TV Review: Pushing Daisies
Creators: Bryan Fuller
Starring: Lee Pace, Chi McBride, Anna Friel, Ellen Greene, Swoosie Kurtz and Kristin Chenoweth
Airs: Wednesdays, 8pm on ABC
Pushing Daisies is one of the new shows I was most anticipating this season. After viewing the pilot episode tonight, I can say that this latest creation of Bryan Fuller (Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls) is without a doubt the most unique, charming and intriguing new series on television. Ned (Lee Pace) is a pie-maker who, like so many other characters in current television, has a rare supernatural ability. He can bring people back to life just by touching them. We learn early on that while one touch will revive the dead, a second touch will return them to their deceased state of being. And if Ned waits more than a minute before un-reviving them, someone else nearby will die in their stead.
Ned works with Emerson Cod (Chi McBride), a private detective, to revive murder victims so they can reveal who killed them, allowing Ned and Cod to collect the reward money for fingering the murderer. When Ned learns that his childhood sweetheart, Chuck (Anna Friel) is murdered, he and Cod set off to revive her. Ned can’t bring himself to re-touch Chuck after he brings her back to life, so he lets her live (the funeral director dies instead but he was a thief so its ok). Now Ned has to live with the fact that the woman he’s loved all his life (despite having not seen her in years) will forever be out of his reach. One touch and she’ll return to being dead.
Among the other characters is Olive Snook (Kristen Chenoweth – known for her lead role in the Broadway production of “Wicked,” and recent appearance in last season of Ugly Betty), the woman who runs the pie-shop where Ned works. Olive is extremely affectionate and seems to have a thing for Ned, who is frightened by her advances. Then there are Chuck’s aunts, Lily and Vivian Charles (Swoozie Kurtz and Ellen Greene). The aunts, like the other characters, are full of quirks. They’re former synchronized swimmers who were forced to retire when Lily lost an eye. And prior to facing off with Chuck’s killer, were agoraphobic (they never left the house).
One of the things that will set Pushing Daisies apart from all of the other shows about people with supernatural abilities is that the story is told like a fairy tale. Jim Dale, narrates the show from a third person perspective. As a fan of Dale’s work in reading for the U.S. versions of the “Harry Potter” audio books, I think the fact that he’s narrating this series is a stroke of brilliance. Not only will there be a sense of familiarity for people who’ve listened to any of the audio versions of the hugely popular J.K. Rowling series, but plain and simple, Dale is a fantastic narrator. I’d listen to him read the ingredient-list off a candy bar wrapper.
Each of the actors plays their role well. Kristin Chenoweth brings her usual brand of bubbliness to her character, Olive with lines like "I used to think masturbation meant chewing your food... I don't think that anymore." Kurtz and Greene also do a fantastic job playing the aunts. I’m eager to see how these two sisters explore the world they’ve been hiding from for so many years. McBride is successful in portraying Cod as a practical man who, while being willing to take advantage of Ned’s abilities for monetary gain, is also somewhat wary of Ned’s “power.” From the way the first episode went down, it appears that Cod will be the one to keep Ned from drifting off in the wrong direction.
Lee Pace plays the role of Ned with kindness and a quiet curiosity. His affection towards Chuck is one of the things that makes the show so charming. Its almost as though the love he felt for her when they were ten-years-old never quite grew up. It’s not all candy and flowers for Ned and Chuck, though. While Chuck knows that she can never touch Ned, she doesn’t know that Ned caused her father’s death when he revived his mother years ago. This happened when Ned was a child and still experimenting with his powers. Sooner or later, its probable that Ned will have to confess this dark secret to her.
Based on the pilot episode, Pushing Daisies looks to be a fantastic drama/comedy/love-story/fairy-tale/super-hero-show. It has the look and feel of a movie, which could certainly help the show stand out and preferably soar in the ratings. That is, if the writers can make good use of the story they’ve set up and the viewers are willing to give this new blended concept a chance to grow.
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Kelly joined CinemaBlend as a freelance TV news writer in 2006 and went on to serve as the site’s TV Editor before moving over to other roles on the site. At present, she’s an Assistant Managing Editor who spends much of her time brainstorming and editing feature content on the site.