ABC’s delightful and imaginative series Pushing Daisies could be nearing the end of its run on network television. Production has started on the last episode of its 13 episode order, with sluggish ratings suggesting the network will not order a back 9 pick-up of the cult favourite. Campaigns are underway to help save the series, here and here. Daisies got off to a great start in its first season receiving much favourable critical attention, but was halted drastically by the WGA strike, and it seems it has straggled to regain its original momentum. As a new show trying to make its mark in the televisual landscape, and with one of the most bizarre premises a TV series has ever seen, it was arguably one of the shows hurt most by the strike. Daisies aired just nine episodes of its first season before being shut down, and ABC executives decided not to order additional episodes once the strike was over, (something they did with their other favourites Grey’s Anatomy, Brothers & Sisters and Ugly Betty), instead choosing to hold off on new episodes until the next American fall season. This meant that a show that had barely found an audience was absent from TV screens for almost 10 months; a long time for any show let alone a quirky little one that had only ever aired nine episodes.
Pushing Daisies stars Lee Pace as Ned, a pie maker with an unusual gift; he can bring life to dead things with his touch. Once touched a time limit of one minute applies whereby Ned must touch the thing again, committing it to death forever, or something else must die in its place. Ned decides to use his powers for good, solving murders with local P.I Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) by touching murder victims and getting vital information from them within the one-minute time frame. Anna Friel plays Ned’s childhood sweetheart, Charlotte ‘Chuck’ Charles, who is murdered and subsequently brought back to life by Ned. The rules of Ned’s gift however mean that Ned and Charlotte, although clearly in love, can never touch – ever.
If you’ve never seen the show the premise reads as highly convoluted, but in viewing it, its delightful, unique and refreshing; a true original in a landscape of law, crime, and hospital dramas. Its high production values are evident in its rich and textured sets, costuming, and special effects. The whole thing feels like a fairytale, a storybook being played out in real life. The general rules of television don’t apply here, and there are often moments of pure, unpretentious joy.
Waitress Olive Snook, who works at The Pie Hole with Ned, is an irreverent, sassy blonde whose love for Ned is evident to all but Ned himself. Played by the enchanting and incredibly talented Kristin Chenoweth, Olive is prone to musical interludes such as her fully orchestrated rendition of ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’ delivered as she shuts The Pie Hole for the night; or her duet with Chuck’s Aunt Vivian (Ellen Greene) ‘Make a Little Bird House in Your Soul,’ an elegy to the grief Vivian feels over Chuck’s supposed death, and how Olive suggest she should deal with it. Vivian also has her own musical moments, such as her hopeful and bittersweet rendition of ‘Morning has Broken,’ delivered as she walks from her house into the rain, a new woman reborn from the grief and depression that has plagued her.
Pushing Daisies is a visual fantasyland, with a decidedly 50’s throwback aesthetic coupled with heightened colour and stylisation. It even feels emotionally like a 50’s family drama, with its sense of innocence and jubilation. It is witty and charming without any sense of highbrow television elitism. It is quite simply, fun.
As of today Channel Nine in Australia has no scheduled date for when they will begin screening this gem, but I was advised by their programming department it would most likely air over summer, from mid-December onwards. If you can’t wait that long, and I hope I have convinced you that you can’t, Pushing Daisies is available from Amazon.com in Region 1 format.