Prolific executive producer and television show creator Bryan Fuller admits he's a little frustrated that he didn't get to do everything he wanted to do with the final three episodes of the ABC series Pushing Daisies, which premiere beginning this Saturday at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
"One of the things that people ask is how do you wrap up the Chuck and Ned story, and for me, there was one ending, and that ending was decades later, and I couldn't really quite rush their story to any sort of conclusion," Fuller told SCI FI Wire in an exclusive interview on Friday. "Even if I knew that the series was coming to an end when we were doing the last episode, I don't know if I would have been able to end the Chuck and Ned story because, for me, that's the relationship that goes on and that you fight for." (Spoilers ahead!)
The producers did have a plan, but that plan didn't include getting canceled in their second season after 13 episodes, Fuller said. "The unfortunate thing about how we were breaking the season was that we were taking a break from the Chuck and Ned central storyline for three episodes to tell an Olive story, to tell an Emerson story, to tell a Lily/Vivian story," Fuller said. "And then with episode 14, open back up the whole thing with Chuck's father and Ned's father in a bigger way that was going to be our arc of the back nine of the season, ... but we ended up not getting a back nine. So, in an unfortunate way, those elements of Chuck's father and Ned's father and the pocket watches, that story is the story that's going to be continued in the comic book. So we'll understand all about that, but the three episodes that are about to air I'm really excited about."
Pushing Daisies is a fantasy series about a pie maker named Ned who can bring the dead back to life and a girl named Chuck whom he loves but can never touch. The fanciful mystery series opened to good ratings in its first season only to run into the writers' strike. ABC renewed it for a second season, which never managed to recapture the early ratings. The last episode, "The Norwegians," aired in mid-December 2008, with the final three episodes left to air.
Premiering tonight, "Window Dressed to Kill," offers up something special, Fuller said. "It's a great episode for Kristin Chenoweth, [who plays Olive]. We get to see her sing again and hear her sing again, which is more important," he added with a laugh.
According to Fuller, the episode is a bit of an "unofficial sequel to Savannah Smiles. ... We kind of did a haiku version." The '80s movie was about a little girl who two petty thieves discover is hiding in a car they've stolen. In the Pushing Daisies version, Olive is at the center of the events in her own Savannah type story, he said.
"So we retell that story in a way, and then the modern-day story is those two guys just broke out of prison, and they're looking for Olive Snook, and we realize that Olive has to pose in a relationship with the pie maker, which brings up all of their issues very quickly to the forefront," Fuller said. "And the pie maker has to pretend to be in love with Olive and engaged to marry her, and that causes a lot of issues. We have George Segal and Richard Benjamin playing the kidnappers."
Diana Scarwid, whom we saw in the first three episodes of the season, returns as Mother Superior. The producer added: "The whole idea for this episode at the time was 'Oh, we gotta get Diana back in there so we can set up her arc in the back nine as well, because we were going to do all this stuff back at the nunnery.' We were going to start the season at the nunnery and end the season at the nunnery in big stories. But we didn't get to do any of that."
The second episode, which airs on June 6, is called "Water and Power," Fuller said. "It's an Emerson story, and this is where we get to talk about all of his backstory with his missing daughter," he said. "We meet his baby mama, who is played by Gina Torres, who is fantastic in the role, and really, it's Chinatown. ... I really wanted to do a classic detective noir with primarily African-American characters and tell that fun story, and so, really, it's about how Emerson had the child, lost the child, and the scams and skulduggery that were all associated with his having his daughter and losing his daughter. We get a little hope for him being able to see his daughter again in the future. So it's really a great Emerson episode. It's a wonderful show for Chi McBride. He's just magnificent in it."
The series finale, "Kerplunk," which premieres June 13, is a Lily/Vivian story about showgirls set at an aquacade. "You have Lily and Vivian facing off against their rivals, who are played by Wendie Malick and Nora Dunn, and it's Showgirls," Fuller said. "So there's all of the secrets and the backbiting and everything that we've been cultivating of the secret of Lily and her being Chuck's mother and how all of that went down. ... So 'Kerplunk' is really wrapping up that whole mystery side of the story and the relationship between Lily and Vivian and what happened between them that caused Lily to sleep with her sister's fiance and have a child by him and lie about everything and run off to a nunnery."
Fuller said he's disappointed the final episodes don't adequately wrap up the Chuck and Ned story. "I was sort of like, 'Oh! G-d damn it! I wanted to give Chuck and Ned a better sendoff,'" he said. "But, in the time allotted, I really don't think there was the real estate to tell a satisfying story for them. So we ended up, ... for the finale, we see how everything comes full circle with the pilot, but it was tough, because you had to make choices of 'OK, whose story do we tell here?' and 'What is the most satisfying story that we can tell that has some semblance of closure to it?' We really felt that that story, ultimately, in the end, was about Chuck dying and getting her life back, a life that she had been sort of secretly forced not to engage in because the pie maker. ... His ability couldn't be exposed."
The second season DVD comes out in July, and the first issue of the Pushing Daisies comic book will come out in the fall. Twelve issues are planned in the series, "and then in success, we would do more," he said.
Fuller said the comic book is in the works right now. "We've arced it out. The dangling threads from the series with Chuck's father and Ned's father and the pocket watches are all dealt with, not secondarily, but there's a whole new story that happens when there is a flash flood in the cemetery and all the bodies wash past Ned, and it's Ned versus a thousand corpses. That's the story of the comic book."
As for the movie, Fuller admits it's a bit of a "pipe dream. A lot of things need to happen and align for that to happen, but I would love to turn the comic book into a movie, because I think the story is a lot of fun, and it speaks to a bigger, broader canvas than we were able to do on television."
In the meantime, Fuller, who also created Wonderfalls, will keep himself busy as one of the creative forces behind Heroes, which premieres its fourth season on NBC this fall with "Volume 5: Redemption."