Bryan Fuller, who was part of the creative team behind last season's breakout NBC hit Heroes, is hoping he has another winner in ABC's Pushing Daisies.
Critics are lining up to name the rookie drama—about a man who can bring people back from the dead with one touch, who teams with a private investigator to solve crimes—the best pilot for fall (see page 15), and the network is betting big promotional dollars that it can lead off its all-rookie Wednesday nights.
Fuller spoke with B&C's Ben Grossman about the pressure of expectations, the difficulties of staying on budget and why he wants to avoid a trip to McDonald's on Oct. 4.
Pushing Daisies doesn't premiere until Oct. 3, but critics love it and the network is pushing it like crazy. How much pressure is on the show to live up to expectations?
Really no more pressure than I'm already putting on myself. It's kind of nice to have so much support. It's a big hug.
Are you surprised by the negative rumors people want to spread about the show, such as its struggles to stay on budget?
No, the currency in this town is information for a lot of folks. I had to giggle at [a report the first episode was $1.5 million over budget]. That number was so violently exaggerated it is hard to take it seriously. But we are over budget on a lot of episodes. If you talk to any show in town, they are going to be over budget. I read that Bionic Woman cost $4.3 million, but other people are just trying to shove that show under a bus, too.
How is this show's budget situation similar or different to that of Heroes?
On Heroes, we were over budget before we started because studios under-budget it to increase the margin of profitability with the network. They want you to do it for a certain number, they realize you can't, then they change the numbers. We were more over budget on Heroes than we were on Daisies. So the third episode we cut back to try to catch up. Then the network and the studio saw it and gave us more money to keep it in line with the first two.
Is Pushing Daisies the best of a pretty average bunch of pilots this fall?
I don't think so. I loved Chuck, I think it's fantastic, it is already on my TiVo. So is Sarah Connor Chronicles, and Reaper is fantastic.
Does the show fit in with ABC's female-skewing shows?
I think it does, but I don't know if ABC is female-skewed or character-skewed, and character shows seem to garner a stronger female following. I know men like to see stuff blow up, but with the humor and other elements in this show, I hope we will have plenty for them, too.
Is the looming possibility of a work stoppage on your mind?
I just know I can't do any work on my house right now. As far as hurrying up writing and production, we are turning out scripts as fast as we can already, so the network couldn't really add any more pressure. There is no point in stressing myself out—if we go on strike, we go on strike. Then I pinch my pennies and make it through the strike.
Do you have plans for premiere night?
I'm hoping someone throws us a party. Otherwise, I guess I will have people over for pizza.
What about the next morning when the ratings come out?
The day after we air, it would be great to grab the writers and take them to Disneyland and just get away from the phone calls and all the worries. On Heroes, we did a retreat, we went to a hotel and relaxed and talked about the arc of the next few episodes, but got out of the office and away from everything. I want to do that again.
If the show doesn't open, will you have to settle for Six Flags?
If it doesn't open, I think we'll only be able to go to the slide at McDonald's.