Update: Shortly after this article was written, Pushing Daisies's cancellation was confirmed.
TV's most winsome comedy seems likely to be the next casualty of the season: ABC's Pushing Daisies, the first show ever to feature a pie-maker who could raise people from the dead, is on the brink of cancellation, though the final word still has not come.
Daisies wrapped production on its 13th episode last week, completing the order ABC put in for the show's second season, and word is spreading in Hollywood that ABC is unlikely to "pick up the back nine" and order more episodes to complete the season.
Show creator Bryan Fuller expressed optimism, saying no decision had been made. "Our ABC exec was on the set last night saying they are still swinging in the fight to keep Daisies on the air," Fuller told the Hollywood Reporter. "Spirits are high and hopeful and everyone here is very proud of our work and this show."
Ideas for the back nine have been drawn up and furnished to network execs. "We have a great back nine we pitched to the network," Fuller said on Nov. 11. "I think they're waiting on a lot of factors."
Fuller: Reports of Death Exaggerated
"Every day we're hearing that we're canceled and then we hear that we're not," Fuller told the Los Angeles Times. "It's all rumors. Nothing official at all. We're in radio-silence land."
If the decision truly has not been made, this may indicate that the network wants to try to giving Daisies another chance somehow, the same way it gave Eli Stone another try after an underwatched first season earlier this year. One possibility, according to TV Week, would be to extend the cast and crew's options far enough to make a third (presumably partial) season possible, but this scenario would involve considerable expense for the network.
ABC executives may be taking the view Daisies has actually already gotten its second chance: the ratings for its first season, truncated by the writers' strike, weren't all that great either. Daisies' renewal for a second season was never a sure thing, and ABC cautiously only ordered the front of the season, making the pick-up of the back nine contingent on a decent ratings performance that the show has failed to deliver -- the ratings for season 2 are considerably worse than for season 1.
Possible Series Finale
The 13th episode won't be broadcast for a while -- this week's episode, "Oh Oh Oh … It's Magic," with guest star Fred Willard, is only the season's sixth episode (the entire ABC Wednesday night line-up started the season late, at the top of October). But ABC will need to let the production team know, one way or the other, very soon to given them time to ramp up for the remaining episodes or, if the news is bad, to shut down shop.
In any event ABC asked Fuller to close up plotlines in the 13th episode, just in case, forcing Fuller and the writers to choose which of the several ongoing storylines to focus on for what might be the series finale. Fuller said he and the writers, Aaron Harberts and Gretchen Berg, pulled out all the stops. "It sets up a new direction for the series, but it's a satisfying ending," Fuller said. "It's a big game change. … If it's our last episode, it's one we can all be proud of."
This sounds very reminiscent of what happened last year to Journeyman -- NBC told the producers to wind up the storylines before midseason break "just in case," and they were destroying the sets and handing out pink slips before Christmas.
What Happens After
There's some good news for Daisies fans: even if Daisies isn't picked up, that won't be the end of the story for Ned the Pie-Maker and his quirky gang. Fuller has said he plans to continue the series as a comic book, following an earlier book distributed at the 2007 Comic-Con. The comic would plat out the storylines that don't get produced for television, and flesh out some of the other stories that got sidelined by the writers' strike; possible publishers include DC Comics. A CD soundtrack is also forthcoming, including the cheery Kristin Chenoweth/Ellen Green duet on "Birdhouse in your Soul" in last season's "Pigeon" (1x05) (watch on YouTube).
Fuller has his contingencies covered: he's already told fans that he plans to move over to Heroes should Daisies not be picked up.
Daisies has had not-so-great ratings this season, averaging 6.6 million viewers and a 2.3 adults 18-49 rating this season. Heroes, also taking heat for poor ratings, has been getting 9-10 million, and My Own Worst Enemy was recently canceled for ratings not much lower than Daisies. The show's biggest night this season came when it aired opposite Barack Obama's infomercial on three other networks.
The main problem is that its ratings have been going down all season. On Oct. 23, for example (the last Wednesday before election disruptions), Daisies slipped 10 percent from the previous week (to 5.67 million), placing fourth behind New Adventures of Old Christine, the new Jay Mohr sitcom Gary Unmarried, and the awful reboot of Knight Rider.
The show is also way down over last year. Daisies lost 36.5 percent of its audience this year over the first 10 weeks of last season.
The break in broadcasting -- Daisies hasn't aired since Oct. 29 -- is not going to do the show any ratings favors. It's quite possible that news of the show's cancellation will follow hard on delivery of the ratings numbers for Wednesday's episode.