United We Fan (2018) – A Review


A review of the 2018 documentary United We Fan, about fans who have gone to great lengths to save their favorite television shows from getting canceled

United We Fan is a documentary about eclectic bunch of television viewers from all walks of life who have gone to some pretty long lengths to save their favorite shows from cancellation. 

The famed ‘Save Star Trek’ movement is probably the most famous story of saving a television program campaign that has occurred. And we meet the couple who organized it, learn how they accomplished flooding the CBS studios with letters, kept Trek creator Gene Roddenberry updated on their scheme and ultimately prevailed saving the show from cancellation and helping it secure its place in pop culture history.

It hasn’t just been truckloads of letters that have helped save shows from dreaded cancellation. As technology has evolved so did the approach of movements of how to go about making obsessed viewers angry voices heard when television studios were to kick their favorite shows from their schedules. 

CBS found itself getting tons of nuts from upset Jericho fans

Letters and newsletter mailings that allowed fans to connect with fellow fans would evolve into the digital realm. Social media, fan message boards, podcasts and kickstarter campaigns became the new tools to save beloved shows.

Even the crazed ideas like sending tons of peanuts to CBS studios after the cancellation of Jericho, have been some of the methods fan would show their support their favorite show.

United We Fan is another one of those more homemade, offbeat documentaries about a rather unique subject that have arrived in this new era of economical filmmaking. I stumbled onto it on a free streaming service and thought I would take a chance on it. It’s rough and not exactly polished, but it manages to tell its story well and ends up being quite interesting. 

It’s an enjoyable journey exploring some of the near misses that threatened some fan favorite shows and the fans who rallied together to save them and how they went about it. Many shows and campaigns to save them are covered – Cagney and Lacey, Chuck, Person of Interest, Longmire, Veronica Mars, Jericho, Designing Women. 

It’s always interesting to me to see how a single entertainment product (in this instance being a television program) can bring so many people together who probably never normally would have been acquainted. It’s their affection for a particular show and the passion they have for it that brings them together.

Hearing from some of the creators and actors from the shows that have been the focus of these campaigns and have developed such a fervent fan following is particularly interesting. Many seem to feel humbled by the passion and it appears more rewarding to them than any award they could receive. 

Ample time is spent on the creation and eventual end of the organization Viewers For Quality Television, whose mission was to save quality programs from cancellation. It’s an interesting story and learning just how significant they become in the decision making of television studios. They certainly had some influence, but with that power it almost seemed inevitable they would inflict some hard feelings on some if they were to maintain their demand for quality television.

United-We-Fan-2018-documentary-fans-save-television-show-campaignsThe doc does bounce around a bit too much in time. It’s not a linear telling of the evolution of the stories of saving show and how it grew from sending letters to more unique items to studios to get their attention. So, it goes from the 2000s talking about Jericho or Person of Interest where hash tagging became the norm to back to the 1980s when viewers only power was a pen and paper to save Designing Women, to the 1960s to saving Star Trek.

Some of the more offbeat tactics fans have used (mailing Jericho fans and their tons of nuts, Roswell and Tabasco Sauce, Veronica Mars and Mars bars) are quite amusing to hear and harmless and creative ways fans made their voices heard to television studios. 

It’s entertaining and it certainly makes you appreciate the passion fans have for their favorite show, even if the network wouldn’t think twice of cutting it loose. It does make me wonder if ‘Save The Show’ campaigns would be as effective today now with television programs and watching is as fractured across so many streaming platforms.

United We Fan 2018 documentary Trimbles Star Trek save tv showTelevision programs come and go with such regularity from platforms now. Could there be enough fans of a single show to to have enough power, band together, organize and put enough attention on show to make a studio second guess their decision of dumping it? The days of only three main television networks and millions of eyeballs tuning into a single show at the same time are long gone. It’s unlikely a simple letter campaign could do the trick of saving a streaming show today. I would think it would have to be more of an online attack and use hashtags as the weapon.

United We Fan is a reminder where the power to all this entertainment ultimately lies. Yes, money is a big factor, but these television shows and all entertainment is meant for audiences and viewers. Even if you aren’t a fan of any of these shows, it’s satisfying to see some of these ‘Save This Show’ campaigns were able to save something they love for awhile. Or at the very least they made sure the studio knew their disapproval of that cancelation decision. It’s the power of the viewers. 

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