I shall describe the series into three words: macabre, bizarre, and colourful. It is a really refreshing take to the television history, considering at that time TV was already dominated by the The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, or The Wire type—which I tried to move on from. Created by Bryan Fuller, this show which only lasted for two seasons (2007-2009) has a very inviting premise:
- The main character is endowed with an ability to wake the dead with one flesh-to-flesh touch.
- However, the second touch with the same being renders them dead again, this time forever.
- If the main character lets the dead live for more than one minute, the universe will conduct their own arbitrary “cosmic exchange” by killing another living being around the dead.
The main character mentioned above named Ned (Lee Pace) who is often referred to as “The Piemaker” because he loves piemaking and builds his own diner named The Pie Hole. The narrative starts at the time Ned was around 9 years old and first found his ability by accidentally waking his dying mother, learning that his mother’s resuscitation results in his crush’s dad who lives next door die as the “payment” for his mother’s being alive, and then inadvertently killing his mother forever when later she touched him again—all in the same day.
Twenty years later, a capitalist Private Investigator Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) discovers Ned’s ability and recruits him to investigate deaths by literally waking the dead and asking them who killed them. Little do they know that their first case is Charlotte ‘Chuck’ Charles (Anna Friel), Ned’s crush whose father he inadvertently killed, and who just got killed. Loving Chuck so much, Ned chooses to resuscitate Chuck forever, eventhough that means both of them are forbidden from touching forever.
The three—Ned, Emerson, and Chuck—then form an investigating team. The story then revolves heavily around them, Olive Snook (Kristin Chenoweth)—a waitress in The Pie Hole who has unrequited feeling for Ned and who is bothered by why Ned is so conscious with touching, Digby—Ned’s dog, and Lily (Swoosie Kurtz) and Vivian Charles (Ellen Greene)—Chuck’s aunts who isolate themselves from the outer world.
For such a macabre theme, Pushing Daisies brings out a refreshing tone using their choice of colour. Being thematically comparable to Tim Burton’s grim outlook displayed in his works, what differentiates Pushing Daisies is its contrasting sense of the show’s theme and peculiar cinematography.
Look at the ordered green tone: how could such grim theme of Ned’s mother dying be visually aided with beautiful cinematography? This reminds me of Wes Anderson’s peculiar tone setting, although not that similar.
Other than the colours, the way death is depicted in general is also not conventional. Barely any tears are shed on the course of the show. In lieu of depicting death as a powerful narrative—as it’s close to the feeling of loss, hopelessness, or whathaveyou in our societies—Pushing Daisies chooses to talk about it nonchalantly, lightly, without recourse. Even the three main characters benefit from cheating with death—by resuscitating the dead for only one minute, they gather information on the killer’s identity and then get handsomely paid for “solving murders.”
For a very short-lasting show, Pushing Daisies also offers a very neat storyline and a nice wrap-up at the end. It, along with the characters, developed beautifully throughout two years. The most memorable one is Olive Snook’s character who becomes more and more interesting and funny nearing the end. The conflicts are bizarre too and benefit from the overall theme of the show. Olive suddenly becoming a nun? Lily and Vivian used to be a team of synchronised swimmers? Thanks to the ridiculous plots, they all are hilarious instead of illogical. This is not to discredit the smart plots of the show that enrich the entire story and contribute to the story advancement, such as when Ned suddenly does not want to utilise his gift anymore, or when Chuck chooses her dad over Ned. Sometimes, this show displays warmth that is still palpable.
But what makes Pushing Daisies particularly particular (this is how Bryan Fuller would’ve worded what I’m trying to convey here!) is its art department. And yes, I count dialogues as one of its memorable aesthetics: fast-paced, witty, punny dialogues that at first you despise, second you tolerate, and the third time you hear it, you just accept that you lose and Bryan Fuller and his team are a genius writers and that you have no other option than to laugh. I remember the Bees and Damn… sorry, Dam episodes as succinctly encapsulating the insufferable punny puns.
Adding them all to the overall aesthetics, Pushing Daisies is a treat to the eyes. The music, costume, details are tailored specifically to each episode. I’m not talking about half-assed efforts here, but whole-assed effort.
The theme of the episode is Bee, and of course, it is very visually satisfying for Chuck to don this dress. Also, look at the properties behind and especially *whispers* that window!
However, logical mind can’t help be bothered by several bothersome pieces in the show. Despite being witty and punny, sometimes the dialogues are too fast-paced that I needed to employ subtitles in order to follow what they were saying. Even then, I must pause several times due to it being too fast-paced any living being wouldn’t be able to follow 100%. The too fast-paced story also somewhat permits interesting things happen narrated and not acted, such as when Chuck has come to some revelation about her identity and the narrator needs to narrate when Ned tells her instead of showing Ned debunking the stories to her and showing her surprise. It could’ve been better if they had shown some effort to not make important scenes look simplified.
Another bothersome thing in the show is mind-bogging story loopholes. One of the biggest story loophole is Lily and Vivian’s last name. If Charlotte’s father’s last name is Charles, why are the aunts named “Charles” as well, when they were supposed to have a romantic history with her dad? Also, isn’t it weird to want to take care the child of a man who breaks off his engagement to you (Vivian) especially knowing that he might have conceived the child during their engagement? Some mysteries are never revealed.
In the end, Pushing Daisies is a lovely treat. I had so much fun watching it the first time I wouldn’t think twice to watch it the second time, especially knowing that I’d discover more puns and funs. Next time, I want to bring my blanket in front of the TV along with a slice of pie, which I have been craving for weeks now thanks to Pushing Daisies.
Picture from: https://tvatemywardrobe.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/pushing-daisies-pie.png