Yesterday, the second season of Pushing Daisies arrived in my mail from Amazon. The show that was my favorite on television must now be enjoyed only on DVD, only in episodes from the past. When I was removing the DVD set from the shrink wrap I couldn’t help but entertain fantasies that if enough of us bought the DVD’s then perhaps the show would come back somehow. Like Family Guy, perhaps strong DVD sales would prove that there was in fact enough of a following out there which would make it worth bringing back the show. Perhaps, like Arrested Development was rumored to be headed leading up to its cancellation, Pushing Daisies could return on Showtime, where it would benefit from more flexibility in terms of budgetary concerns, as well as the ability to tell their story in an R rated medium.
Sadly, I know that will never happen. So, when I watch Season 2 on DVD, I know it will be the last I get to see new episodes featuring Ned, the charming, but secluded pie-maker who can bring the dead back to life with a touch, and Emerson Cod, the hilarious private investigator who isn’t nearly as heartless as he lets on, and the lovable Chuck, the delightfully quirky girl next door who had to die before she could really live.
The reason some of the episodes in Season 2 will be brand new to me is because when the show was officially canceled, I stopped watching. That’s right, even though it was easily my favorite show, I still stopped watching new episodes when the show was canceled. It wasn’t even an intentional choice. I think I just started distancing myself emotionally from the characters I loved, and from the wonderfully crafted world they inhabited, because I knew that I would never find closure for all the plot lines and story arcs. Will some magic ever make it possible for Ned and Chuck to touch? What will happen in Emerson’s search for his lost daughter? Will Olive ever find requited love, or will she continue to hopelessly pine for Ned?
I know, some of these answers might be waiting for me in the final episodes of Season 2. In the end though, the show never got what it deserved, a series finale in which the show could offer a final chapter to the delightful story being told.
This is what leads me to this heartfelt plea to all the television studio execs who will never read this blog: Please, just promise us closure! Promise that any show which makes it to a second season will be given the opportunity to film a series finale for all the fans, no matter how few, who are heartbroken at the news of the series getting the axe.
Now, hear me out, this isn’t just for the fans (although, damnit, that should be enough), this is good business too. I am currently in the middle of reading Anthony Bourdain’s book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, and Bourdain writes of what happens when the patrons of a struggling fledgling restaurant smell blood in the water… they stop coming. When the public starts to get the sense that a restaurant is going under, they stop showing up. Even the regulars bail. Why? I think it is because we don’t want our hearts broken. We don’t want to keep investing in a venture that is doomed for failure, especially when we feel powerless to help. I think the same is true of television shows. When a show is looking more and more likely to get canceled, we bail.
Take the ill-fated NBC drama Kings for example. I really enjoyed the first few episodes, but, since NBC is incapable of promoting their programs anymore, the show had no one to watch it. So, when it became really obvious that the show was going to go off the air, I cut my losses and walked away. I wasn’t going to keep investing my time in a show that was only going to leave me disappointed when the network finally pulled the plug, even if in the case of Kings, I could simply read the story of King David and get a general idea for what was going to go down.
All of this would be different if I knew for sure that I was going to get some attempt by the writers to offer a final chapter to the story they were telling. I would be able to stay invested if the characters I was growing to love were destined to find closure for their stories… or perhaps, not even closure, but just a fitting final episode that offered us a farewell, assuring us that the story would go on without us, but that we could at least say goodbye before it did.
If television networks like ABC or NBC wanted to wrest away loyal viewers from the Anti-Christ of a television network which is known as CBS, try being loyal to us first. Offer us an olive branch which says, “Hey, there aren’t enough viewers of this show to keep it on the air, but we appreciate the viewership of those who did watch it. We actually appreciate it enough to offer up the paltry few million bucks it would take to write and film one more episode.”
This is especially important for kitschy, quirky shows like Pushing Daisies, which enjoy a small, but devoted following, and much critical acclaim. So many shows aren’t watched by intelligent, discerning viewers because we wait for a show to succeed before we give it a chance. This is in part because we have spend less time watching television, dooming the more intelligent shows like Pushing Daisies, Arrested Development, and the earlier incarnation of Studio 60 to cancellation. Watching less television, we wait to see if a show is going to make it before we invest our time. Another reason is because, by nature, we are a passionate bunch, and we know how hard we’ll take it if we give our heart away to a brilliant new show only to see it ripped away before its time. We are sad to continually see our cheap, fast food, ridiculous culture destroy great entertainment to make room for another inane reality show.
Granted, this could result in poor storytelling. Perhaps the given show’s writers would try to work in all the ideas they had for the series into a single episode, resulting in something like the debacle which was the Heroes Season 2 finale. Yet, I still think it is worth the risk.
Make a statment! Let the world know that you care about the fans of your shows, and that you are committed to storytelling, meaning that you will give the story being told an ending, even when the show cannot sustain enough ratings to continue being a show. Also, make the statement that you are loyal to your writers and creators. This obviously isn’t true, but history shows that pretending it is works from a marketing standpoint.
Most importantly for the bottom line, there isn’t much risk involved here. By limiting it to shows that have been picked up for a second season, you eliminate the chance that fans expect a finale for some show which only stays on the air for five episodes. Plus, the budget for the filming of a single episode is so small.
It also doesn’t always have to be a final chapter, it can be a springboard for shows like Arrested Development which will eventually go on to become movies, or shows like Futurama and Scrubs which will be purchased and picked up by another network. This strategy may just keep open the option for the show to make you more money down the line.
Another example of this possibility for future income is that DVD sales would also be stronger for a complete story. Again, take Pushing Daisies for example, it’s unlikely that there will be too many new fans to purchase the DVDs because we all know the story gets cut off in the middle. However, if everyone knew it was a complete story, with a beginning and some sort of end, then there would be a much higher likelihood that new fans will later discover the show and make the multinational mega-corporation that own yours network money through DVD sales.
Eh, so there you have it. A desperate, meaningless plea by someone who, at the end of the day, is really just tired of watching his favorite shows get cancelled again and again, while shit like Two and a Half Men and CSI enjoy season after season of huge success. What a world.