'Chuck' fans eat sandwiches to save show

A shaky, fan-made video going "viral" on YouTube shows shows Zachary Levi, eponymous star of NBC's Chuck, leading a flash mob headed toward a building. They walk into a Subway sandwich shop in Birmingham, U.K. and he . . . orders a sandwich, to the cheers of about 600 people.

This is the new way to save a TV show, and it's colored by the recession: to save things, we buy stuff. In this case, Subway sandwiches. Subway was featured in a recent episode and is a sponsor of the show, so to Subway go the fans of the show. Chuck's second season ended last night and fans were encouraged to be sure to watch, as the ratings haven't been great and NBC is considering canceling the program.

Not if fans of the regular-guy-becomes-national-security-asset show have anything to do with it. A @savechuck Twitter account had nearly 1,500 followers only a week after launching, and was dedicated to just one thing: urging fans to support the show as vocally as possible before May 5, when General Electric Co. (GE)'s NBC has said it will decide if Chuck is coming back for a third season. TV critics have weighed in, very vocally, but everyone knows that TV networks don't listen to critics.

Fans are, indeed, buying Subway sandwiches, leaving comment cards at their local outlet and through the Subway.com web site, and sending in their receipts with love notes to the show's advertiser. Fans without a hunger for a foot-long sub are encouraged to watch episodes on Hulu.com, pre-order the second season DVD on Amazon.com, and watch the season finale.

Will it be enough to work? It's hard to say, but it's an amazingly smart strategy: use the affirmative defense of making an advertiser very happy it's affiliated with the show. Either way, I'm pleased to feel like I accomplished something by taking an afternoon break to watch one of my favorite shows on Hulu.

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