Tuesday night, two hours of “Life Unexpected” will air in what the CW is billing as the season finale, but will in all likelihood be the final episodes of the critically acclaimed but low rated series. The saga of the teenage foster child who was unexpectedly placed in the custody of her biological parents was a throwback to the gentle, upbeat dramadies of the WB. The show’s creator Liz Tigelaar spoke candidly about why the Baze-Cate-Ryan triangle ended, how production difficulties impacted the storytelling, and why she is determined to keep writing character-driven shows.
Can you give us a hint about how everything will wrap up in the finale?
I think everyone is going to be very satisfied. Obviously, we weren’t planning on this being the finale. But it is and we made adjustments. I think that the things that have been set up in the pilot: who the characters are, in what ways they need to grow and change and go through their own coming of age story, have happened in the course of the series and really get exemplified in the finale. I think people are going to like it. It’s very emotional. Again, it wasn’t written as a finale. We kind of adjusted it as the finale. Given that we had to rework it in the short amount of time that we had, I’m really pleased with it.
What were your plans going to be for the rest of the season? What was going to happen?
Our next episode was really launching us into the next half of the season so I can’t really give that away, but a lot of changes happen in the finale that catapult us into the back nine. Things get shaken up a lot.
A former CW show, “The Game” moved to BET and quadrupled its ratings. Are there any thoughts to finding a cable home for “Life Unexpected”?
Of course we would love that. Nobody’s approached us, but my first thought was like, “God, is there any DirecTV thing we could do?” I don’t think there are many people who are as passionate about their show as we are about our show – not the fans, the people who are creating it: myself, the writers, the actors.
Watch a Preview of the ‘Life Unexpected’ Season Finale:
Looking back, are there any things you would have done differently if you had the chance to do it over again?
If we had known we were getting a full twenty-two [episodes], many of the stories is season two would not have been so compressed. We went in and pitched the whole season and they suggested we compress it into thirteen at the beginning of the season. The Lux-Eric story, that should have been a story told much slower. The CW was pretty insistent on not continuing the Cate and Baze triangle in season two. Maybe in season three or four they would have been open to coming back to it, but season two they really wanted to broaden out the show. I agreed with them, but I think if we’d had more time, if thirteen was twenty-two, we could have delved more into how does he move on, how does she move on. That’s really human stuff. We had so many guest stars on the show. We lost Rafi Gavron, who plays Bug. We only had him for one episode, and it was a struggle to get him for that. It eliminated an entire Bug story that was going to be in the second season. Landon Liboiron who plays Sam had a huge story, brought on as a love interest for Lux, and he booked a Steven Spielberg show ["Terra Nova"] and would have been gone after episode twelve anyway. So there were challenges like that. The only silver lining that’s making me feel relieved is that it’s hard not to be able to tell the stories you want to tell, to be constrained by production constraints. At least we don’t have to deal with that. We can go out strong. But, we would have dealt with it.
“Life Unexpected” has a passionate fanbase and the critics love it. Why do you think it struggled in the ratings?
Ratings are an interesting thing. When you look at “Hellcats” and “Nikita” which we’re kind of compared to, there’s always different ways to skew it. It’s like, no, we actually beat them in the demo, but the demo doesn’t matter or, oh we got the same as what ‘Hellcats’ got last week. There’s always ways to interpret it. I feel like people kind of create the story they want to tell around the success of a show. Maybe we’re just not the CW’s brand. Also, we were only offered a thirteen episode season one. We weren’t treated like a new show coming into season two in terms of promotion, so I don’t think people really knew about it. Thirteen episodes is not a long time to create a fanbase.
You have an overall deal with ABC. What projects are you developing?
I’m working on stuff now. I’ve been wrapping up “Life Unexpected” so it’s been a little bit hard to switch gears. I’m taking a little space to figure out what I want to do next. I may work with Greg Berlanti on something. I’m definitely excited about it. I think the biggest thing is just trying to figure out how to do a show where I care as much about the characters and the stakes for those characters as I do about this one. After doing a show about a kid that’s been in foster care that wants to forgive her Mom for giving her up, it’s hard to go from that to, “Will the cupcake store open on time? Oh, no. We’re out of batter.”
Do you plan to continue doing character-driven shows? It seems like so much of television now is procedurals about coroners whose extra-sensitive sense of smell helps them solve crimes.
I think so. You always need a story engine, but to me the story engine can just be what characters grapple with, like on our show. The story engine was always the struggle to grow up, and being okay with who you are. I think there’s room for it. I do. I hope there’s room for it. If not, ABC is going to feel burned that they have to deal with me. I don’t think they would hire me there if they didn’t want that. Not to say I couldn’t do something a little more driving, but I think it’s always going to be about the characters for me.
What do you think about the reported end to “Life Unexpected?” Would you like to see it continue on The CW or elsewhere?