Friday (Jan. 16) morning’s ABC panels at the Television Critics Association press tour offered no salve for the wounds of “Pushing Daisies,” “Dirty Sexy Money” and “Eli Stone” fans.
All three shows have been pulled from ABC’s schedule with episodes still unaired. All three shows have stopped production on new episodes. And ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson gave no indication of when or if or how those remaining episodes would be made available.
[McPherson’s half-answers after the bump.]
“Pushing Daisies,” “Dirty Sexy Money” and “Eli Stone” were relaunched this fall after first seasons truncated by last year’s writers’ strike. None of the shows were able to achieve even the modest ratings they hit last year, which is partially the result of a general broadcasting audience downturn and partially the result of other factors.
Asked to reflect on the relaunch, McPherson struggled for answers.
“[I]t wasn’t like there were a lot of options,” McPherson said, reflecting on ABC’s choices last spring. “So we could have probably gotten maybe two or three episodes of the Wednesday-night shows, for example, on the air in the spring. What we were worried about then, honestly, is we were looking at the SAG strike and then worried that that would completely disintegrate the fall if they went on strike in the summer. So, you know, we made the gamble. Hindsight is 20/20. Clearly, you know, people did not come back to them the way we had hoped. So I don’t know that we had a better option, but, you know, I just wish the strike hadn’t happened at all, because I think we’re all paying for it now and we all realize how damaging it has been.”
That regret does little for fans who want to see the end of their shows, much less those who want closure on serialized plot aspects.
“We’d like to air the end of those shows,” McPherson insisted. “You know, I wish that we had been able to give the producers really series-ending notice to some extent so they could really get that done and really have kind of a finale, if you will. Because of the way the timing worked out, we didn’t, and we weren’t able to. But I’d love to find a way to get those out, because ‘Pushing Daisies’ and ‘Dirty Sexy Money’ for me — most of the time when shows don’t work, you can really, in hindsight, look back and kick yourself and say ‘I should have seen that.’ I really love those shows. I commend the producers on the shows. They did a great job. They delivered what they promised. And so for us, it was just a frustration that we couldn’t get a larger audience or that Nielsen said we couldn’t get a larger audience.”
So now what?
“Well, there are complications,” McPherson said. “There are affiliate complications. There are right and clearance complications at times and sometimes it’s just about we have a very difficult schedule to schedule and you are looking at opportunity lost when either replacing something or promoting something like that. So you have to weigh those options especially in this environment that we are in, every dollar is precious of paid media and promotion on air so we’re looking at all that. The real estate on air, there is nothing more valuable than our real estate. So while it might seem easy, just run them off, it really isn’t that simple.”
The clearance complications apply to just putting the remaining episodes online, though McPherson said — without offering a timetable — that the network hopes to make that happen.
After the panel, McPherson addressed the urgency, or lack thereof, to shoehorn the orphaned episodes into the schedule, adding, “I love the fact that there are passionate fans, but unfortunately the shows didn’t have enough fans to work. There’s an equation there on TV. I’m still programming a network. Just, because there’re six dedicated fans on one show and a few dedicated fans on another, I can’t just turn our year over to whatever…”
Stay tuned for more information…