It is with great sadness that I read about one of the best and original comedies on television, “Pushing Daisies,” will be doing just that next season. Never has a title been so perfect a pun since “Six Feet Under” ended. And it’s a damn shame, because Pushing Daisies is a more original show and one of the few things I looked forward to watching on prime time these days.
Perhaps it was too quirky for its own good. The basic premise? A virtuoso pie maker named Ned has a secret gift- his touch can bring things back from the dead. But only for a minute, then something else must die to take its place. And if he touches you twice- you’re dead for good. It’s a bit silly, but I like when magic has its rules. Otherwise you end up with day-walking vampires chugging holy water martinis with garlic-stuffed olives, and that’s just lame. Daisies was crammed with amusing characters, from Emerson Cod- the bulky black private eye (Chi McBride from Narc, The Frighteners) who uses Ned’s gift to help solve murders, to Ned’s childhood crush Charlotte aka “Chuck”- who he can never touch- because he saved her once. Probably the only man who appreciates condoms. The starry-eyed and star-crossed couple are played by Lee Pace (The Fall, Infamous) and Anna Friel (A Midsummer Night’s Dream).
Rounding out the cast are Swoosie Kurtz and Ellen “Suddenly Seymour!” Greene (Little Shop of Horrors) as Chuck’s eccentric aunts, who live in Grey Gardens-style reclusivity, and the delightfully named Olive Snook. Who is, of course, a snook who’s in unrequited love with Ned, and the show’s sharpest-tongued smartass. And it’s biggest doofus. Your typical show will consist of Emerson using Ned to solve a bizarre murder- the show has killed people with bees, exploding steam ovens, and cement mixer-magic tricks gone wrong in the last month alone- while the quirky crew shuffles around their mutual webs of deceit in the pie shop.
You can’t go wrong with pie, and the show has the best-looking pies since Waitress. Despite the health code violation of a shaggy dog named Digby, The Pie Hole is the kind of place that makes you long for a specialty pie restaurant around the block. They’d need to wheelbarrow me home. The show’s quirky humor, snarky narration by Jim Dale (who reads the Harry potter audio books, and was a regular in the Brit “Carry On” comedies) and fantastic set design made it a big stand-out in the prime time lineup. With reality shows and CSI-alikes crowding the schedule, it was nice to have a completely strange and often hilarious show like Pushing Daisies around. With cameos from the likes of Paul Reubens and Fred Willard, and directors like Barry Sonnenfeld and Peter O’Fallon (Suicide Kings) taking the helm, it really popped.
If anything, give your HDTV or Blu-Ray player a workout and watch the rest of the season. The colorful and imaginative sets- ranging from mountain convents, carnival side shows, and Emerson Cod’s amazing wardrobe- are worth watching for the eye candy alone. It’s unfortunate that yet another original show is getting the axe, and Pushing Daisies will join the ranks of Arrested Development, Carnivale, and Deadwood in the Island of Shows Unappreciated by Their Networks. Watch it while you can, it’s smart and funny, probably too much for its own good.