Mar 2, 2008

[TV] Pushing Daisies (Season 1)

Pushing DaisiesI've always had a bit of a taste for the unusual and the humorously macabre. Don't confuse me for someone into the whole goth sub-culture, mind you, it's just that I like it when we treat death in a lighter fashion and not make it so heavy, dramatic or horrific. My appreciation for this sort of thing probably started with movies like Beetlejuice and pretty much most of the creations of folks like Tim Burton.

When I first heard about Pushing Daisies and the brilliant story behind it, I knew the show had a lot of potential, at least in terms of my tastes, and I was pretty keen on getting to watch the series. It's a shame the WGA strike sort of soured things for all TV shows from last year, but at least this show got itself noticed and clearly it has a bright future ahead of it.

Pushing Daisies is the highly creative tale of Ned (Lee Pace), the pie maker, who discovered very early in life that he has the ability to bring dead things back to life. He can only do this for a minute before something else has to die in replacement of the original death. If ever he touches that same creature again, it will return to being dead forever.

His talent soon comes to the aid of private investigator Emerson (Chi McBride), and together they solve crimes by interviewing the recently dead and then move on to collect the reward. His life becomes further complicated when he learns of the death of his childhood sweetheart Charlotte "Chuck" Charles (Anna Friel) and Ned finds himself unable to send her back to death. And so that's the primary basis of the series, solving crimes on one end and a highly complicated romance on the other.

I love this series on so many levels, it's so hard to even begin to enumerate why I like it. I could go my typical geeky route and first praise the quality of the writing that is both engaging and delightful. It's a mix of interestingly unusual situations and razor sharp wit. Shows like this are amazingly refreshing considering how dark and dreary shows get these days and certainly worth the time and effort put into them.

The ensemble that brings the show to life is relatively unknown except in specialized circles, which doesn't really matter. True, they're not necessarily the most amazing in their field but they do work very well together, and that certainly helps bring the show to life. Each character was written with very specific personalities and quirks woven into their fabric and the actors have done a remarkable job of bringing them to life.

And of course the campy musical fanboy in me can't help but delight in that fact that THE Kristin Chenoweth is involved in the show as the unrequited Olive Snook. If that wasn't enough, Ellen Green is also a mainstay on the show and the two actresses certainly provide the basis for many potential musical numbers and routines.

The look and visual style of the show borders on being cartoonish, which seems to be aim of the creators, as if they wanted to add a somewhat magical and surreal tone to the entire series. They certainly managed this goal very well and the vibrancy and vitality of many of the scenes helps offset the fact that a significant part of the series involves dead bodies, the city morgue and various motives for committing violent crimes. It adds an odd juxtaposition of images and sequences that further enhances the strength of the entire show.

If you're looking for a very fresh new concept when it comes to dramatic comedies, then this is the series for you. It's a shame this first season only managed 9 full episodes before the strike but when they return this fall, I'm pretty hopeful for the more robust run that ABC has planned for the show.

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