Fans turn up heat for ABC’s canceled ‘Baker and the Beauty’

LOS ANGELES (AP) — With cries for equality and justice ringing in the streets, a petition drive to rescue a canceled television series may seem inconsequential.

But among the advocates for ABC’s “The Baker and the Beauty,” felled by its ratings after one season, are those who value it as an entertaining and affirmative depiction of family life in general and a Latino family in particular — long a TV rarity and, they say, especially vital now.

“We have so many shows on TV and so little shows that are actually relatable and appeal to everyone,” said viewer Dana Pulsinelli. She launched the online effort to find the “dramady” a new home after she connected with other fans and kept hearing the same question: Why would “this amazing show, with this fantastic cast that touched on so many relatable subjects, be canceled in a time where diversity and inclusion is so important?”

It should be celebrated instead of “tossed away like it means nothing,” the New Jersey resident said in an email, lauding “The Baker and the Beauty” for celebrating both Cuban American culture and depicting a young character struggling with her sexuality amid family resistance.

The change.org petition, with 133,000 signatures and counting as of Monday, calls for a streaming or cable platform to give the series “the shot it deserves!” In their comments, fans lauded it as lighthearted fare that’s “much-needed during these challenging times,” “witty and endearing,” and a welcome depiction of “hardworking immigrants” that also “tenderly represents” LGBTQ youth.

The support has buoyed cast members Lisa Vidal, who plays matriarch Mari, and Nathalie Kelley, who stars as the title character, Noa, an Australian supermodel and entrepreneur who finds unlikely love with Daniel, a Cuban American (Victor Rasuk) working in his family’s Miami bakery. Belissa Escobedo plays Daniel’s younger sister, who comes out as lesbian.

The series, whose nine episodes aired from April to June on ABC, was adapted from a Israeli TV hit of the same title that streamed on Netflix.

“This show is important because it represents, first and foremost, family. It represents a beautiful, healthy, functional family,” Vidal said. “But I also feel that it’s important because it’s a Latin family, because it speaks to the positive stereotype of being a Latin family. It speaks to the beautiful parts of who we are as a Latin community, loving and encouraging and hard-working and passionate. … It speaks to all those wonderful truths that are not actually perpetuated on TV and film enough.”

Produced by the NBCUniversal, Keshet and ABC studios with Dean Georgaris as executive producer, the series is also well-made, Kelley said.

“The writing is sophisticated, the characters are three-dimensional. We packaged, with ABC’s help, this beautifully timed show that was delivered in such a nuanced, authentic way,” she said. “And we did grow our audience, which is why the ultimate decision to not give us a second chance of second season to continue to grow (the ratings) was disappointing, because we really had checked all the boxes.”

The series showed small upticks in both total viewers and the advertiser-favored young adult audience from its first to last episodes.

While she doesn’t want to point fingers, Vidal said, it could have been better served with more vigorous promotion, a more suitable time slot for family viewing — 10 p.m. Monday wasn’t it, she contends — and the recognition that an unusual program deserves more careful handling and time to prove itself.

Karey Burke, president of ABC Entertainment, called dropping the show “a huge disappointment.”

“It was an incredible cast and a very sweet show. And I was frustrated that we were not able to find it an audience. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to keep trying,” Burke said. “And it’s critical, frankly, from a business standpoint that we continue to evolve and reflect what our audience looks like.”

Fan lobbying helped the Latino-led reboot of “One Day at a Time” survive its cancellation, moving from Netflix to the Pop channel. As with that effort, “The Baker and the Beauty” has support from stars including Zoe Saldana, Gabrielle Union and Eva Longoria, who posted on social media: “Representation matters on television!”

Showrunner Georgaris, whose credits include “Bluff City Law” and “The Meg,” said the romantic comedy’s fate is in the hands of the studios seeking a new deal to continue it.

“I think that actually there is a legitimate chance. And I think, truthfully, the public support and celebrity support, those things do make a difference at a time like this,” he said, given the expanding number of steaming services that offer the chance of a new home.

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Lynn Elber can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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