For every popular TV show, there’s a devoted following of viewers that tune in every week. Some express themselves simply by watching said shows, lending their aid to the cause of not getting canceled by adding to viewership numbers. But for a handful of other series out there, being a fan entails far more than tuning in. It instead is defined by expansive Internet communities, fan-art, passionate operatics, and so much more.
It’s of course worth acknowledging some of the stranger corners of fandom. Shows like My Little Pony have inspired a collection of viewers that are oddly committed to their chosen series. But here, we’re focusing on the ones that exist more in the mainstream of nerd and fan culture. Oftentimes these shows exist within the realm of science fiction and fantasy. Even so, a devote viewership can exist in less fantastical stories as well. Whatever they’re about, they share one thing in common: The ability to inspire hundreds of thousands of people to collectively lose their minds on a regular basis.
1. Chuck, NBC
Some fanbases show their devotion when a show is steadily renewed season after season. But sometimes, it takes an almost-cancellation to demonstrate commitment. Chuck was the latter of these two during its five-year run on NBC. Following its second season, there was talk of it getting removed due to flagging ratings. In an effort to voice their support, fans put together one of the most effective and crazy rescue missions for a TV show ever.
To show Chuck‘s major sponsor, Subway, just how much they loved the spy-centric dramedy, viewers went on the offensive. At one point 600 people led by leading actor Zachary Levi went into a single Subway location to buy sandwiches in order to persuade the sponsor to help keep Chuck on the air. In the end, the sandwich chain helped foot the bill, keeping the show alive for another three seasons before its graceful exit.
2. Supernatural, The CW
It takes a lot to keep a show on the air for a decade. Usually, that sort of run is reserved only for big time network darlings, or high production value premium cable. Supernatural is neither of these, and yet still boasts one of the biggest followings out there. Many have been around since it first debuted in 2005, while others have hopped aboard the easy-to-marathon sci-fi/fantasy drama later more recently.
To understand just how deep the rabbit hole goes, you only need to go so far as one of the many Supernatural conventions that regularly pop up across the country. In each city that hosts them, the conventions bring together scores of fans to celebrate their love of all things Sam and Dean Winchester. You can even find merchandise, custom-made t-shirts, and an entire library of Supernatural fan-fiction, with just a couple short Google searches. Here’s the to the next 10 years.
3. Game of Thrones, HBO
It’s no secret that Game of Thrones boasts a wide reach across the world as the most-pirated show in history. Even those who can afford an HBO subscription (or borrow their parents’ password) can be found honoring the weekly Spring routine of tuning in every Sunday between April and June. When a major character is killed off, everyone reacts together, taking to the myriad of blogs, forums, and social media accounts devoted to the fandom of Westeros.
What’s even more fascinating though is the way this geekdom has become pervasive even in mainstream culture. It’s discussed and broken down in late night talkshow circles, deconstructed by critics regularly, and lamented over by frustrated fans tired of seeing their favorite characters bite the proverbial dust. You’d be hard-pressed to find a whole lot of people who aren’t invested in Game of Thrones on a fundamental level, making its fans some of the most rabidly passionate ones you’ll ever find.
4. Community, Yahoo! Screen
Community has been a show in constant flux throughout its six seasons. During its time on network TV at NBC, it was constantly on the brink of cancellation, and in this spawned a fandom committed to preventing this at all costs. In this, we saw one of the most coordinated and well-organized efforts to keep a show on the air we’ve ever seen from a viewership. Letters were written to the network, petitions were created, and eventually… it was canceled anyway.
Luckily, Yahoo! stepped in to revive the show for at least one more season, with talk of a potential movie already flying around the rumor mill. Fans have been quieter for the latest run of episodes, if only because the risk of cancellation no longer floated above Community‘s head, but don’t let that fool you; they’re just as passionate as ever.
5. Doctor Who, BBC
Doctor Who fans have been around for a long time. As the longest-running sci-fi show ever to air, the show traces it roots all the way back to 1963. Since then, it’s gathered droves of faithful Whovians to its cause, keeping the Doctor on air indefinitely. Few shows (if any) can boast their main character doubling as the cultural icon for an entire country, but in many ways that’s become Doctor Who‘s greatest accomplishment.
Of course none of this would have been possible without fans keeping the show relevant through their own passion for art, writing, and criticism. We probably won’t see Doctor Who leaving the airwaves anytime soon, and that’s largely thanks to the efforts of the people tuning in every year.
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