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For their own good
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'CSI' fan says losing Sara would be a crime
A Dunedin woman is rallying the troops online to keep Jorja Fox on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
By Eric Deggans, Times TV/media critic
Published October 16, 2007
Devon Pierce, a 30-year-old new mother, is running a worldwide campaign to save the job of CSI actor Jorja Fox from her office at the Hearing Service Center in Dunedin.
[Douglas R. Clifford | Times]
Actress Jorga Fox of the television show CSI speaks at the 2006 Summer Television Critics Association Press Tour for the CBS Network.
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation The show airs at 9 p.m. Thursday on WTSP-Ch. 10.
DUNEDIN - Swathed in yellow crime scene tape, a large pegboard features the fruits of Devon Pierce's work. One flier pleads "Don't burst our bubble. Keep Jorja Fox on CSI." Another promises it is "saving Sara one dollar at a time." A note of thanks from Fox - a 39-year-old ex-Floridian who has played forensic investigator Sara Sidle since the hit crime drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation debuted in fall 2000 - compliments Pierce and her friends for their devotion.
From a tiny makeshift war room tucked inside her father's clinic and hearing aid service center on Main Street, the 30-year-old wages a campaign to bolster the career of an actor she has never met, who probably makes more in a week than she earns in a year.
She wants to keep Sara Sidle on CSI.
"To me, it's a little bit inspiring that people can come together and work on something that doesn't have dire consequences," said Pierce, who founded the online bulletin board for crime TV fans, Your Tax Dollarsat Work (www.yourtaxdollarsatwork.org, with a friend from her Dunedin living room five years ago. "It's kind of crazy, I'm the first one to admit it. But it's a good kind of crazy."
Just how crazy? Since last month, Pierce and some of the nearly 19,000 registered members of her site have collected more than $8,500 for gifts and stunts aimed at CSI producers and CBS executives, hoping to counter the increasingly accepted rumor that Fox's character will be written out of the series.
The group has paid a pilot to fly over the Los Angeles studios where CSI is filmed, towing banners with messages such as "Follow the evidence - Keep Jorja Fox on CSI." They've also started the "Dollars for Sense" campaign, in which fans take a $1 bill, fold it in the "one dollar at a time" flier, and send it to CBS offices in Los Angeles and New York.
At press time, according to the site's running tally, fans have mailed about 20,000 fliers to CBS offices (Pierce said the network will donate the cash to charity). Fans also have sent bunches of balloons and boxes of bandages (slogan: "You wound us. Keep Jorja Fox on CSI").
Too little, too late?
Last week, Pierce tradede-mails with friends to plan their most ambitious stunt yet: drafting a marching band to play Georgia on My Mind at one of CBS's offices (the Melbourne Beach-raised actor's first name is pronounced like the state name).
Fans post messages on the bulletin board each day, proposing stunts and ways to make them reality. "We don't want CBS to lose sight of the fact that all these fans really care," Pierce said.
The power of such new media fandom can bring swift results. Back in May, disgruntled fans of CBS's post-apocalyptic drama Jericho persuaded the network to rescind its decision to cancel the show by sending tons of peanuts to executives, referencing a key line from the series.
That example has proved to be an inspiration and benchmark for Pierce and her crew, who promise to trump the Jericho protest with bigger, bolder ideas.
The problem: All this effort may have come too late.
Representatives of CBS and Fox won't comment on whether the actor is leaving the show, citing the need to avoid spoiling upcoming episodes. "The fans. . . 'heart' Jorja Fox and so does everyone at CSI . . . although we've stopped short of sending her chocolate-dipped insects and cases of Lifesavers," wrote CSI executive producer Carol Mendelsohn in an e-mail to the St. Petersburg Times. "Sara Sidle will always be a part of CSI."
But TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly magazines have reported that Fox is leaving at the end of her contract. Fox and castmate George Eads were fired briefly in 2004, amid tough contract negotiations.
Even though the actors and CBS blamed it all on communication mixups, strained feelings remained. Fox has told TV Guide she turned down a raise that would have extended her contract through the entire season.
TV Guide reported her last episode is now set to air Nov. 8.
"I was feeling a little hurt and angry by some of the events that happened a couple of years ago that relate to the firing of myself and George Eads," Fox told TV Guide earlier this year. "The raise was terrible, to be frank. An extra year for that amount of money? No thank you."
Pierce sifts through Fox's vague statements in various interviews as if sorting tea leaves, hopeful that the final decision is not yet made, or can be undone if fans show enough devotion. "We kind of have to go on faith," she said. "If Jorja goes public and says she doesn't want to be on the show, we'll stop."
Of course, some fans aren't sure they want Fox to stay on the show. The romance between star William Petersen's Gil Grissom and Fox's Sidle has always been controversial - even the actors are 15 years apart.
And Sidle's survival of a serial killer's attack this season after a kidnapping, beating, near-drowning and life-threatening trek through the Nevada desert led one letter writer to tell TV Guide "I actually found myself cheering for Sara to die, already."
Still, Pierce thrives on the unique community she has helped create.
A user known as Committed wrote Oct. 8: "I'm shamelessly getting two of my kids involved in this campaign. . . . My 5-year-old picked up a cell phone and pretended to make a call; she said, 'Hello, I don't want Sara to go.' . . . Should I worry that I'm dragging my young children down into my obsession?"
"You become wrapped up in the characters . . . (and) it wouldn't be the same if you couldn't talk about it," said Andrea Dawkins, a 25-year-old computer programmer who helped Pierce build the Web site from her Raleigh, N.C., home. "Pretty much everyone knows Jorja Fox is leaving the show. But it makes people feel better that they're speaking out . . . letting CBS know this isn't going by unnoticed."
Lots of company
In her office, surrounded by fliers and notes, Pierce seems both proud and a bit embarrassed by her group's effort.
It's not as if she doesn't have a life: A part-time employee at a Holiday Inn Express, Pierce is also mother to 5-month-old Nathaniel and wife to very understanding Steven, a dispatcher for Dell computers.
Since spending about $1,200 to start the crime TV Web site - a fan has since donated a dedicated server to house the bulletin board, curbing costs - Pierce estimates she has spent up to $30,000 pursuing her unique hobby.
Told that some readers are going to conclude she's a little nutty - spending hours each day protesting for a TV show with a husband and young child at home - Pierce smiles. "There's a thin line between crazy and committed," she said, quoting a phrase taped to the door of her makeshift office. "And if I'm crazy, there's 19,000 other people who are crazy with me."
The kicker: Though Pierce has visited with fellow fans in Las Vegas and stopped by the set of now-canceled CBS drama Joan of Arcadia, she has never visited the CSI set, nor met any actors from the show, Fox included.
For her, the protest and its result may be secondary; the real reward comes from the thrill of bonding with others to tackle a challenging cause.
"It's been such a great aspect of my life, and that has nothing to do with the TV show," Pierce said. "After this is all over, so many of us will still be friends."