I’ve always maintained that television is self-correcting.
People can distinguish between bad and good. Or, more realistically, between fair and downright terrible. While top-rated shows
like CSI, NCIS and Grey’s Anatomy never appear on best-of-the-year
lists, they aren't offensively awful. The shows that are, like this season's Do Not Disturb or The Ex-List, quickly come and go. Critics can kill
shows. They can. But they can't save them either—otherwise we could be enjoying a new season of Arrested Development right now instead of obsessing over every detail of its possible film incarnation.
Winning the favor of the media and awards branches is a huge accomplishment, however, just because it so rarely happens. Critical acclaim is what kept Arrested Development on air for three seasons, when it seemed obvious Fox was ready to throw in the towel long before. And had slow-starters The
Office and 30 Rock not won the hearts of critics as well as an armful of Golden
Globes and Emmys, they might not still exist. Even now, they don't draw huge ratings by any means.
To me, that's the most baffling part of ABC's triumvirate of cancellations, especially with Pushing Daisies. It made top-10 lists. It was nominated for Golden Globes and Emmys. It captured the imaginations of a fervent (albeit small) fan base. All
it needed was nurturing and something called "marketing." The Writers Strike that shortened its first season was plain bad luck. But the treatment of the second season was pitiful, given it had been off the air since January. When ABC was left as the only network not to air Barack Obama’s Oct. 29 campaign ad, it effectively left Daisies to die in that time slot.
(It miraculously increased its viewership that night). You also simply cannot
take a struggling show off the air for three weeks in November and expect audiences to follow. No wonder the
ratings for “Oh Oh Oh... It’s Magic” were a series low. To give up on
a show of Daisies’ caliber without ever trying another time slot doesn't make any sense either. To not even give it a proper series finale is almost criminal (especially since creator Bryan Fuller says what will now be the last episode of the series ends with a cliffhanger).
Beyond that, people simply do not consume television the way they used to. We rent the DVD's from Netflix. We watch episodes online at places like Hulu. We record shows to our DVR's and play them when we have time. Some 28 percent of Nielsen sample homes have DVR players, prompting the research group to include DVR playback up to a week after the initial airdate in its final numbers. With the television medium constantly evolving, success becomes difficult to define. Maybe five or six million viewers a week isn't so terrible, given the circumstances.
But I get it: ABC needs to make money. It’s a business, and
times are tough. It's not all bad news, either. There is a ghost-of-a-chance Pushing Daisies could still survive, should the fan support reach Jericho-like levels. Some are calling for fans to send daisies to the ABC offices, an ode to the 20 tons of nuts fans sent to persuade CBS to put Jericho back on the air. And perhaps if the ratings of the last few episodes increase enough, ABC (or another network) could reconsider its cancellation, which seems to be happening with NBC's Lipstick Jungle.
Fuller, for one, isn't torn up: "To be honest, I'm really not feeling very boo hoo about it," he told E! Online. "I am so
proud of the show. We put together 22 really good episodes, and there
is a lot to be proud of. I'm sure I'll be working with a lot of these
people again, and I would love to do so." Fuller went on to confirm his characters will live on, in some capacity: "It's very likely that Pushing Daisies will end after episode
13, which as you know, is a cliffhanger. But we are talking to DC
Comics about doing comic books that will wrap up our storylines, and I
already have a pitch for a movie ready to go."
But I digress. Pushing Daisies is set to join the illustrious pantheon of
beloved shows that departed too soon, taking a grave beside Arrested Development, My
So-Called Life, Sports Night, Veronica Mars, Undeclared, Freaks and Geeks and Fuller’s own Wonderfalls and Dead Like Me. That's some great company, but
nonetheless a depressing place to be. But not as depressing as the current state of network television.