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Fans campaign for clemency for shows on death row

There are no long goodbyes in television. So it's last call tonight for the once-hot series The Event (NBC, OMNI, 9 p.m.) and The Chicago Code (Fox, Global, 9 p.m.).

Both mega-budget dramas have been abruptly dumped by their networks and tonight brings the grand denouements for those suckers who followed the shows. Next stop: DVD boxed sets.

But as so often happens, some viewers have no intention of letting The Event or The Chicago Code go quietly into that good night.

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On the same day that both shows were officially handed pink slips, at last week's network up-fronts in New York, there commenced the inevitable pleading and wheedling from the more devoted fans. Some people just can't let go.

The Event was pretty obviously NBC's attempt to replicate Lost - the original script for The Event was penned in the middle of Lost-mania in 2006. And courtesy of good press and advance buzz, which included several nerds bursting into flames during the show's debut at last summer's Comic-Con, The Event was a ratings knockout when launched last fall. A few weeks later it was less an event for viewers.

The Event looked like it might fill the compulsive-viewer void left vacant by Lost's departure last year. On paper, it's a nifty concept: a serialized, complex, science-fiction conspiracy drama about how the U.S. government is, as always, trying to screw over the average taxpayer, in this case by covering up the existence of extra-terrestrials.

Except for the handsome black American president (Blair Underwood), of course. I'm pretty sure he's one of the good guys.

Or at least he was when I was still watching The Event. Ratings for the show peaked at nearly 11-million U.S. viewers for its September debut. By Halloween, the audience was down to fewer than four-million. A month later it went on "temporary hiatus," network speak for "doomed."

Since you're wondering, The Event never really registered in Canadian ratings. The show was passed on by the major Canadian networks - CTV, Shaw, et al. It ran on the regional broadcaster OMNI, which airs mostly multicultural programming and which I don't believe even bothers to keep track of ratings. A generous guess would put The Event around the 100,000-Canadian-viewers mark, tops.

And now The Event is about to be gone, but there's no sense of that finality if you flip through the TV-related websites and nerd message boards. In fact, beyond the various Facebook campaigns and hopeful fan blog petitions, the campaign to save The Event has trickled into the regular news media. A recent wire story claimed talks were under way between the show's creators and several cable channels to keep the show in production. Some reports suggested that U.S. online streaming firm Netflix might somehow to keep The Event alive. You gotta believe in something, right?

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Fans have a similar belief in The Chicago Code, a fairly slick cop drama created for Fox by Shawn Ryan, the TV auteur behind The Shield. Hope springs eternal in the city of Chicago, too; in its short life, the show pumped an estimated $25-million into the local economy.

In Chicago, the push to bring the Code back is news, sort of. Just the other day the Chicago Tribune ran a story headed, "Die-hard fans want to keep The Chicago Code Alive." It was picked up by dozens of other news outlets.

The story detailed the efforts of two people - Chicago citizens, if that matters - to mount Facebook campaigns to bring their beloved show back. Two people. Stop the presses.

Anyone who cares to check will discover it's a soon-to-be-lost cause. The Chicago Code averaged between five- and six-million viewers in the U.S. each week, and about a million or so viewers in Canada, but the "Keep the Code" link on Facebook has fewer than 700 followers. Fans are asked to register their dismay over the show's cancellation by sending e-mails to the president of the Fox Network.

Similar suggestions for clemency crop up on the "Save NBC Show The Event" Facebook page, which has a whopping 209 followers. Good luck with that.

The eerie part is how both The Event and The Chicago Code seemed to have known the end was coming. Their respective cancellations weren't made official until last week, yet the storylines on both appear to draw to a close in tonight's season finales, now series finales, that were filmed several weeks ago. How tidily the TV world turns.

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As probably befits the mood of writers working on a no-future series, Event concludes on a cataclysmic note, namely, the eradication of mankind courtesy of some manner of horrible alien gas being dispersed all over the planet. Thanks a lot, Mr. President!

The story also wraps up nicely on Code, with one last showdown between honest cops Teresa (Jennifer Beals) and Jarek (Jason Clarke) and the fantastically corrupt politician Gibbons (Delroy Lindo, who was the best reason to watch the show).

And in what seems a rather plaintive writers' ploy, the final chapter of The Chicago Code is titled Mike Royko's Revenge, a nod to the late, great newspaper columnist who won a Pulitzer prize for writing daily about the windy city.

Royko died in 1997, but if he were still around today, he'd have no problem saying goodbye to The Chicago Code. These things happen.

Check local listings.

John Doyle returns tomorrow.

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