When co-creator and executive producer Marc Guggenheim's ABC show Eli Stone was canceled, he went into mourning. "It was tough," he told SCI FI Wire exclusively. "It was a tough few months there as I came to terms with the fact that the show wasn't coming back. You invest three years of life in something, and it's tricky."
The series, about a lawyer who has visions and begins to believe he just might be a prophet, was canceled after its ninth episode aired at the end of 2008, with four completed episodes that were never shown. That travesty is about to be rectified: ABC will air the final four episodes of Eli Stone's second season beginning this Saturday at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
"I have to say these four are among my favorite of the whole series run, quite frankly," Guggenheim said. "I just feel like, ironically, we ended up getting canceled right around the time we were really hitting on all cylinders." (Guggenheim co-created the series with Greg Berlanti.)
First up is "Sonoma," a road-trip episode in which the characters travel to wine country in northern California. "It's our comedy episode," Guggenheim said. "Chaos ensues. It's really, really funny. There is a Saturday Night Live actress, Michaela Watkins, who plays an ex-lover of Matt's, and it's a fun episode. We have a big musical number set to the tune of 'Red, Red Wine' that we shot on location in a vineyard. And there's a major development in the Maggie/Eli relationship. Major! ... It was funny. When people were always asking me, 'Well, what's going to happen with Maggie and Eli?' I would always say, 'Check out episode 10.' And, of course, episode 10 never aired. But now it will."
"It was designed to be a lighthearted episode, but it also resolves the cliffhanger from episode nine that was the last episode to air with Eli's nose bleeding. So we get to pay that cliffhanger off several months later," Guggenheim added with a laugh.
Then Jamey Sheridan guest-stars in "Mortal Combat," an episode that Guggenheim co-wrote. "In Eli's visions he ends up in ancient Rome, and hence the title 'Mortal Combat,' because gladiators figure prominently in the episode," he said. "It is all about the news media. It's a really interesting exploration of what's happened to the nightly news in our society."
The third episode to air is "Tailspin," which Guggenheim feels is "ridiculously timely." It was written around the time of the economic collapse, "and I was very, very angry that all the CEOs were getting paid bonuses," he said. "So what happens is a CEO gets fired, he along with 150 of his employees. The 150 employees get pink slips; the CEO gets a gold parachute. And I always thought, 'Why can't they sue the CEO to get his gold parachute—to get his money?' Part of Eli is wish fulfillment, so that's what happens. Eli sues to get some payback for the people who lost their jobs. So it is super, super timely. It was very prescient when we wrote, and it's very current now."
The series finale, "Flight Path," involves a plane crash. "For those people familiar with the pilot and fans of the show, we return to the Himalayas," Guggenheim said. "That was in the very first episode. So there's a sense of closure with that last episode. We returned to the scene of the crime, as it were."
Will this very last episode of Eli Stone add up to a satisfying finale for viewers? "Yes, it will," promised Guggenheim. "We wrote it knowing that we were on the bubble, so we wrote it to work like it could be a mid-season finale or it could be a series finale. It has a real satisfying sense of closure."
While Guggenheim has moved on to his new ABC series FlashForward, he's thrilled these four episodes of Eli Stone will finally find an audience. "I have to say the worst part about being canceled was the possibility that these episodes wouldn't get aired. Because, first and foremost, a lot of very talented, hardworking people gave their all to write, produce and film these episodes," said Guggenheim. "Especially episode 13, 'Flight Path,' because that was produced when we knew we were canceled. We had written it beforehand, but it was actually filmed around the time we learned of our cancellation, and yet no one phoned anything in. You see the episode, and you see the level of ambition from the plane crash to the Himalayas to everything in between, and you go, 'Wow! That was everyone trying to leave on the best note possible.' I'm just really glad that everyone's hard work is going to get a chance to shine."
And there's one other thing. Something he'd like to say to the viewers who followed Eli Stone through two seasons. "Just thank you for all your support," he said. "Thanks for watching. Thank you for posting. Thank you for creating Web sites. I've always said that I would rather have the number of viewers that we had—even though it wasn't enough to keep us on the air—I would rather have the number of viewers that we had with all of them loving the show as they did, than three times the number of viewers—while that number might have kept us on the air—that didn't care about the show as much as all the people who watched."
Eli Stone: The Complete Second Season DVD set will be released on Aug.18.