Pushing Daisies: Season 2 Post-Mortem

The first season of "Pushing Daisies" was a critical darling with a strong cult following. While the ratings did appear to be softening by the time the writers' strike was all but a certainty, back in the fall of 2007, the show was still outperforming everyone's expectations. Then the strike actually happened, and someone made the brilliant decision to take the show off the air until the fall of 2008.

The inevitable happened. The show returned to much lower ratings and much less buzz. Instead of being a fresh of fresh air in the middle of a strike-ridden spring, the show was buried in the noise of new shows and a heavy volume of returning favorites. And for a lot of viewers, the show had seen its short but sweet day.

Perhaps the producers felt that a deeper set of story arcs would be the way to draw in viewers and keep them interested. Whatever the reason, the beginning of the second season seemed to be too mired in setting up longer stories to be paid off later in the season (or perhaps beyond). Considering that it was easy to predict that "Pushing Daisies" would struggle to regain its momentum, an opinion shared by much of its own fandom, planning on the time and audience for long-term story arcs was probably not the best move.

The ardent fans are suffering from the consequences now. The season was cut short after 10 episodes, and it was only by luck of the draw and contractual obligation that the remaining 3 episodes have been aired (currently in June 2009). Bryan Fuller, the showrunner and main executive producer for the show, has already admitted that one of the main plot threads will remain unresolved, thanks to the cancellation.

That is unfortunate, because the series still had legs. Despite a rough start to the second season, owing to the long gap between seasons, the show was still going strong creatively. The concept hadn't played itself out, and it was still like nothing else on television. And just like its forebears ("Wonderfalls" and "Dead Like Me"), the series will likely grow an ever larger devoted following in the years to come, on DVD or digital distribution.

If there is one problem with this season, it's the fact that it is incomplete. Story elements that would have been paid off over time will, in retrospect, feel out of place. Experience shows that even currently devoted fans will begin to lose perspective over time, and these loose ends will become more and more grating. Fans who come to the series years from now will bemoan how the writers screwed up by not ending the show with proper resolution. (It is, sadly, a familiar situation.)

It will come to no surprise to fans of the show that the second season of "Pushing Daisies" earned a Critical Myth Rating of 7.7. This is well above average and only slightly lower than the rating for the first season (which had the benefit of including the near-perfect pilot episode). As a result, the series itself earns a similar total rating, which is well-deserved. "Pushing Daisies" was one of the most unique shows in recent memory, and it deserved better from its studio and its network. The show will always be remembered as one of the many unfortunate victims of the writers' strike of 2008.


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