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Redefining Cancellation

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This week, Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell posted a call on Kickstarter soliciting donations to produce a Veronica Mars film. Within, 12 hours, they’d raised the minimum $2,000,000 needed for the project, breaking all fundraising records for the site. As I’m writing this article, the total now stands at $3,572,678, and the more they raise, the bigger scale film they can make.

Many are calling this the act that re-defines how cancelled shows can be resurrected. Veronica Mars ran for three seasons on the WB and CW, and was beloved by critics and fans. The new project came together because the studio, which had no intention of making the film itself, agreed to let the show’s creator and star handle things themselves. Can other series in a similar situation, like Gilmore Girls, Party Down, Bored to Death, and Jericho follow the same path?

Well, there are a variety of obstacles to such projects. Sometimes, it may too expensive to revive with fan donations, like Dollhouse. Other times, the cast may be so busy that bringing them together would be awfully difficult, like Firefly or Freaks and Geeks.

Some have theorized that fans of other cancelled shows who don’t particularly care for Veronica Mars may have donated money just because they want this to succeed. If so, their own beloved favorite might be next. While there could be some truth to this, I can’t imagine most of those types would have donated a lot of money, without any guarantee their cash would help towards their own goals, so I assume the majority of the backing (including my own) came from people who actually really enjoyed and miss the series.

Also, I do think some of the backers of the Veronica Mars film might be upset if the movie makes a big profit. After all, Warner Brothers still gets to keep the money the movie makes, and Kickstarter investors are not paid back. Is it fair for a studio to force the fans to pay for such things, then keeping the profit? Shouldn’t they offer some sort of return on the fans’ investment if the end result a profit? Or maybe, if Warner Brothers wants to keep the fans happy, they should go ahead and greenlight a sequel, giving Veronica Mars extended life, and letting us know we’ve been heard.

Of course, there are some benefits to a Kickstarter campaign. Not only do fans get to take ownership and bragging rights, but the swag offered is also pretty good. For a donation of only $100, fans receive a movie poster, t-shirt, Blu-ray copy of the film, and a downloadable .pdf of the script. They will also receive a finished copy of the movie when it hits theaters. That’s quite a bit of stuff thrown in for your support. Bigger donors will even get to name characters and appear on screen. These sorts of premiums and chances to be involved help fans feel even more connected and likely to support the project, though they are sort of unfairly balanced towards those who can afford to give big time.

But even should Kickstarter model not work long-term, there are other ways to resurrect a beloved series from cancellation hell. Sometimes network powers that be can be persuaded to change their minds, like AMC did for The Killing (with a little financial help from another source). Sometimes another producer or netword will come along to save the day, like Netflix did for Arrested Development or Comedy Central for Futurama. Occasionally, DVD sales are strong enough to justify another chance, like FOX did with Family Guy. Comic books can extend the show’s life, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Then there are the prequels and sequels. 90210 got five more seasons with a new cast on the CW. Dallas is back on TNT, mixing old and new characters. The Carrie Diaries seeks to tell the beginning of the story for Sex and the City, eventually bringing in many familiar faces.

The point is, never has there been a time when cancelled doesn’t necessarily mean cancelled. Sure, The River won’t come back in any way, shape, or form. But that doesn’t mean that some of those that deserve it aren’t finding ways to continue.

This isn’t entirely a new phenomenon. The Brady Bunch and The Waltons made TV movies long after they went off the air. Star Trek went to the big screen and produced ten films spun off of two shows, not counting the new reboot with recasts.

However, I think the newer model is more encouraging. Veronica Mars may only live for two more short hours, but many of the other examples I’ve listed have gotten far more screen time, and some even run for years after their resurrection. This brings them to all new fans, as well as the old ones, extending their lives exponentially.

Are we out of new ideas? Of course not. There will always be a fresh series right around the bend. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t still life left in those that have been put out to pasture, and for some, getting to fulfill untapped potential, playing out as they should, rather than getting an early grave, this a trend to celebrate.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com