Life After the Chopping Block: Pushing Daisies

EW.com, one of my go-to websites for articles and updates, has a poll asking “Which new TV show will be cancelled first?” (click to cast your vote and, maybe more importantly, read the incredibly entertaining comments). It’s a really important question. Many people refuse to start watching until they know they won’t get attached to a doomed show. This year, if the poll is any indication, both Dads and Lucky 7 are first in line for the chopping block.

The fact is that a lot of factors go into cancellations: marketing, quality, timing, etc. Critically praised shows get cancelled for lousy marketing and fan-loved favorites die because of the cost and then there are the conspiracy theories. It’s incredibly frustrating but, unfortunately, it’s part of the primetime viewing experience.

In an effort to spread the word, this series of posts will give you information of a possibly-unknown past show that was cancelled before it’s time. If you haven’t seen it, watch it! If you have, rekindle the fire and give it a second viewing, share it, post about it. With Netflix looking at cancelled shows to pick up (it worked for Arrested Development), we can always hope for our dearly departed favorites but, more importantly, we always have our DVDs.

Pushing Daisies (2007-2009): This one is– and maybe always will be– my moved loved cancelled show. Creator Bryan Fuller is a genius when it comes to quirky, whimsical hour-long dramedies (see: Dead Like Me later). He seems to love to take something macabre, like death, and make it lighter. Witty, quick-spoken, sometimes goofy dialogue permeates this series that is full of interesting characters, unbelievable whodunnit cases and bright-colored, timeless settings. The story follows Ned, a piemaker and owner of “The Pie Hole,” who has unique ability to touch dead things back to life, although not without consequence. He teams up with a private eye, Emerson Cod, who uses Ned’s abilities to solve murder cases. Things get a bit more complicated when Ned brings back his childhood sweetheart, Charlotte “Chuck” Charles. Although he has waitress (the wonderful, wonderful Kristin Chenoweth) Olive Snook pining after him, he can’t help but love his first kiss, Chuck. Unfortunately, he can’t touch her again, ever or she will go back to being dead. There are so many subtle quirks that make this show the criticially-acclaimed gem it was. Chuck’s aunts, cheese-loving agoraphobes that used to be synchronized swimmers, Olive’s tendency to break into song, Chuck’s wardrobe, Ned, Ned, Ned and, um, Ned. Why was it cancelled? The writer’s strike of 2007 interrupted production and good ol’ ABC refused to properly advertise when it returned the following fall. No surprise that ratings are low when even fans couldn’t figure out when it was coming back. Live after death: Fans were outraged and rightfully so. This show was nominated for 12 Emmys in 2008 and won three, five nominations and four wins came in 2009. But ABC let it die and even Ned couldn’t revive it. A painfully quick wrap up was thrown in for the last episode but Bryan Fuller promised it would live on. Fans were promised a series of comic books (now five years later, they still haven’t materialized), there was talk about a miniseries or a movie (Torchwood got a miniseries from Starz and Kickstarter rebooted Verionica Mars), and Fuller even expressed interest in a Broadway musical adaptation but, so far, nothing. The WB did buy Pushing Daisies and reshow episodes (see their website for full episodes) and even the cable channel Chiller shows episodes. It’s dead but not buried.

Up next: Firefly

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Life After the Chopping Block: Firefly

Firefly (2002-2003): This one is the universal go-to for shows cancelled before their time. Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog, The Avengers, Agents of SHIELD) is basically King of the TV Geeks. (Check out EW.com for a list of Whedonisms.) Joss has no problem experimenting with out-there ideas or just plain silliness (ie: “Once More, With Feeling,” the wonderful episode of Buffy where the residents of Sunnydale break into song and dance, expressing their secret truths). He also addresses some major philosophical ideas, most of which are made more subtle with witty dialogue and quirkiness. Firefly was able to survive one season and a movie but could’ve lasted much longer. It combines science fiction with Westerns in a union that really shouldn’t work. The show follows nine individuals on a cargo ship called “Serenity” (it resembles a firefly, thus the name) that work outside of the law to keep the ship running and survive the often treacherous reaches of outer space. (It’s a bit hard to recap for me but, the gist is, watch it.) Why was it cancelled? Episodes were aired out of order (hello?!), it was on Fridays aka TV death zone, not given time to find its footing (one season is never enough) and the usual excuse “numbers.” Life after Death: The movie Serenity (2005) gave fans another taste of what made Firefly so fun. It also delved deeper into the political issues within the context of the story (testing was done on one of the characters, River, an emotionally wrecked genius, who makes a massive personality shift in the movie—something that was clearly planned if the show had continued and been able to get fleshed out). The show also was continued through comics (a trend among beloved cancelled shows). Unfortunately with no possible syndication, you won’t often catch Firefly on TV; it is, luckily, available—complete with movie Serenity—on Netflix.

Up next: Jericho

Life After the Chopping Block: Jericho

Jericho (2006-2008): This is a show I discovered on Netflix. How I didn’t know about it when it premiered in 2006 is an absolute mystery. As the story opens, Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich) gets stuck in his hometown, tiny Jericho, Kansas after a mushroom cloud is seen in the distance over Denver, Colorado. The post-apocalyptic show follows the isolated Jericho’s fight for survival against neighboring towns and plunderers, a lack of food, water, electricity, medical supplies, information, and fuel. On the other end of the story is about the conspiracy surrounding the bombings (why and how the bombs were detonated). Season two deals a lot more with the politics and the issues with the new government, which isn’t exactly ideal. It turns from a story of survival to a story of freedom. Why was it cancelled? After a hard fight to get a second season (fans sent nuts in bulk to CBS, paying homage to a quote from the series), it was no real surprise that season two was the end. CBS said that it was a lack of viewership that doomed the show, even though obviously ardent fans were willing to fight for it. There was a question that five years was not long enough for the country to recover post-9/11 and get behind a show that was so similar in many ways. Some diehard fans even question whether or not cancellation had something to do with the whole premise of the show (namely, a corrupt government; keep an eye on Revolution as it is following a similar story line). I do love a good conspiracy theory, however far-fetched. Life After Death: Jericho found a home on Netflix where old fans and new fans, like me, can binge on the full series. The finale, unlike some cancellees, does give some degree of closure but, fair warning, if you make it to the end, you will want more. Fan did get a 6-issue season three substitute via comic book that was issued monthly starting November 2009. A season four equivalent 5-issue comic series was also written. There has been buzz on and off for much of the last year regarding negotiations with Netflix. The fact that it is taking so long is not promising at all. However, there has been no official statement to say that it is not happening. No harm in getting caught up just in case, right?

*Sorry for the lousy trailer. I can’t stand fan-made videos so this was the only option.

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