'Life Unexpected' creator Liz Tigelaar on finale: 'By the end, they all get to where they are supposed to be'
Though the CW's “Life Unexpected” hasn’t officially been canceled, creator Liz Tigelaar isn't too optmisitc about the fate of the show given the network's decision not to order the remaining back nine episodes needed for a full season.
She's fashioned an ending to the sophomore series about two unlikely parents (Shiri Appleby as Cate and Kristoffer Polaha as Baze) whose lives get turned upside down when their teenage daughter (Britt Robertson as Lux) re-enters their lives.
The two-hour finale airs Tuesday and Tigelaar is confident it will leave fans of the show feeling content.
Tigelaar spoke to ShowTracker about the show, the idea of taking it to another network and tying up loose ends.
What do you make of the fact that the folks behind the show keep stressing it's the 'season finale' not 'series finale'?
Well, I think it’s a little more certain than whatever we’d like to think. I don’t think it bodes particularaly well for us but, yes, we’re always very hopeful and obviously would love to keep going if we could. That would be amazing. I don’t feel like that will happen ... but, you know, maybe. Stranger things have happened.
What do you think went wrong?
I think it’s a combination all around. I do think it was a show that needed some support. We were only on for 13 episodes in mid-season. We didn’t really have the numbers behind us to kind of come back on our own as a second season show. We definitely needed more support [from the network] than what we got. But that’s how it works on the CW. They promote their brand new shows. We were not exactly a special case or treated any different. I think that our ratings weren’t that much lower than other series but maybe still low enough to be the lowest … I don’t know. Overall, I think that our show was so inexpensive and our ratings weren’t that much lower than the other shows. I think it comes down to just 'want.' If they wanted the show, they would have kept it. If they didn’t, they won’t … so …
Also, I don’t think it matches their brand perfectly. I think it’s a little bit outside of the box for them.
Have you explored the option of taking it to another network? Where might it fit, in your opinion?
The likelihood of something going from the CW to, like, ABC or NBC is impossible … I think it would have been a great show for those networks, especially now with shows like “Parenthood” and networks just trying to do more family stuff. I would love if DirectTV would pick it up the way they did with “Friday Night Lights” or “Damages.” If a cable channel wanted it, that would be great. But no one’s approached us. I think once you're canceled, it’s hard to get people excited about you. It’s kind of like when someone gets dumped. You’re kind of like, ‘Well, you didn’t want to date her so why would I?’ It kind of feels a little like that. I’m also happy to go down with a show that will hopefully be remembered fondly and as something of quality.
How many seasons did you see it going for? How did you envision the characters evolving?
I think I always thought of it as a five season show. But, really, that was only in my biggest fantasy. A part of me also saw it as a three-episode show because I was like, ‘We’ll probably be on the air and then canceled.” I never really knew. I kind of just wanted to take it one season at a time. I definitely approached the second season as if we were going to get a third season and I really honestly thought we were going to get a back nine just from looking at the numbers. We weren’t that different, and what else were they going to put on? Our phrase was 'surely we’re better than nothing.' And now we’re, like, 'Wow, we’re not even better than nothing.' That’s shocking. You know you’re bad when you’re not better than nothing. We kind of laugh about it.
I was totally surprised. I always thought that we would keep going and I thought that we would get to our end game, which is with Cate and Baze eventually finding their way together on some level.
But there wasn’t much time to tie up loose ends on the show, right?
I got the news officially the night before we started prepping the very last episode so it didn’t give us a lot of time to readjust so that was disappointing. It was kind of hinted at a couple weeks before that, but then kind of taken back. I was kind of starting to get the feeling but you have to keep going; you have to act like you’re still going. So we were planning on [episodes] 14 and 15 at that point. You have to act like the show is still going because techinically it was. It wasn’t official.
In the weeks that I kind of had a feeling, I started thinking with the writers on what we would do if. So I wasn’t totally caught off guard in that I had an idea and had to implement it pretty quickly. But it wasnt enough time to really arc out the last four episodes and significantly change them. I think that was most disappointing. Had we known that it was 13 and we were going to cancel from the beginning, this whole season would have probably been told differently. But we didn’t and you always have to prepare for success, and even with the finale that wasn’t a finale, it kind of ends in a final way. Not that we couldn’t come back, because we could … I said, ‘What if we air this and then come back.’ I was, like, should we leave it more open ended? But the studio was, like, ‘no.’ We want it to be satisfying. That’s what we want.
So will fans get a sense of closure? Will we see relationships end and/or blossom?
This will definitely provide closure.There’s a lot of twists and turns. A lot happens. There’s humor, definitely. But we’re in it with these characters so there’s drama. A lot of things come to a head. Secrets come out, people have to deal with the truth and repercussions. And these last two epsiodes really change their lives. Old secrets return. It’s big. These episodes feel epic to me. And the very end is killer.
Will we see Bug [Rafi Gavron] make a return?
No!!! We won’t see Bug. We could only get Rafi for one episode this season. We planned to have him the entire season but then we weren't able to do it.
Was he working on something else?
He was out for a lot of stuff. There was a lot of different factors. Yeah, it was a bummer.We had a great arc with Lux and Baze and Bug planned at the beginning of the season. We just love him as an actor and as a character.
So who would you say got the best goodbye ... if this turns out to be the series finale?
Behind-the-scenes, it was definitely Kristoffer Polaha. We were going to wrap our five original people from the pilot at the same time. They were going to be our last scene of the last night. Reggie Austin [Jamie], Austin Basis [Math], Shiri, Britanny, Kris and Kerr Smith (Ryan). Kerr got laryngitis and couldn’t speak so we had to rearrange our whole schedule. So Kris ended up wrapping up on the second-to-last day and it was right before Britanny has this huge, emotional scene. She was a total, complete wreck. I was a wreck, I couldn’t even look at him. Something about Kris wrapping … it felt like he should still have one more day with the rest of us. I don’t know. It made it really real. Shiri jokes about when she and Brittany wrapped, she was waiting for Brittany to burst into tears and Brittany was like “Haha! See you in LA.” It was kind of funny. But Kris was the super emotional one.
In terms of goodbye on camera, the end doesn’t feel like goodbye at all. It’s not like ‘Growing Pains,’ where they’re all moving to a new state. It’s not that type of ending. It’s a satisfying ending that feels … it almost feels like it could launch into a new series. I was kind of, like, ‘Oh, can I pitch this new show?’ It more feels like an ending and a beginning. It felt like everyone was in this really great place … where they belong.
Talk a little bit about the Kate and Baze relationship. How do you wrap things up?
The way I always felt is that Kate and Baze seemed like the obvious ending from what the pilot sets up in TV show world. Who’s to say they are really soul mates and belong together? I think what we would have liked to have done, had the series continued, is really explore them as a couple and their relationship. There’s a part of me that thinks they are the endgame of the series; there’s also a part of me that thinks they’re not the endgame of the series … but Kate and Baze as a couple is a part of their story … whether they would have worked out or not is another story. Maybe the end of the series is just that they have a really strong friendship. It kind of depended on the life of the series.
I feel like it was a coming of age story for Kate, Baze and Lux. And I think by the end, they all get to where they are supposed to be. I think that people will be really happy with it.
Photo: (top) Kerr Smith, Shiri Appleby, Kristoffer Polaha, Britt Robertson and Austin Basis; credit: the CW. (Middle) Liz Tigelaar; credit: Getty Images.