Sense8, Cluster

The Sense8 finale is the latest success in TV fans' history of activism

Contributed by
Jun 7, 2018

In the world of television, there may be no greater power than that of a united fandom. Known to stand by their favorite shows through all the ups and downs, these devoted viewers will spring into action the moment a beloved series is threatened. Last year, Sense8 superfans proved this to be true. When the Wachowskis' addictive Netflix original was abruptly canceled after just two seasons and an emotional cliffhanger of a Season 2 finale, fan clusters everywhere were simultaneously devastated and emboldened.

Determined to give the series’ passionate cast and crew the chance to finish telling their story, Sense8 fans launched a campaign to save the series that was almost impossible to ignore. After numerous online petitions, letters, hashtags and social outcries for a Sense8 revival, Netflix took notice, greenlighting a finale special that would give fans the closure they so desperately sought. In the words of series co-creator Lana Wachowski, “Your love has brought Sense8 back to life.”

While Sense8’s well-deserved ending will finally stream on June 8, it’s certainly not the first show (or the last) to have its course altered by devoted fans. In fact, TV in general (and genre TV especially) has a long history of successful fan intervention.

Today’s viewers might find it hard to believe that an icon like Star Trek ever struggled to attract an audience, but The Original Series, which aired on NBC from 1966 to 1969, actually wasn’t an instant hit. Instead, it was canceled after three seasons due to low ratings and only began to air again years later in broadcast syndication. This syndication, though, proved to be the show’s saving grace: Star Trek: The Original Series became a major hit in the 1970s and motivated fans (or future Trekkies) to campaign for the show’s return. Star Trek: The Animated Series was a direct result of this campaign, airing from 1973-'74 and featuring the voice work of most of the original cast. The critically acclaimed animated series only fueled the growing fire, and the rest is history.

Many years later, the charming alien teen drama Roswell followed suit. Although the human-alien love story quickly gained a cult following, the show struggled with ratings from the start. Fearing an upcoming cancellation, fans began mailing mini bottles of Tabasco sauce (a condiment favored by the show’s lovable aliens) to the network’s offices, convincing the WB to bring on sci-fi veteran Ronald D. Moore to aid creator Jason Katims on the show’s second season. While the series was still subsequently canceled by the earthlings at the WB, Roswell went on to live another day when it was picked up by the UPN in a package deal with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Roswell may never have achieved the success that Buffy saw, but it continues to fight and will be revived yet again at The CW this year.

Around the same time, another Joss Whedon vehicle was struggling to stay afloat. A series that supporters mourn to this day, space Western Firefly aired for just one season on Fox in 2002-'03, nixed after only 11 of its 14 episodes had aired. Firefly fans (calling themselves Browncoats) were fierce in their support of the show, raising money and sending postcards to UPN in a plea to save the series. No, Firefly never got picked up by another network, but the power of the fandom did convince Whedon and Universal Studios to greenlight Serenity, a sequel movie that wrapped up the show’s story and offered closure for the fans who’d worked so hard for it.

While Firefly fans were instrumental in demonstrating the desire for a film revival, Veronica Mars diehards actually succeeded in fully funding one. After two seasons on the UPN and one on The CW, the teen detective series was canceled in 2007, despite fans’ best efforts. Devotees hired a plane bearing a “Renew Veronica Mars” banner to fly over the CW offices, personally distributed 30,000 show fliers and sent over 10,000 Mars Bars to The CW after its cancellation, all to no avail. Years later, however, “Marshmallows” got the chance to show their love when series creator Rob Thomas and star Kristen Bell launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a Veronica Mars movie in 2013. They reached their goal of $2 million in just eleven hours and eventually raised over $5.7 million, allowing for the release of a feature film with all of the original cast in 2014.

Even genre gems like Futurama have dealt with their share of premature finales, not once but four separate times. Through the slew of cancellations and revivals, fans stuck it out, vehemently coming to the show’s defense when Comedy Central attempted to replace Futurama’s entire voice cast in 2009. Needless to say, Fry, Leela, and Bender returned as normal until the series aired its official finale in 2013. If fans of the series have learned anything, though, it’s to never lose faith in Planet Express. Now, it airs on SYFY.

More recently, NBC’s Timeless became another survivor of untimely cancellation thanks to its fans. After the network quashed the time-traveling drama after just one season in 2016, a dedicated fandom exploded online, launching a campaign so powerful that NBC was forced to listen. In a move that shocked the TV world, the network took a step back in time and changed their minds, renewing the show for a second season. Just like that, the fans changed history.

Through all of these efforts, steadfast fandoms have been able to cement themselves into the narrative as part of their show’s canon, rewriting their stories into the endings they’ve earned. Today, the autonomy of streaming services makes it even more possible for fans to take the reigns, as creators are largely free from the pressures of traditional TV scheduling models. While not every show will be able to be saved (for every series on this list there are dozens more that died a cruel and sudden death), these are the cases throughout television history that remind us never to give up on our fandoms.