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‘So Help Me Todd’ Series Finale: Why The CBS Drama Ended On An (Awkward!) Cliffhanger & What Would Have Happened To Margaret And Her Son



SPOILER ALERT! This story contains details about the series finale of So Help Me Todd on CBS.

For the small but dedicated fanbase of the drama that stars Marcia Gay Harden and Skylar Astin, it wasn’t a surprise that the two-year-old crime dramedy was ending for good on May 16.

What was a surprise was how it ended — with a maddening cliffhanger that involved the arrival of law firm partner Merritt Folding (or rather, his feet) and how Margaret [Harden] was going to be fingered for shenanigans that she did not commit. That’s not exactly the way you want to leave things with viewers who are already smarting about the show’s cancelation.

Creator Scott Prendergast understands how painful that would be for fans and would like to offer some relief. Here, he explains why they ended on a cliffhanger and what would have happened if the series had returned for a third season.

DEADLINE: Let’s start with the cliffhanger. Why?

SCOTT PRENDERGAST: When we pitched out the season at the beginning of Season 2, we told all of the executives what we were going to do. They all said, ‘of course. That’s great.’ Even they thought at the time, ‘well, of course you’ll be back. Do a cliffhanger!’ We wanted to do sort of an Empire Strikes Back-y end with a dangerous note. By the time we knew that we were canceled, it was too late. It’d been a month since we shot that episode. We found out on April 19. We wrapped production at the end of March.

DEADLINE: When CBS told you about the cancelation, did you have a brief conversation about what you could do for fans?

PRENDERGAST: The conversations were both very short. We knew it was coming. There had been little signs, little things that had happened, little administrative things. We were like, ‘oh, maybe this isn’t going to go our way.’ We did say, ‘can we try and find another home? Can we keep the sets up for a little bit? Can we look around, try and sell the show to somebody else?’ And they said, of course. So we didn’t talk specifically about wrapping the story for fans, but we were looking for another home.

DEADLINE: Where does that stand?

PRENDERGAST: I believe CBS and Dr. Phil McGraw [an EP on the drama] have both been out talking to different outlets. So far we haven’t had any takers. But they’re still talking.

DEADLINE: What do you think led to the cancellation?

PRENDERGAST: I think it was a combination of factors. One, the strike shortened our season, and then it was interrupted with March Madness. Then we heard the network might be for sale. That part of the bottom line is probably more important. So Help Me Todd was among their lower-rated shows. So I think a lot of those factors went into it. But I think the number one thing that worked against us was CBS has too many hour-long shows that are working too well. The real estate is not there. CBS is such a wonderful place to work and they could not have been more supportive. They were so sad about this decision, and a number of times the executives reached out to me to be like, ‘this is heartbreaking. We’re so sorry. Please come back. We can’t wait to work with you again.’

DEADLINE: So do you want to hold off explaining how you would’ve wrapped the story?

PRENDERGAST: I went to six different friends who are showrunners, and I was like, ‘okay, I’m getting asked a lot. How’s the show going to end? What do I do?’ And they’re like, just tell people. The feet that arrive that belong to Merritt Folding, those are my feet. I was there that day and I played the stand-in. I was the voice of Merritt Folding, which is ironic when you look back and you think, my arrival ended the show. We were going to try and cast Joe Pantoliano, who’s a friend of Marcia’s. He was going to be the big bad for season three, and Margaret was going to get in a lot of trouble, get arrested, and she would have to go to trial for all these crimes that she didn’t commit. And Todd would have to be working behind the scenes in the law firm to help clear her name. The whole family would have had to band together. And Susan [Inga Schlingmann] would come back and help her and they would all band together and figure it out.

DEADLINE: What was the future going to be for Todd and Judy?

PRENDERGAST: Todd and Judy [Heather Morris] were going to be together for a few more seasons. Heather Morris was spectacular. We love her. She was so charming, so great, so wonderful to work with. They were going to be together for three seasons. But then my idea was that eventually she would move to Thailand, because she couldn’t be tied down, and Todd would eventually get back together with Susan.

DEADLINE: What about Todd’s future? Would he remain in that investigative role?

PRENDERGAST: He was going to keep working. He’d be working behind the scenes to help his mother, working as a detective. And eventually that empty 28th floor, he would take an office up there and he’d have his own private detective agency. Allison [Madeline Wise] was going to become a medical examiner, a forensic pathologist like Quincy Jones. We were trying to set Allison up as a spinoff where she’d eventually be a medical mystery series.

DEADLINE: Were you shocked by the reaction to the cancellation by fans?

PRENDERGAST: I did not expect it. And let me tell you, I can’t go on social media anymore. Every time I open my Instagram or Facebook, I have like 35, 40 new messages a day from people saying, ‘what’s going on? How can you do this?’ I was trying to explain to people, I’m not the one canceling the show. And then they’re like, ‘but you can’t. We want to know. We love the show.’ I think there’s three different petitions now that have up to about 55,000 signatures. It’s very nice. It’s very gratifying how much people love the show. And the number one thing that was surprising was that everybody says how they watched the show with their whole family. It’s a true story about me and my mom. So the fact that people watch it is a family has been very nice.

DEADLINE: So what do you think it resonated so well with viewers? Was it that chemistry between Marcia and Skylar?

PRENDERGAST: They’re an electric pair. They worked so well together. When I pitched the show, I said it’s like Moonlighting, but it’s mother and son and it’s a different kind of love. It’s a familial love. Everyone can relate to having to deal with their parent or their child. The minute we saw them together for the first time, we knew that it was going to work. They just were a perfect pair. And they’re both from the theater and they both prepare extensively. They both cared so much. They were both so invested in the show and they were really spectacular. I think early on when we started the show, CBS execs — because their background is in procedurals — thought, well, this has to be a very strict procedural. But the more the show went on, I said people don’t care about the procedural aspect. They care about these characters and these relationships and they like it because it’s funny. I think that is what carried us.

DEADLINE: So with your show canceled, how are you feeling about the future of broadcast TV?

PRENDERGAST: I feel pretty good. I don’t know if I’m having a delayed reaction. Television series is hard work and we were working very, very hard. So it’s nice to have a little bit of a break. I’m sure I’m going to be sadder about it. We had such incredibly talented people. Allisa Swanson, our costume designer, was so spectacular. Eric Norlin, our production designer, our composers, our editors … everybody was so talented. I was working 15 hour days, seven days a week. And dealing with these people all the time was really nice. I guess now it’s like, well, onto the next opportunity. We’ll see what comes next.

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