Because it means the programme makers aren’t going down without a fight. Even the shortest lived of series once given their marching orders produce a final episode which ties things together. When the Seattle grunge series The Heights left the screens after just eight episodes (paradoxically poor ratings considering the theme How Do You Talk To An Angel? was massive hit on the US Billboard chart) the writers gave the rock band which featured in the series a record deal which would make it impossible to keep the tone of failure that had pervaded the rest of the series.

It’s the shows with cliffhangers that tend to suggest they really don’t want to finish and that there are other stories they want to tell. Adam Sweeting in The Guardian: “The end of the second series of This Life has prompted much chin stroking speculation. What news of the third series? Will Anna be in it? Or Miles? Is this great television, or just better-educated EastEnders populated with self-regarding monetarists? … Writer Richard Zajdlic, possibly sizzling with rage over the BBC’s bumbling indecision, turned the final episode into a series of cardiac arrests, culminating in the multiple cliffhangers … Then the end credits rolled and we were left dangling over a void of scheduler’s indecision …”

Pessimistically, what happens if I’ve followed all of your advice and the next time I see my show is at midnight on some satellite channel in a rerun?

Walk away and look for something else that fulfills the sensibilities you’re looking for. Whatever you do, don’t bite the hand that fed you in the first place. As a fan it hardly shows solidarity to a TV executive who might be wavering after all. Take Steve Joyner of Operation Life Support who posted an article on the campaign website entitled “Claire Danes brings death to Life” in which he essentially blamed the star of the show for being the main reason it was cancelled, allegedly because she wanted to leave to make films. Danes was hurt by the allegations. She told Liz Smith of the New York Newsday:

“Look, if I wanted to make movies, I could do them on hiatus, like lots of people do. The truth is, My So-Called Life was a tumultuous saga from the get-go. It was delayed a year. It was at the bottom of the ratings. I loved the show, but I won’t take responsibility for ABC’s not picking it up. It had nothing to do with my so-called movie career. I really don’t know where all this is coming from, but it’s hurtful. As far as I’m concerned, I wish ABC had cared as much then as they say they do now! It’s all about money and ratings, and I wish the people who loved the show, and who miss it, could get that. It wasn’t one person’s ego that killed it – certainly not mine!”

Joyner later said that although in hindsight he might have reconsidered the headline, he stood by what was in his article. It is clear that Danes looks on the show fondly. On the audio commentary for his film Jerry Maguire Cameron Crowe relates how he’d asked the actress if she had noticed the subtle homage he had put into his film to the show. “Well – duh!” she retorted.

And if all else fails, never, never be impolite to the network. At least not without some distance. In 1995, the vogue was for the networks to unveil their schedule to posters to the discussion boards at AOL. 300 posters gathered in the ABC room as they unveiled its autumn schedule. Most couldn’t care less about the other programmes they were trying to make a splash with. They wanted to know about My So-Called Life. When Joe Busch, the network man opened the floor to questions, he was immediately heckled on the subject. He praised the show, but it was clear it would not be coming back. The general reason offered by Busch for cancellation was that its appeal was too narrow for his network. The response was angry; he was an “asshole”.

The other thing you have to bear in mind (which Bjo Trimble certainly did) is that although you may be desperate for a programme to return, the appetite may not be quite so keen within the show’s production crew and cast. Once a programme is slated for cancellation, and the final episodes are made, everyone will start to think about drifting off to other projects. Not all actors, for example, are earning the high salaries the viewers expect and need to work as much as you or me.

When This Life ended, the cast had mixed feelings about a return. The Observer Review section on 3 August 1997 gauged the chances of the show’s return. Jack (Miles) Davenport said: “he would sign up for series three in a flash, if only the BBC would give it the go-ahead. Rumours that he has committed to other projects are, he insists, inaccurate.” Amita (Milly) Dhiri was more cautious: “Well, there’s another one being written. But I don’t think we’ll be anything to do with it.” In contrast, though, Andrew (Egg) Lincoln was obviously already eyeing up all that future voiceover work: “He doesn’t seem particularly bothered about a third series” reported the article. “I loved doing one and two” he said, “but can’t see where it can go.”

In the wake of the cancellation of Farscape, SFX magazine ran a series of articles investigating the whys and wherefores. All of those involved were sad to see it go, but the producers made it clear that making another series after a gap would be very difficult because the main sets, had been struck at the end of shooting. To recreate those accurately would be extremely expensive. Despite that fans live in hope. As always.

Is hope all I have? Are these campaigns ever successful?

That depends upon your definition. With support, classic Star Trek only lasted two extra seasons but now its still one of Paramount’s cash cows. Without three seasons under its belt it would never have been the huge success it became in syndication. Alongside that there wouldn’t have been the film series and the subsequent TV series. The Viewers for Quality Television saved Cagney and Lacey which continued through many more seasons and reunion movies. Granted My So-Called Life didn’t even get to complete its final series, but nearly a decade later the interest was still in place for a DVD release. Meanwhile, as mentioned about, a ninth Doctor has been announced in the shape of Richard E Grant which certainly wouldn’t be happening if there was Time Lord apathy. And Firefly is also heading to DVD with a future movie version looking very promising.

The moral of this story has to be this: If you do embark on this quest to get your favourite (cancelled) TV programme resurrected the key message above all is not to give up until you have. Do everything you can, when you can. But if it really doesn’t look hopeful that your show will ever comeback then it’s time to enjoy what you had and move on. As sad as it may be there are still some who think that all is not lost and that ITV might have yet have another go at cracking Crossroads.

If after reading all of the above you’re still motivated, good luck and jump to it. The autumn season on TV is being announced in a few weeks time and you’d better make damn sure that your show is at the top of the list.
Google The Google cache, whilst being stunningly useful for general web searchers, could inadvertantly be a fantastic tool for hackers wanting the case a website before breaking in.
Game Mission to Mars. One of these days games creators will want us to travel somewhere else ...
Life Usual bi-monthly trip to Manchester. Was accosted in the street by an older woman with a clipboard. I usually follow these people wherever, but for some reason I decided against it today. But she chased after me ... "You're getting £4!" she screamed enticingly. Well in that case ... So I'm led into a tiny box room in a hotel and it transpires it's about mobile phones and in particular 3G. Now I'm no fan of this new technology, from the point of view that the companies shelled out billions for something Wi-Fi has effectively rendered worthless, but which they are still ploughing on ahead with at the expense of that better technology.

It's the usual questionaire which invites the interviewee to give many negative responses without ever actually asking why you aren't warm and fuzzy. And it drags on forever. And the market researcher doesn't seem to have a clue. I have to repeat many of the answer three or four times and actually work out which flash card matches the questions she's asking for her. Really worked for my money. The crux of the matter is that I don't need to have comedy clips, or film trailers or soccer goals downloaded to my mobile. I speak, some one answers. That'll do.

In some ways I wished some people who are vaguely in the public eye at the moment had been there. When the woman asked if I'd heard of o2, I said that I had because they'd sponsored Big Brother. 'What's that?' she asks ...
Film Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is a film which will pleasantly surprise you. With almost none of the creative team behind the first two films about, it could be possible to assume that this would be a quickie sequel, more akin to Jaws 3D in its fidelity with the film which went before. Actually, what we have here is a natural continuation, a perfect counterpoint to the previous films and decent bridge into a possible franchise series. If you’ve seen and enjoyed the previous films, you’ll probably go to see these anyway, and you really should. In terms of a sequel long after the event it resonates in the ways The Phantom Menace should have.

Since you will end up seeing it anyway, a couple of hints to enhance your enjoyment. Do not watch again the first two films as preparation for this one. I didn’t have time, so they were more of a distant memory for me – the facts and ideas and images in my brain somewhere, only clearing and locking together at the same times as John Conner in this film – whenever a reference occurs you’ll find yourself scrabbling around to put the pieces together. This is a lot of fun. In addition, see it on a massive screen. There are some fantastic vistas filled with detail at play here and you’re going to need the memory of those when it’s squished onto DVD.

The most startling moments in the film for me were those between the characters. As with the previous films, in amongst the bangs there is some really good moments were the chemistry of the actors is up on screen. It’s great to see Claire Danes in a film were she can be angry and scared and running, rather than someone’s girlfriend. There is a moment in there though which is pure My So-Called Life, were she could just as well be an older Angela recalling her fling with Jordan (although I’m sure that was hardly the intention of writers John Brancato and Michael Ferris). Nick Stahl (looking for all the world like Bashir from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) cleverly makes the decision not to try and be an older Edward Furlong and reinterprets the character to some extent. Now you can understand how he could be the great military leader. The performances of the relative Terminators (Arnold and the Tamsin Outhwaite lookalike Krisanna Loken) pretty much work as they should. To some extent, they both inject a little bit too much humanity and irony for merciless killing machines, but the film is actually better for it. Jonathan Mostow feels like a director for hire, and he’s no Jim Cameron, but his work is above average.

If I’ve any criticism, it’s that a large amount the plot develops through exposition. It’s not bad exposition, and it’s enthralling in a ‘listening to the stories of an old school friend you’ve met at the pub’ kind of way. And it is the same overall plot as the first two films (which will have to change in T4 surely). But these a really minor. When you see the end of this film you are going to want them to make another one. There is one final story which demands to be told.
TV For anyone who still has a hope that Firefly might get a renewal, my latest piece at Off The Telly ruminates on what you have to do to save your favourite TV series from cancellation.

Also this month, Jack Kibble-White writes about the British sitcom, the overall impression being that it's there, on the fringes, but the mainstream successes are few and far between. A new series of My Hero begins next week. Seems relevant.
Words This is the most intelligent thing I've seen on Metafilter for ages.
Life Don't worry I have noticed my lack of a personal touch over the past few weeks. I think it's because if I wrote about how I was actually feeling I might not stop, and some of it is to do with the things I can't talk about because of 'The Rules', which sometimes I wish I could throw out of the window. To keep the Cameron Crowe theme, think of some of the things Lester Bangs says to Mini-Crowe in Almost Famous and you might have an idea. Let's just put it down the Summer ... well Ok some of it is because I haven't had a holiday since Christmas because I had to save time for when I move flats again at the end of September (so won't be much of a holiday then) and we'll leave it at that. I'm tired. I'm bored. Ok, no more ...
Film Greg at The Uncool has read the script to Cameron Crowe's new film ElizabethTown. "It's moving, extremely funny and loaded with memorable lines ("Ice Cream Cone") and scenes ("The Road Trip"). Listen, despite my obvious affections for Crowe and his films, I'd be the first to say if I thought Cameron layed an egg. Remember, no one is perfect, but this is not that movie. Hang on everyone, it's gonna be a great ride!" Now will people please stop hammering Vanilla Sky it's a great movie and certainly one of the best American remakes of something European...
Web Paul Carr of The Friday Thing offers an obituary for portals.. When you've got Google and Dmoz, you don't really need anything else. Which doesn't stop them painfully trying again and again:
"Last week Lycos announced that it was relaunching its site and, fittingly for an ex-monarch with delusions of grandeur, it was one of the most spectacularly pointless and pompous relaunches the web has ever seen. For a start the new site is codenamed Nicole29 after the name and age of its imagined target visitor, a 'fairly web-savvy, smart, educated professional, who works hard, plays hard, and has money to spend'. Exactly the sort of person, then, who wouldn't have time to waste on a revamped ex-portal. Not that you'd know it had been revamped - is still full of ringtones, dating and viral movie clips - only now it has a few more targeted ads for lifestyle products. Nicole29 will soon be as cash poor as she is time poor. "
Before I discovered weblogs (in the same way Columbus 'discovered' the new world) the original idea for this site was a portal of unusual subject headings. Gald I didn't go down that route.
TV The BBC ONE Autumn Schedule as been announced and there seem to be an awful lot of history programmes of one sort or another. I am looking forward to Rufus Sewell as Charles II, and Pompeii - The Last Day, even though the screenshot on the site looks unnervingly like it should have Frankie Howerd peaking around the background. Would it be wrong to point out there is one format that would be perfect for teaching the kids some history and involves a blue box? Thought not.
Art Sometimes the only reaction to an exhibition is ‘I don’t get it.’ More often than not it’s within a contemporary art installation, but every now and then can be a retrospective. While it’s possible to divine some talent in Paul Nash (Tate Liverpool until 19th October 2003), and in some places that his technique was quite defined, the overall feeling of this retrospective is the sheer blandness on display. The most effective works are those created during The Great War, in particular one large canvas filled with the anger of war. There is also a small display of pen landscapes from the 1920s that are interesting in a telephone doodle sort of way. But everything else seems lost in pastel shades; the images feel flat and lifeless, disjointed and lacking in vividity.

But parts of the exhibition do stand out. The eye is immediately drawn to the photographs which sit in the corners of some room. The basis of the paintings on display, they have a technique and interest that is missing from elsewhere. They are hardly mentioned in the accompanying leaflet but are worth hunting out, especially a shot of some abstract stones piled on a carpet on the roof of a car. It’s startling, surreal and unexpected and disappointing that space couldn’t have been found for more of this work.

Once you’ve seen the photos, it would be worth making a beeline for the video room in which a series of connected film work is on display. Here we find the recently remade Night Mail, the classic short about a postal train journeying from Glasgow to London (‘This is the night mail, crossing the border, bringing the check and postal order …’) – the sound quality of the print is awful, so Auden’s words are shattered, but the images are amazing, and Benjamin Britain’s music is intact. Also worth seeing is the fabulously dated Out of Chaos, an early documentary about war artists with footage of the National Gallery in 1942. It has one of those narrations filled with rhetorical questions (‘Do you think this couple come here very often?’) It’s ironic that in an exhibition of painting, the examples of newer forms are those which you will remember most.
Art Anyone who's still boiling over at the thought of the new fourth 'Grace' which is appearing soon at the Pier Head in Liverpool, should spare a thought for the people of San Diego who will soon have the 'Spirit of the Seas' a massive bronze sculpture taking up half of their waterfont, which fankly looks like the work of a Sim City fan with a object designer for the game and a lot of time. I mean I love bronze 'a lot' but what are they thinking? [via Metafilter]
Comedy Given my diatribe last week about political speeches and my love of Dead Ringers The Philosophical Cowboy has drawn my attention to this great sketch which translates Blair's recent congress speech for Americans. Very good indeed.

Porno Reactions

Film It’s an all too familiar set up. A group of friends meeting in a café setting to talk about their lives as they roll on in the background. American TV has made a hundred sitcoms which tell this same story over and over. Anyone trying to make something which tosses the ingredients around again is going to work very hard to produce a fresh reciepe. For some reason ‘Late Night Shopping’ works on all levels and for once it’s a British film firmly in the European mode.

The variations in the formulae are as follows. The café is open twenty-four hours. The friends meet there before, during and after work. They have four different jobs, but the film is about them, not their place of works. The writer admits that Kevin Smith’s ‘Clerks’ has done the minutae of that far to well to copy. So we have Vince (James Lance) the inveterate womanizer who works packing shelves in a supermarket; Sean (Luke De Woolfson) the would-be romantic, hospital orderly, can’t work out if his girlfriend is still living in his flat; Jody (Kate Ashfield), the talker and listener who has the quirky job of making printed circuit boards on a production line; a Lenny (Enzo Cilenti), the put-upon, who works for directory enquiries and suffers from porno-reactions.

The dialogue, from writer Jack Loathian is superb. These are entirely different people, but at no point do we feel as though someone is saying lines which could have been written for any of them. It is at the root of the characters and tell us everything we’d need to know. But everyone gets to be a human being here; even secondary characters are satisfyingly full. Later in the film, two ancillary characters share a moment over a guy and it’s so real, it hints at a film in which they are the main characters which has led up to their moment (and we’re sorry we didn’t get to see that film as well).

The chemistry between the actors is staggering considering the short shooting schedule, and I'm sure this is partly a tribute to Saul Metzstein's direction. James Lance (‘Rescue Me’, ‘The Book Group’, ‘Teachers’) in particular uses his opportunity play outside usual supporting TV roles and offers well rounded portrayal. Kate Ashfield works very hard with the one slightly underwritten role (of the four friends she lack a complete story of her own) and it’s a credit to her that we don’t notice that she doesn’t do much more than sit around talking to the other characters.

In some ways the fifth main character here is the camera. Brian Tufano also shot ‘Trainspotting’ all those years ago and the virtuosity he displayed there returns here, making the rather limited budget (£1.5 million) seem ten times as big. The characters are dwarfed by the city. Whenever in shot, they appear at the edges of the frame or else at the end of a long tracking shot by way of introduction. This has the effect of making even the small sets feel bigger. The exteriors for the piece were shot in Glasgow and London. If you know those cities that can be a bit disorientating, but the reasoning is sound – this isn’t supposed to be any one city, it could be anywhere, as most places are slowly losing their regional individuality.

Almost spat out just as distributor FilmFour lost its fight to exist, this deserved a much wider viewing. It’s been made with loving care with a single aim to entertain and its one those occasions when you wish you could turn back time throw some money at a decent ad campaign so that no one will have to read this review to get the glint of recognition. All I can do is urge to buy the budget DVD which has just recently been released.
Big Brother The final, final word goes to Matthew Rudd returning correspondent to Off The Telly, with the piece I couldn't have written. Many, many trueisms all around:
"Nobody knew a thing about the dozen who walked through the door on May 23, so it's remarkable to look back now and see the names of the four who were dubiously put forward for eviction on those wretched 'first impressions'. It got Anouska, easily the most talked about first victim of any series, kicked out, yet she went on to grab huge attention, enjoyed a stint in the Australian BB and even had banners in her honour on the final night (something which BB3's Lynne certainly couldn't claim). Federico, Jon and Scott all became worthy and rounded contestants having survived. Yet others, like Justine, Gos and Sissy, contributed next to nothing in the house and one of those has become a fearful, more hateable laughing stock since eviction with her self-obsessive behaviour in print and onscreen."
Can you imagine how entertaining it would have been if Jon had found out when he was sitting in the chair that he had in fact been up for the public vote, and again the look on his fellow housemates faces as they all slowly drifted away still leaving him work his way towards being the winner? "10:30pm. Ray is in the kitchen sharpening up a carving knife" Still, there is still the possibility he could be called up for BBUSA duty.
Obituary Bob Hope is dead
History Aide Says Nixon Ordered Watergate. No really.
Big Brother The other Jon Tickle: "Has a small scar underneath his right eye which he says he got while wrestling a crocodile, but it was actually during a falls-count-anywhere match with Emporer in the FWF. Has the southern cross tattooed on his left bicep and the "No Fear" tatooed on his right forearm."
www The Hub, the nerve centre of the BBC's community sites.
Media Audio interviews with Douglas Adams. April Winchell's Multimedia, or those things you thought you would never get to hear, like 'Put a Little Love in Your Heart' sung by Leonard Nimoy. You can also hear the web pass gas here.
Film Great movie lines at Metafilter.
Film Mulholland Drive explained?
TV If you can remember I recommend you put a tape in your VCR for Channel 4 at 12:35am on Monday, for a rerun 'Alt TV: This is a true story' a companion piece to the film Fargo (showing before it) telling the story of Takako Konishi who appeared in the real place desperately seeking something. A misunderstanding with a local police officer led them to believe that she was looking for the money buried by Steve Buscemi in the film. She wasn't, but the real reason is staggeringlly poiniant. It's a quirky but extremely good documentary itself, influenced slightly by La Jetee in its use of stills. If you want some background after you've watched, the director Paul Berczeller wrote this interesting piece.