Let’s face it—every cult show since “Star Trek” has had a write-in campaign of some sort, designed to save it from the TV junk heap. Usually it’s a small but vociferous bunch of die-hards who want to rescue a show that was nixed due to sagging ratings. But ever since the cancellation of “Stargate SG-1,” viewers around the world have been trying to show that the SciFi Channel let down its biggest group of fans when it announced it would can the 10-year-old series.
The cancellation took many by surprise, considering that it came on the heels of the show’s 200th episode. This makes it the longest-running science fiction series on American television. To hit yet another sour note, the news soon leaked out that the announcement came at the party celebrating that seminal episode. Fans were also upset that, after a decade of bringing viewers to SciFi, “Stargate SG-1” writers were not even given enough notice to bring certain story arcs to completion.
One Canadian fan who goes by the handle of Phoenix told us, “I’ve watched this show throughout various boyfriend breakups, family crises and several jobs. Although this show didn’t get me through these events, it was nice to escape the reality of my life and watch familiar faces. It made me laugh when I was sad. With all the crappy shows on TV these days, it’s nice to know I can count on ‘SG-1’ to do that.”
The campaign includes gathering thousands of fans to call, fax and write letters (to SciFi and science fiction magazines, among others) and send tissue boxes—a reference to the first episode, “Children of the Gods,” when a box of tissues is sent through the Stargate. Fans are also paying for an ad in Variety and possibly other magazines. Every once in awhile there’s a popular glimmer of support, showing how widespread the movement has become—for example, Pierre Bernard discussed the fan protest on “The Conan O’Brien Show.”
To date, an estimated 1000+ letters have been sent to the SciFi Channel by just the one group at www.savestargatesg1.com. The glut of mail has prompted assistant editor Brian Murphy of SciFi.com, the Channel’s official Web site, to observe in response to a recent letter: “Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on your point of view), the lion's share of the letters we've received in the past couple of weeks have been concerning SG-1 and its cancellation. We'd love to run letters on other topics, but we can't publish letters we don't receive.”
Of course, the SciFi Channel isn’t the only company with the power to resurrect. MGM produces “Stargate,” and it has vowed that it will continue. At the moment, the best hope for fans seems to be made-for-TV movies. “We don't look at 'Stargate SG-1' as a TV show, but a franchise. It is our intention to vigorously find a find way to extend the franchise," MGM spokesman Jeff Pryor told Syfyportal.com. And IGN.com reported on Sept. 26 that cast members have told IGN several movies are planned for production after the end of the series. (Although, as the article points out, “Farscape” left the airwaves with the same optimistic prospect and there’s only been one movie made.) Series star Christopher Judge has also hinted at another “Stargate” project in the works during interviews.
There’s also a chance—a slim one—that another network might pick up the slack. IGN’s short article reported that MGM has indeed been shopping the show around to other networks. Some fans are pinning hopes on SkyOne or Showtime, the network that originally aired “Stargate,” and all of these organizations have also been the target of pleas from passionate viewers.
Here’s a little background, for those of you who haven’t been watching for the last decade: “Stargate SG-1” originated with the “Stargate” movie back in 1994, which starred Kurt Russell and James Spader. Three years later the series came to Showtime with Richard Dean Anderson in a starring role, but after a five-year run original episodes were picked up on the SciFi Channel. Since then the series has performed solidly and even spawned a spinoff, “Stargate Atlantis,” which will return on SciFi.
But “Stargate SG-1” never got the buzz that (for example) the new “Battlestar Galactica” is getting, nor does it make much of a blip on the radar of most casual TV watchers—which means that a lot of people probably don’t realize how many fans the series has. In a March 2006 press release, SciFi claimed the viewership of “Stargate SG-1” was 2.2 million per week (down from the first half of the series’ ninth season, which averaged 2.4 million viewers per week).
And it’s not like the show doesn’t have its detractors, Even now, an article in the Sept. 22 Entertainment Weekly issue about “Battlestar Galactica” has “Stargate” fans up in arms because writer Jeff Jensen speaks disparagingly about the franchise as “inferior” to SciFi’s other Friday night series. Fans maintain that the shows are two completely different animals: “Stargate” is a family show, for example, fueled by mythology and a respect for science—and gives a message of hope. The more violent “Battlestar Galactica” is much darker, and doesn’t shy away from torture and the old adage that sex (even rape) sells. The SciFi Channel does get letters that are positive about “Stargate”’s cancellation—and those viewers contend that the show has “jumped the shark.” That’s why the ratings have dropped, they say. Besides, these people note, the show had to end sometime—why not let it go while it’s on top?
Despite such trash talk, till the end the show had ratings that were respectable for a cable show. Even SciFi acknowledges that it’s not the ratings that sunk “Stargate SG-1, ”it was the cost of production—which is the same reason shows such as “7th Heaven” initially got cancelled (and thanks in part to its own fans, that WB show was saved and will now air on the UPN-WB hybrid channel, the CW). Over the past few years SciFi has not been shy about bragging rights with regard to ratings: “In spite of stiff competition from network premieres, the 'Stargate SG-1' finale (Sept. 16 @ 8-10pm) and a new episode of 'Battlestar' (Sept. 16 @ 10pm) were Top 2 cable entertainment programs among P25-54 [age range] that night,” noted a press release from September 2005.
In the March 2006 press release, SciFi claimed: “Currently in production on its tenth original season (its fifth on SciFi), 'Stargate SG-1' is now the longest-running sci-fi series on American television, surpassing 'The X-Files' and every iteration of 'Star Trek.' In an October 2005 release, the network crowed that “The one-two punch of the ‘Stargates,’ coupled with the critically-acclaimed ‘Battlestar Galactica,’ have made SciFi Channel cable’s #1 destination for young adults on Friday nights.” In case anyone’s keeping score, that young adult demographic is one of the most sought-after in the advertising world.
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