Eli Stone: The Fate of the Last Episodes and TV Show’s Co-Creator Still Has Hope

Eli StoneAs fans of the quirky Eli Stone TV show know by now, ABC decided not to order any more episodes, effectively cancelling the series. While the network has abandoned the show, co-creator Marc Guggenheim is still hoping for season three. Will it happen? Will we even get to see the remaining four episodes of season two?

Eli Stone centers around a San Francisco attorney (Jonny Lee Miller) with a promising future. He’s engaged to fellow lawyer Taylor Wethersby (Natasha Henstridge), the daughter of his prestigious boss (Victor Garber). Eli’s idyllic life is turned upside down when he begins to have strange hallucinations. Is he a prophet or sick? With the help of his brother Nathan (Matt Letscher) and an acupuncturist, Dr. Chen (James Saito), Eli learns the truth about his condition and starts to understand his new life. Other series performers include Loretta Devine, Sam Jaeger, Julie Gonzalo, Jason Winston George, and Tom Amandes.

The show debuted in January 2008 as a midseason replacement series on ABC. The Eli premiere attracted 11.83 million viewers and a 4.2/12 rating /share in the 18-49 demographic. The ratings for the subsequent episodes fell as low as 5.88 million and a 1.6/4 rating/share towards the end of the season. Still, ABC decided to show faith in the show and renewed Eli for a second season of 13 episodes.

Season two’s debut numbers were pretty high, thanks mostly to its Dancing with the Stars lead-in. Unfortunately, the ratings began to fall in subsequent weeks and the show lost 60% of its lead-in audience. As a result, ABC decided not to order any additional installments and the cast and crew were informed on November 20th.

Guggenheim has maintained that the series has not actually been cancelled and recently told Newsarama, “I hold a hope that Eli comes back for a third season. Is it a thin hope? Yes. Is it a hope? Yes. But it’s not impossible at this point… And by ‘not impossible,’ I mean that the sets are still standing and the actors are still under contract. It’s possible. I mean, in television, anything is possible.”

As is often the case in series television these days, the writers didn’t know the show’s fate as they were writing the last episode of the season. As a result, they had to write it to work as either a mid-season finale or a series finale. Guggenheim says, “Because of the way the show was on the bubble last year, we’re kind of experienced with that kind of episode so we knew how to do that. And we did write episode 13 to work both ways.”

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Guggenheim continues, “After word came down that they weren’t ordering additional episodes, I went in and just wrote in a little extra piece of information regarding Katie Holmes’ character [Grace]. We’re going to find out what happened to her after she flew out of Eli’s life at the end of the second episode this season. It relates to an idea that I had for the back nine episodes. But that was really the only change I made to that last episode that was influenced by the network’s decision.”

What else happens in the unaired four episodes? Guggenheim shares that viewers will see a resolution of the cliffhanger from the December 30th episode, some resolution to the flirtations between Eli and Maggie, some new info about and Matt and Taylor’s relationship, and the fate of the Wethersby, Posner & Klein law firm. Guggenheim says the four episodes “wrap up a lot of things. There’s a laundry list of things that are taken care of by the time episode 13 ends. And we really did end with a bang.”

Though fans may be upset by the network’s decision not to continue the show, Guggenheim believes ABC gave Eli a lot of support. When ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson called him to give him the bad news, Guggenheim told him that he was thankful that the show had been brought back for a second season. He said, “The show wasn’t doing great in ratings at the end of the first season, so [McPherson] would have been justified in not bringing it back, but he did. I think that was an extraordinarily high show of faith in the show. And I think it was an extraordinarily brave thing to do.”

As to why the show didn’t attract a larger audience, Guggenheim believes it’s a very difficult series to market. He says, “It’s hard to distill a show like Eli Stone down to a marketing slogan. I think that’s what makes it special, and I think that’s why the people who like the show like it so much. But, they like the show because they sampled it. They checked it out and watched it and fell in love with it. If you don’t check out the show, it’s hard to figure out what it is. So I have no complaints with how the network marketed the show. I honestly don’t know what they could have done differently.”

Eli StoneThe co-creator also believes that, if the economy wasn’t in such bad shape, the network might have been able to afford to keep the show going. He also thinks that Eli might have been just a little ahead of its time. Guggenheim says, “Eli is a very hopeful show. And we’re starting to see this era of hope get inaugurated – no pun intended – with the start of Barack Obama’s administration. Everyone’s starting to feel hopeful again and everything’s feeling more positive again. But this show premiered in the waning years of the Bush administration, and I don’t mean to take a political stance here, I’m just speaking from an opinion poll perspective, but the country was not in a very hopeful place when the series started. The country was not feeling too good about itself. It’s possible that Eli was the right show, but just at the wrong time. You never know.”

While the remaining four episodes haven’t been scheduled by the network as yet, they have been filmed and Guggenheim’s been wrapping up the post-production work on the final two.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like ABC will be airing the final four episodes any time soon — if at all. At the recent Television Critics Association press tour, McPherson said that he’d like to air the final episodes of Eli, Dirty Sexy Money, and Pushing Daisies but there are financial complications.

He said, “We’re looking at ways of amortizing our whole schedule. There are a lot of different things in terms of what shows we’re repeating, which shows we have runs of. As far as Saturday night, on the one hand, fine, we’ll just burn [the unaired episodes] off. On the other hand, we have affiliates and we’re supposed to be scheduling the strongest schedule we can… I love that there are passionate fans, but unfortunately the shows didn’t have enough fans to work”

McPherson said that he’d like to get them posted online but that would require negotiating for online rights without broadcasting them.

As it now stands it looks like the final four episodes of Eli won’t be aired until Summer, if at all. On the positive side, it’s very likely that the complete second season of Eli will be released on DVD at some point in the future. Apparently, like Eli, it seems like viewers are expected to just have faith.

Canceled and renewed TV show

33 Comments · Read them below or add one

  1. Mickel Ennis says

    I agree with just about every comment made thus far. Neilsen ratings are a dinosaur in a space age. How do you expect for ratings to continue to be high when a show’s day and time slot are moved around various times. If you don’t watch tv often because frankly there isn’t much on tv that someone of good moral taste would want to watch, how would you know that a show’s time and day of airing have been moved?

    My children and I looked forward to Eli Stone. It’s a big disappointment that ABC has decided to cancel yet another good, if not potentially great show. With all that’s going on in America and the world today, it feels good to sit down with your loved ones and enjoy some good entertainment. Not everyone is into ‘reality’ shows.

    At least give those of us that are fans of the show, the courtesy of showing us the last four episodes. Don’t just leave us hanging, wondering what would’ve or could’ve happend.

    With all that has been said, go even farther and keep the show on tv!

  2. Janis Hunt Johnson says

    Dear ABC: Please at least put the final Eli Stone episodes online! A huge number of fans will thank you! We’d also love to see a 3rd season. We need more shows like this one — entertainment that gives us food for thought and feelings of hope, rather than the usual fast-food fare.

  3. Hilman says

    Just when i found a good show to watch. This is really sad how things are changing. Family shows are pushed aside and reality tv shows are the new ‘it’. Sigh.

  4. TheMrs says

    I think ABC has forgotten that they are supposed to be a family station – that means airing programming that FAMILIES can watch – guess shows like Eli & Pushing Daisies are just way too family oriented & they prefer to stick with shows that scream sex & not family friendly … SAD!

  5. Gaynor says

    I’m watching the second series in England now and I am so disappointed it is being cancelled. It is the only show I look forward to watching every week. I always feel happier when I have seen it. It is thought provoking and intelligent. I think the second series is even better than the first and it is beyond me why the viewing figures are low. Someone must be watching over here because they repeated the first series before starting the second, so there must be the demand from somewhere. Hopefully at least, they will show the last four episodes on TV so we can tie up all the loose ends. Please dont take that away from us.

  6. I heart Maggie & Eli says

    Every time I think about this awesome show I just get a pit in my stomach. What a great, hopeful show that they should have marketed as an 8pm show so families could watch. The finale of season 1 was so great I re-watched the final scene many times! I miss it and wish that TNT or some of the insightful cable channels would pick it up.

  7. Karen Jones says

    Bring back Eli and crew!! Great creativity with the story line…opens up possibilities that people might not think of. Is television afraid of that possibility?

  8. Rachel says

    Another disappointing cancellation for ABC. I echo the sentiments of the last several writers. Eli was a truly original show with great characters with a sense of humor. The show makes you think contributing to society in a positive, unselfish manner all with a sense of humor with great characters. What a refreshing concept as compared to all the other me, me, me, I am great, what can you do for me to get ahead reality shows. I’m tired of investing any time on any new shows with this network only to get slapped in the face with another good show cancellation time and time again. Once Lost is gone, we’re done with ABC. Although I’m sure they won’t miss us since they keep ignoring the viewers who will stick with shows if you keep them on the air long enough. Imagine gaining long-time viewers by keeping a show on the air. I thought that’s how TV used to work.

  9. Marie says

    Different Marie – but I wholeheartedly agree with the last one. :)

    I just don’t understand why there can’t be television for all demographics. I do not watcy any of these so-called reality shows and never will. For a while there ABC really had me most nights – LOST, Boston Legal, Pushing Daisies and Eli…..Now they’re all gone (LOST will be gone next year). Add to this the fact that ABC Family has now cancelled Kyle XY and I am fast running out of shows to watch!

    If a recycled piece of 70s doo-doo like Monk can go on bloody year after bloody year (and get Emmy nods for goodness sakes!) why then can’t a clever, creative show with a quirky premise survive?

    TV execs are stuck in the 20th century. Wanna know how big your fan base really is? Dump Nielsen! Go to EW.com and read the blogs, count hits on your websites, check out fans who sign onto a Facebook page. Obama beat McCain largely because he is a 21st century man who understands “new media.”

    Unless TV execs stop living in the era of Mad Men, there will soon be nothing on the air but Sham-WOW and My Mama’s Surviving Loser Dancer Idol with Tia Paris Hogan -and who needs that????

  10. Marie says

    What is wrong with todays TV execs? Why is it every time a show with a great storyline that offers hope and shows promise comes along it gets squashed by the big wigs. Not everyone enjoys reality TV (and really, how much of that so called reality is edited or staged before airing?),mindless television or Dancing stars. Eli Stone is a great show with a great story line and cast. It offered hope that there are still good guys walking among us, that life is not about the all mighty dollar,and that people no matter how much they deny it still have faith.

    I like to watch television that stimulates the mind, is entertaining and isn’t all about self gratification, how well one can dance or what girl has such low self esteem she has to fight for and share a man with dozens of other women on national TV hoping she gets a rose.

    No one ever calls my husband and I or monitors our TV viewing to see what we like. I have to wonder what age group these people that are picked are in. It seems like most television these days are geared towards the younger generation. What about us 40 somethings and older that aren’t all about whose sleeping with who and totally mindless shows that make people look like complete idiots.

    It’s nice to think that in “real life” there are people like the characters of Eli Stone that care more about people than how much money they can make. The tops at ABC care more about the money obviously than the quality of what they are airing. I would rather watch an inspirational show Like Eli, with characters that are believable and facing situations that are actually possible than scheming “reality” stars planning their next back stabbing move.

    In todays hard times my husband and I found inspiration and laughter while watching Eli Stone. It was one of those things we looked forward to and we are truly going to miss the cast and crew that for 60 minutes each week that gave us something to look forward to in the coming weeks. Lost is another show we look forward to and this is it’s last season. It keeps your mind active. Once it is gone it wont even be worth turning on ABC.

    Well, that is my opinion and though it won’t change the minds of the people who decide what will air and what will not, it’s nice to see by reading the other entries that my husband and I are not alone. We may not have a choice as to the fate of Eli but we do have a way to voice our disappointment. Turn the channel on mindless Television..

  11. deane says

    Marc is making me crazy here. Does Eli Stone have a chance to survive or not?

    This was ABC’s fault. Their ham-fisted, creepy messiah-vibe advertising actually harmed the show. Have read dozens of posts, on several sites, where people complained that friends wouldn’t try Eli because of the ads they’d seen on ABC. It wasn’t until someone sat them down and made them watch that they became fans. The network could have had a genuine, years long hit: but they moved the show four times, bad promotion, and wrong time slot.

    Why should I invest time and emotion in anything ABC airs? The best, most original shows are treated like orphans, pushed out and pushed aside for Dancing with the Stars. Dreck, pure and total dreck.

  12. Jennifer says

    If ABC won’t air the remaining episodes of Eli Stone (or Dirty Sexy Money or Pushing Daisies), maybe another network would be willing to pick them up? The USA network promotes “characters welcome”, right? Maybe a unique charater like Eli Stone would be more successful there?

  13. John says

    Definitely one of the best shows on TV. My friends and I hope that it will come back. The story is getting more and more exciting. What will happen to the Eli-Maggie, Taylor-Matt relationship etc.

  14. Diane Rhodes says

    I am so disappointed that Eli Stone is being canceled. It has been such a fun show to watch. It seems like every time I enjoy a show; it gets canceled. If I want something different than “reality shows” or all of the crime dramas, then I am out of luck. I think the unaired episodes should be shown so those of us who have supported Eli can see it through to the end. Often when I try to watch episodes online the viewing experience is quite unsatisfactory. I would prefer that the remaining episodes be shown on TV with adequate advertising of when the episodes will be shown.

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