Thoughts on “Pushing Daisies”

The facts are these: Pushing Daisies is entirely charming and woefully brief. Spurred into action by the excellent first season of Hannibal, I decided to watch Bryan Fuller’s previous show, Pushing Daisies. Set in the whimsical town of Coeur d’Coeur, Pushing Daisies follows the story of a pie-maker named Ned (played by the immensely talented and majestically eye-browed Lee Pace). Ned is a normal, somewhat socially awkward man who runs a restaurant called, “the Pie Hole”. Ned’s awkwardness and aversion to human contact is understandable considering he has the inexplicable ability to bring the dead back to life. However, there are rules: one touch equals alive; another touch equals dead, forever; and if he allows someone or something that has been resurrected to live for more than sixty seconds, something else has to die in its stead. As one can imagine, this ability might be useful when investigating murders. In the employ of Private Investigator, Emerson Cod (played by the stoic, yet loveable Chi McBride), Ned puts his ability to good use, bringing people back from the dead so that he and Emerson can discover how they were murdered, catch the killer, and make some money in the process. However, the duo’s crime-solving formula is upset when Ned is sent to resurrect a young woman who was murdered on a cruise. This lonely tourist happens to be Charlotte Charles, Ned’s former neighbor and childhood love. Ned resurrects Chuck (as he calls her), but finds himself unable to give her the parting touch. Thankful to be given a new lease on life, Chuck (played by an exceptionally endearing Anna Friel) wants to make the most of her second existence and decides to help Ned and a reluctant Emerson in their investigative endeavors.

Pushing Daisies is very clever. The writing is sharp, the dialogue fast, and the humor unrelenting. Though every episode involves murder, the tone is never morose. Instead, the show is oddly optimistic and at times, wonderfully silly. Throughout the show, Ned and company encounter a number of people that have been dispatched in gleefully sadistic and ridiculous ways; from a Colonel Sanders lookalike who is fried to death to a candy maker drowned in toffee mix, Pushing Daisies is never lacking in creativity. However, though every episode is centered around a murder, what makes the show so likeable is the relationship between Ned and Chuck. Since Ned brought Chuck back to life, touching her again would make her dead forever. Though love blossoms between our two intrepid heroes, they can never be physically intimate, so the show instead becomes about them expressing their feelings for one another in different ways. This is a nice departure from the majority of romances on television, and makes the relationship between Ned and Chuck especially sweet since their actions and words towards one another are all they have to show their love. This complicated, fairytale-esque relationship only works because of the incredible chemistry between Lee Pace and Anna Friel, who succeed in making you believe in their unconventional romance.

Supported by the fast-talking Kristen Chenoweth as Olive Snook, Ned’s waitress/eternally pining friend, and Swoozie Kurtz and Ellen Greene as Chuck’s quirky aunts, Pushing Daisies once again confirms that Bryan Fuller and co. know how to cast a show. Besides the cast, the sets are beautiful and intricate. The same attention to detail and color that makes Hannibal so grim makes Pushing Daisies bright and full of life. Mix in some impressive digital effects transitions, a wonderfully whimsical score, and the pitch-perfect storybook narration of Jim Dale, and you have a truly special mix that makes Pushing Daisies just right.

Alas, while Pushing Daisies is brilliant television, like so many great shows before it, it’s all over far too quickly. The twenty-two episodes fly by, all leading to a conclusion that is satisfying, yet ultimately a little rushed. It’s obvious that the last episode was meant to be a mid-season cliffhanger rather than the series’ swan song. That being said, I’m still very happy that we have what we have. However, given recent developments in crowd-funding and the overwhelming success of the Kickstarter campaign for the Veronica Mars movie, Bryan Fuller has said that he may be working on doing the same for Pushing Daisies. Considering how blissfully perfect the fifteen hours, forty-six minutes of the show were, I hope it too receives another chance at life.

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