Pushing Daisies: The Complete First Season (DVD)
Reviewed by Nomad
Starring Lee Pace, Anna Friel, Chi McBride, Jim Dale, Ellen Greene
Created by Bryan Fuller
Released by Warner Home Video
There isn’t enough nice in the world. That’s probably the funniest thing you’ll ever read on a horror site, but the facts are the facts. Hollywood would have you believe that nice doesn’t sell, so they’ll take some pleasant characters, set them off to live their lives and then most likely drop a house on them or blow up their cat to watch them harden and become “interesting”. “Pushing Daisies” breaks that mold. Clever writing, unique and obscenely sunny cinematography and an underlying root system teaming with dark humor has made this show a veritable shock to the system, and inexplicably, it happens on a plain old broadcast channel right in the middle of prime time. Whoever made that bold move deserves a healthy pat on the back!
As I’d begun to explain, beneath the high contrast colors and blue skies of this idealized mini-city, we follow Ned (Pace), a pie maker with an odd talent. One might say that gift is the amazing smells coming from his shop, the Pie Hole, but those closest to him would laugh and say his talent for resurrecting the dead is much more impressive, though pies do have their place in the magic of this world. With just a touch, the spark of life leaps back into any dead thing, in whatever shape it was left in when it kicked. Those shapes include flattened, gnawed on, well done, punctured, freezer burned and water logged. This particular talent is exploited by Emerson Cod (McBride), private detective, whose recent string of successes can be linked to the questioning of said dead people. The catch here is that after Ned touches a body, they only have 60 seconds to speak their last, last words before they must be returned to eternal slumber with another touch. One touch, living. Second touch, dead forever. If the clock ticks past 60 seconds, someone nearby loses his or her life.
Also of interest is the lovely Charlotte Charles (Friel), affectionately called Chuck, who was the childhood love of Ned, and then recently deceased ... and then recently awakened by Ned, who was so flustered with the sight of her again that he let the clock run long and someone paid the price. Now Chuck lives with Ned, both hopelessly in love but not allowed to touch, lest she be cold and lifeless once more. Tragic! It’s sort of like Shakespeare with brighter scenery and the occasional music number.
Also worth mentioning is Olive (Kristin Chenoweth), who works at the Pie Hole and takes care of Ned’s dog Digby, whom he also cannot touch for obvious reasons, and who is also hopelessly in love with Ned (Olive .. not the dog, though I’m sure Digby’s affections are clear). Finally we have Chuck’s shut-in aunts (brilliantly played by Ellen Greene and Swoosie Kurtz ... in an eye patch).
If you’re thinking, “Gee, this sounds silly and, as result, stupid”, then this is not the show for you. Put plain as day, the show is jam-packed with silly and over the top, and therein lies its charm. This is a 50’s B-movie shot with excellent actors gifted with impeccable comedic timing and a whole bag of hysterical expressions to throw at the camera. We’ll call it a surrealistically sweet romantic comedy ... with dead people. I’ll also add the director’s obvious love for Alfred Hitchcock which surfaces in the occasional homage to Vertigo, The Birds or <>I>Psycho throughout the show. Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the over abundance of cleavage in “Pushing Daisies”. I’m not sure if it’s the director or cinematographer or the costumer who is to thank, but God bless them. It’s magnificent ... and everywhere.
Now you’ve fallen in love and want to know what else is packed into this DVD love and death fest. Oddly, the extras center around a pie, and clicking on an episode brings you to 1 to 3 plates of pie with a virtual fork! Clicking a piece opens the extra footage, which mixes scenes from the show and interviews with the cast and crew on topics of characters, scene effects, storylines and even the director's obsession with Hitchcock. Those involved seem to have a genuine love for the show they are creating, and this comes through on the screen. You can’t help but have a good time watching them search their minds for moments they recall or mess with cast members. 18 mini-features in all are found within your pie slices.
Pre-order is the word of the day, as normally you’d be paying 30 dollars for 9 episodes and your little basket of pie extras, but acting now will get you the set for fewer than $20 on Amazon. Say it with me: ”Wow ... what a deal!” Actually, $30 is a small price to pay for a thoroughly original show that you’ll find yourself showing to friends for years to come.
4 1/2 out of 5
3 out of 5
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