Thought you all might find this interesting...though the well-meaning article writer gets a few things wrong, i.e. "Farscape's ratings didn't improve even after being pared with SG-1," not "Farscape's ratings were just fine till Sci-Fi bumped it from its slot with SG-1." (And that's nothing against SG-1 fans, just the network.) Enjoy... (EDIT: This one is so long I'm going to have to post it in 2 parts.) Tom -------------------------------------------------- Chicago Tribune August 8, 2003 Science friction A TV show is dead and buried yet its fans think they can bring it back. Are they nuts? Author: Maureen Ryan, Tribune staff reporter. Edition: Chicago Final Section: Tempo Page: 1 Index Terms: TELEVISION MEETING LIST ANALYSIS Estimated printed pages: 7 Article Text: If only Dr. Linnea Boyev's patients could see her now. The Northbrook eye surgeon -- covered in white body makeup, wearing a platinum wig and dressed in the skin-tight outfit of a randy alien -- was roaming the Radisson O'Hare Hotel on Saturday as she joined hundreds of others to celebrate "Farscape," a TV show that was canceled last year. "This is my secret life," she said half-jokingly, after adopting the look of the alien Chiana to perform in a musical parody of "Farscape." Boyev, however, wasn't there just to praise the former Sci-Fi Channel show, but to unbury it. "Farscape" fans have waged a clever, sophisticated and expensive campaign to revive the series. The problem is that, to an outsider, the effort seems hopeless: The cast members have new jobs, the sets are gone and the show never got huge ratings anyway. So why are they doing it? And why are all these nice people at a convention devoted to a show that has been off the air for months? "I really feel like ['Farscape'] is art," Boyev said from her Northbrook home a few days after the convention. "If the Art Institute of Chicago said, 'We're just not going to show that Seurat anymore, we're not making enough money on the painting,' people would be outraged. Just because 'Farscape' is on TV doesn't mean it's not art." Boyev isn't alone. Most of the "Scapers" at the Radisson over the weekend -- and many of them were women who had never been to any kind of genre-show convention before they found "Farscape" -- remain solidly committed to saving the program. "We're not looking at this like, `If this comes back,' but, `When it comes back,'" said Jackie Tanner of San Antonio, who was one of the staffers at the table for SaveFarscape.com. And when will that happen? Within a year, she predicts. So, do they have a chance? Even a tiny one? "I never discourage a fan campaign," says TV Guide critic Matt Roush, who constantly hears from disgruntled fans of canceled shows. "It's something that gives people a sense of engagement -- people feel so out of the loop. There's nothing more frustrating than being passionate about a TV show and seeing it yanked for what seems like arbitrary reasons." Certainly the show, about a contemporary American astronaut shot through a wormhole into a dicey part of space, had to be doing something right to engage a fan like Jenni Neugebauer, a 23-year old from Philadelphia who says she didn't really care that "Farscape" was science fiction -- she just loved the complex storytelling. "It doesn't insult your intelligence at all," said Neugebauer, a day-care worker. "It's more in-depth -- they expect you to be smart enough to follow it, and I appreciate that." The romance factor And the fact that there was an epic Romeo-and-Juliet romance between the two lead characters, John Crichton (Ben Browder) and Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black), didn't hurt. "`Farscape' is a well-rounded drama and it has all these emotional undercurrents, in a way that typical sci-fi shows don't have," says Brigitta Vesei, co-leader of the Chicago Scapers fan club. " I think women respond to that in any show." But is it realistic for fans to expect a comeback, now that the sets of the show, which was filmed in Australia, were destroyed and the actors have dispersed? "It's absolutely terrific that people aren't giving up," says executive producer Brian Henson. He recently banded together with his siblings to buy back the Jim Henson Co., which created the show, and he says this is a positive development for "Farscape's" future. "If, early on, [fans] had given up, I might have given up too." Still, Anthony Simcoe doesn't think he's going to be wearing his "Farscape" costume again anytime soon. The 6-foot-6, ebullient Australian played the warrior D'Argo on "Farscape," and though he'd love it if the show returned, he's not betting on it. "It didn't get the ratings," Simcoe said in a serious moment before his convention appearance. "It's a business." Indeed it is. "Farscape," which premiered on the SciFi Channel in 1999 and cost more than $1 million per episode to make, never managed to get a 2 share in the Nielsen ratings (a share equals approximately a million viewers). Its ratings usually hovered around 1.5 or so, even after it was paired during its final season with the more successful genre show "Stargate SG-1." Last September, financial negotiations over a planned fifth season fell apart and the show was canceled (the final episode aired in March). Astrid Reinhardt (normally a workaholic genome researcher, but made up at the convention as the villain Scorpius from the show) might have been speaking about the show's demise when she noted that, on "Farscape," "the line between good and bad isn't clear and sometimes the good guys make bad decisions." Internet makes it easy Given that sending an angry note to a television network only takes a few mouse clicks these days, campaigns to save cult shows aren't unusual. But they can't hurt and they often help a lot, experts say, though usually they're most beneficial to shows that are still on the air but in danger of cancellation. "With `Roswell,' ... I really believe [the fans] did a great deal to keep that show from getting canceled," says Jason Katims, the former executive producer of the show about teen aliens. The fan campaign "was a significant part of the WB's decision to bring it back [for season two] and UPN's decision to pick it up for a third season when the WB let it go." "The people who run the networks, in my experience, are . . . not as the public imagines them," says Marshall Herskovitz, executive producer of "Once and Again" and "My So-Called Life," both shows that fans battled mightily to save. "They're not generally calculating and cold and purely analytical. They tend to be very personally modest and very emotional themselves about the shows that they do -- they are champions of the ones they love." What's changed most since Edward Zwick and Herskovitz premiered "thirtysomething" in the '80s, he says, is that "advertisers are more and more surly about the money that they spend on TV shows. They are very concerned and upset about the amount of [audience] share that has been lost to cable." But that tough ad environment, which makes networks more inclined to yank a show that isn't pulling in decent numbers, isn't limited to the major networks. "There's generally less and less [ad] money -- there are so many people offering discounted ads and that creates problems," says Brian Henson. "Budgets have to go down, and that's hard for everyone to swallow." But if a program -- even a cult show such as "Farscape" -- can deliver committed viewers, that's good news for advertisers, according to Kathryn Thomas, a media buyer for Starcom, a Chicago firm that finds the right TV programs for various advertisers. "Research shows that more attentive viewers are more likely to pay attention to ads and less likely to skip ads," Thomas said. "Nielsen can only give us program ratings -- they can't give us commitment ratings. Even a select group of [passionate fans] is probably indicative of a larger group of people who are interested in a show." Though their initial letter/telephone campaign was so big that it merited scores of press stories and half a dozen mentions on CNN, "Farscape" fans knew that the usual outcry probably wasn't going to be enough to bring back the show. BraScape was probably their most creative moment: SciFi execs have said they want to expand the channel's viewers beyond the typical male audience, so hundreds of female fans sent their bras to the network. Early on in the campaign, they also deluged the SciFi Channel with boxes of crackers, in reference to an episode called "Crackers Don't Matter" and staged picket lines outside the network's corporate office. A perhaps more practical initiative was their post-cancellation effort to contact advertisers and gauge their support for the program; they even sent big batches of KFC receipts to the fast-food chain. Nina Lumpp, one of the co-founders of savefarscape.com, says that several advertisers, including UPS, Kia and KFC, expressed interest in advertising on "Farscape" if it does comes back.