How Not to Get Your Favourite Show Un-Cancelled

 Via: Fred Seibert on Flickr

While there are a few cartoons could be said to have re-ingnited my passion for animation, one had a bit more of a profound effect than others. And while My Life as a Teenage Robot may have lacked the smarmy humour of SpongeBob Squarepants, it is nonetheless a great show. I mean, who doesn’t like seeing a robot girl kick ass within a universe where Art Deco is the prominent architectural style?

The series lasted just about three seasons on Nickelodeon before the network decided that it would not be ordering additional episodes. Officially the reason given was the low ratings however I would argue quite strenuously that having the show’s timeslot bounced all over the schedule couldn’t have helped matters either.

As is (almost) inevitable when a show gets canned, the fans (not I) reacted in the manner that is most common for TV shows; they created a petition:

To:  Nickelodeon

Petition to Save “My Life as a Teeanage Robot” from Cancellation. Note: My American-English is not good because I’m Italian…

“My Life as a Teenage Robot” is one of the most underrated Tvshows on Nickeloden. This TvShow is about a robot, Xj9 (a.k.a. Jenny), who wants to be a normal Teenage girl, hang out with friends etc. Brad Carbunkle is Jenny’s best friend. He’s your average high-school student; Brad’s younger brother, Tuck Carbunkle is often scared by robots, but he likes Jenny as a friend. Jenny’s “mother”, Nora Wakeman, is one of the best characters in the show: plus, she’s voiced by Candi Milo, she’s great.
Since Jenny was built to protect the Planet Earth, there’s an evil-alien empire, the Cluster, who wants to take over our world. The Cluster Queen, Vexus, is Jenny’s arch enemy.

“My Life as a Teenage Robot” won a few Annie-Awards too.

OK. I’m just saying this, WE MUST SAVE “MY LIFE AS A TEENAGE ROBOT”. It may be not the best show on the planet, but it has a lot of fans who are really upset for the cancellation. We want a 4th Season. Alternatively, since the 3rd Season will be (maybe) the “Final Season”, I think we all need a “Series Finale” (Jenny & Brad ending up together, for example…).

If you are a fan of the show, sign this petition. If you don’t like Jenny and you don’t care about her, please sign this petition equally, because we need your help too. Alternatively, you can try to help the show with other petitions or sending E-mails to Nickelodeon.

Note: There are other awesome Nick-Toons who are going to be cancelled: “Danny Phantom” and “The Fairly OddParents”. Nick will just never learn.


The Undersigned

Now in fairness to the guy (or girl) English isn’t their first language so let’s cut them some slack for that. However, this petition still makes all the rudimentary errors that most fans make when crafting petitions so we’ll judge it on those.

Firstly, it completely and totally neglects to speak directly to the network. It reads as more of a plea than an attempt to persuade the network to change its mind. Anyone can call a show “underrated” but in the network’s mind, if it has hopes and dreams for viewership numbers and the show doesn’t make them, the show is considered “underperforming” and might be costing the company money as a result.

Secondly, giving a description of the show’s characters is superfluous at best. The network knows which show you are talking about and the only time such descriptions would ever be called for is when the letter discusses a show on another network.

Only in the third paragraph do we see the first hints that the show is worth saving in that it won a few Annie awards. A prestigious accolade in their own right, but the letter fails to tie those awards to anything meaningful. such as say, having an Annie-award winning show in your portfolio will draw more astute/affluent animation fans to your network thus increasing revenues on it and other shows alike.

Then there’s this line:

OK. I’m just saying this….

Well of course you are, that’s the whole purpose of the letter! It also alludes to the belief that the network doesn’t know what the letter is about, when in fact, if it were an actual letter, would probably be in the bin by now.

It may be not the best show on the planet, but it has a lot of fans who are really upset for the cancellation.

While this statement may be true, it does nothing to further the cause. Upset fans of a cancelled show mean nothing to a network unless they can prove conclusively that their upsetness will affect the networks other properties. For example, if, when the show was cancelled, the fans also stopped watching other Nickelodeon shows and buying related merchandise, then the network would have a concrete reason to bring the show back. Saying your merely ‘upset’ will have no bearing on the network’s quarterly results and thus will be deemed irrelevant to the discussion.

However then we get to this line:

We want a 4th Season.

A flat-out demand! Well heck, I want a million dollars but it sadly isn’t going to happen any time soon. This line also comes off as being brash and unsympathetic to the networks position; something that you should be trying to achieve as much as possible.

The second to last paragraph pleads for anyone and everyone to sign the petition whether they like the show or not. Now this is problematic for a number of reasons, but chief among them is that it seriously blurs the lines between who really wants the show back and who’s just singing it for shits and giggles. Secondly, such practices make it extremely difficult to trust the numbers. For a show with as devoted a fanbase as MLaaTR, it’s likely that they aren’t too far off the truth. However, the fact remains that if there is any uncertainty in the data, more often than not they are presumed to be faulty and will be excluded from any formal analysis.

The last paragraph is more of a side note that states that other shows on Nickolodeon are being cancelled as well but it is the last line that’s the killer:

Nick will just never learn.

That one line single-handedly destroys the entire argument for the letter because it states that the network is doomed to repeating its ‘mistakes’. Why is this a problem? Well the whole purpose of a petition letter for a soon-to-be-cancelled show is to enlighten and persuade the network to change it’s ways in the hope that it will be more careful about cancelling shows in the future.

Bluntly stating that it “will just never learn” implies that the network is too stupid, dumb or ignorant to listen to advice. Which begs the question of why then, should it listen to this petition? If you already think I’m dumb, do you really think I’m going to value your opinion and judgement on matters? Of course not, you called me dumb!

Overall this is a pretty typical fan response to a hard business decision that plays on emotions rather than corporate common sense. A truly efficient letter would see the signatories sympathise with the networks need for viewers in order to keep ad revenue up and would emphasise the many ancillary benefits that the show brings to the network in terms of viewers for additional programs, merchandise sales, etc. Such a letter would do much to encourage the network to retain the show based on its actual merits, not the perceived ones.

This letter, for what it’s worth, isn’t all that bad, I mean, it did garner a few thousand signatures, many with individual responses to the show and how much it was loved. However, when it comes to influencing some executive in some far corner of Viacom’s vast headquarters in New York, it has zero potential and that’s why it’s not going to bring My Life as a Teenage Robot back from the dead.

9 thoughts on “How Not to Get Your Favourite Show Un-Cancelled”

  1. I don’t know who came up with the phrase “Internet positions aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on,” but it’s one I agree with. The reason I think this is one that’s inadvertently pointed out in the petition itself: it’s ridiculously easy to get people to sign an Internet petition. It takes very little time or effort and costs nothing. You can remain anonymous or submit a fake e-mail address. One person could easily create dozens of e-mail accounts and sign a petition with all of them, and even that’s assuming that the petition requires a legitimate e-mail address. As you state, there’s no way for whoever the petition is targeting to know how many people signing it are real fans who would watch another season of the show and how many are people who just signed because their friends asked them to, people signing multiple times, or what have you.

    This petition is more an appeal to the fans to rally around the show than an appeal to the network to continue it. That’s a fine thing to do, but if there isn’t also something for the network to read outlining the show’s strengths and merits and possibly reasons why it has underperformed that don’t relate to its quality, then all the network has to go on is a letter calling for people to sign a petition. In this case, the letter is outright insulting towards the network in question. Even if there is a separate petition for the network and call to action for fans, it’s best to assume that the network representative will see both and will be turned off by state,nets implying that the network is clueless.

    As a rule of thumb, written letters or phone calls are much more effective than online petitions. Both require the petitioner to put in more effort, possibly spend a bit of money, and be a little less anonymous. That alone can help to convince the recipient that you’re serious about wanting to save the show and would actually tune in if it did come back.

    1. Yup, you’re absolutely right Sara.

      I remember reading an excellent interview with someone a few years ago (I tried to search for it this morning but no luck) wherein the interviewee goes through all the things that are right and wrong about trying to get you show un-cancelled. It was a great read but the basic gist of it was to try and cosy up to the network as much as possible and try to see things from their point of view.

      Getting them to see why cancelling the show would actually be bad for them is the only way to get them to bring it back. It’s tough work, but not impossible.

  2. The problem with most internet petitions is the culture that creates them. There are two important facts to consider.

    The creators (and signees) are young, often tweens and teens. Such petition styles tend to work with their peers, parents, and school. In their minds, they see no reason why they shouldn’t work with everyone else. They have no real world experience to work on, and thus do not know that their methods need to be changed.

    The other problem is Internet culture. Internet culture is all about being anonymous. There is no real need to know our real identities, and it is often the case that giving such information is an unwise decision. Again the age of the creators and posters come into play, as they don’t realize that they need to be more personal when dealing with their offline lives.

    Will these people learn? Probably not in time to save their favorite shows. They can only learn from making these mistakes, but by the time they do, they would already be older than the chosen demographic for the shows in question.

    Thus history will keep repeating itself, until the “animation is for kids” mindset completely obsolete and a thing of the past. And then, it will only happen when the networks don’t rely on age demographics for marketing which may never happen.

    1. SOME RANDOM GUY IN 2015!

      …too lazy to read the whole thing, I WANT TO REPLACE THE CREATORS OF MLAATR TO ME

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  5. May I note that I have actually cancelled the Nickelodeon network from my TV plan for one reason: They pull the cancel trigger… a lot, perhaps if their shows were more permanent then I would watch Nickelodeon. Anyways, he cancellation of MLaaTR was just the final nail in the coffin for Nick (for me at least).



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