REVIEW: PUSHING DAISIES – SEASON 1

CAST

Lee Pace (The Hobbit)
Anna Friel (Limitless)
Chi McBride (Human target)
Ellen Greene (Little Shop of Horrors)
Swoosie Kurtz (Mike & Molly)
Kristin Chenoweth (Bewitched)
Jim Dale (Carry on Columbus)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Patrick Breen (A Series of Unfortunate Events)
Field Cate (Space Buddies)
Sy Richardson (Colors)
Sammi Hanratty (Shameless)
Patrick Fabian (Better Call Saul)
Riki Lindhome (The Lego Batman Movie)
Brad Grunberg (Get Smart)
Eddie Shin (Westworld)
Raúl Esparza (Hannibal)
Dash Mihok (Gotham)
Jayma Mays (The Smurfs)
E.J. Callahan (The Mick)
Carlos Alazraqui (Justice League Doom)
Hamish Linklater (Legion)
Christine Adams (Black Lightning)
Mark Harelik (Trumbo)
Joel McHale (Ted)
Jenny Wade (Wedding Band)
Paul Reubens (Batman Returns)
Molly Shannon (Wet Hot American Summer)
Steve Hytner (Roswell)
Grant Shaud (Lois & Clark)
Audrey Wasilewski (Red)

Lee Pace in Pushing Daisies (2007)Ned, a young boy, finds he can bring living things back from the dead with just a touch. The problem is, another touch renders the person dead permanently, and if he doesn’t off the victim again within a minute of their revival, someone else randomly dies. That little boy (played by Lee Pace as an adult) grows up to sell pies, live a lonely life and work with Emerson (Chi McBride), a private eye, to solve crimes by bringing victims back just long enough to finger the murderer. “Murder She Wrote” it’s not.Anna Friel, Lee Pace, and Riki Lindhome in Pushing Daisies (2007)If Ned’s life wasn’t odd enough, he learns that the only girl he ever kissed (at age nine) died on a cruise ship. Seizing the chance to see Chuck (Anna Friel) a last time, he reanimates her, but can’t bring himself to kill her again, setting up an unusual romantic situation, as they can’t touch without killing her.It also sets up a love triangle involving Olive (Kristin Chenoweth), a waitress at Ned’s shop, The Pie Hole, who pines for Ned, only to see Chuck wander into the picture and steal his heart. Fortunately, it’s easy to root for either sunny, silly Chuck or adorable, good-natured Olive in the race for Ned’s heart, as both offer him something good and would be happy with him.Kristin Chenoweth in Pushing Daisies (2007)The story of Ned and Chuck is the emotional crux of the series, as their connection and each’s personal tragedies and difficulties make the show real and relatable, but it’s the story of Ned and Emerson that moves the plot forward, as they investigate murders that send them on their adventures. Taking a noir approach to the crimes, the boys (and girls as well) hit the streets interviewing suspects and witnesses, getting themselves into some unusual predicaments. Pace, who impressed in Soldier’s Girl, is tops as the Pie-Maker, believable as a low-key detective, yet equally as good when reality is bent, making him into a superhero of sorts, while McBride is as enjoyable as ever, mixing great comic delivery with a solid sense of gravity.Dash Mihok, Anna Friel, and Lee Pace in Pushing Daisies (2007)The show’s surreal tone, which feels a lot like a day-time Tim Burton fairy tale (an appropriate feel, considering the show arrives from Bryan Fuller (“Dead Like Me,” “Wonderfalls”) and Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black, The Addams Family)), is full of quirky touches, like a storybook-worthy, detail-obsessed narrator (whose words are repeated for comedic effect) and a pair of aunts for Chuck who are shut-in former water-show performers (Ellen Greene and Swoosie Kurtz (in an eyepatch!)) It feels like every turn brings something new to enjoy, be it a Hitchcock-inspired montage for Emerson, claymation side trips into Ned’s childhood or the incredibly talented Chenoweth breaking out into a song from Grease. Even the guest cast has a interesting, off-beat feel, featuring Jayma Mays, Carlos Arazraqui, Joel McHale, Molly Shannon, Mike White and a creepy/great Paul Reubens.Kristin Chenoweth and Chi McBride in Pushing Daisies (2007)Though there’s a great deal of comedy, and the mysteries are fun and interesting to follow, the show is, at it’s core, about emotion and romance, eliciting sadness along with the laughs, focusing a great deal on what people want and desire, and what they can and can’t have, with Friel’s reborn attitude acting as an excellent prism through which to view the idea of giving people an extra minute after they die. It’s not all roses and philosophy though, as an episode like “Bitter Sweets,” which chronicles a war between The Pie Hole and a new candy shop across the street, run by Shannon and White, is almost entirely story-focused (and is damn good to boot.) The season finale brings everything together, putting a decidedly solid cap on the first year, with an episode that balances the facets of the show perfectly before punching you square in the gut with a shocking climax. It’s a sign of the show’s versatility that it can move smoothly from drama to jokes to heart-breaking romance, without missing a beat. It’s also a sign of a seriously great show.

 

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