PUSHING DAISIES: SEASON ONE
Film review by Gordon Justesen
Technical specs by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Lee Pace, Anna
Friel, Chi McBride, Jim Dale, Ellen Greene, Swoosie Kurtz, Kristin Chenoweth
Creator: Bryan Fuller
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 379 Minutes
Release Date: September 16, 2008
ďYou touch murder victims, you ask who killed them, you touch them again, they go back to being dead and then you collect the reward?Ē
ďThatís it in a nutshell.Ē
I never thought Iíd find myself saying this, but it seems as though there is more creative originality in television than in motion pictures these days. How else does one explain a show like Pushing Daisies? This has got to be the most brilliantly outlandish series to grace the small screen in quite some time.
I have no idea what lengths series creator Bryan Fuller had to go to in order to get this show the green light, but Iím sure it wasnít easy. Even with all the great original ideas circulating on television, the premise of this series is a bit of a stretch. Just the notion that it managed to air on a major network is pretty mind blowing.
The premise of Pushing Daisies is one for the television history books, as far as Iím concerned. We follow a likable chum named Ned (Lee Pace), who works by day as a pie maker in a bakery called The Pie Hole. He enjoys life as it is, despite coming to grips with loneliness from time to time.
But making pies isnít his only trait. It turns out that Ned, at a very young age, discovered a unique ability. With a simple touch, he could bring the dead back to life, be it people or objects. However, itís a power that he has never put to extravagant use.
The reason? Well with every great gift in life, there always seems to be a catch. In Nedís case, it goes like this; if he touches anything heís brought back to life a second time, they go right back to the afterlife from whence they came.
So his power is very much cursed, and in no other case is this better illustrated than in the case of Chuck (Anna Friel), who was Nedís boyhood crush. He makes a crucial decision to bring her back to life as she lays in her coffin at the funeral home. It means that much to him just to be around her, even if he canít touch once more.
But Ned doesnít only make his living as a pie maker. Working with private eye Emerson (Chi McBride), he solves murders in a way exclusive to him. He touches the victims, asks who killed them, touches them again so they become dead again, and as a result collecting the reward on the capture of suspects. To tell you the truth, I would concoct the very same plan if I were in Nedís shoes.
And his dilemma with Chuck also leads to an unusual romantic triangle. It turns out that someone else is after Nedís heart. That woman is Olive (Kristin Chenoweth), a lovable but extremely ditzy co-worker of Nedís at The Pie Hole.
The mood and style of Pushing Daisies is quite simply unlike anything I have yet to see on television. It makes sense that one of the showís producers is Barry Sonnenfeld, because watching the show I felt the same kind of unique quirkiness I experienced with his films Men in Black and The Addams Family. The set pieces are most astounding, and make tremendous use of color. Each episode promises something tremendous for the eyes to gaze upon.
But the real strength within the series lies with lead actor Lee Pace, a most charismatic newcomer. He gave a solid supporting performance in Robert De Niroís vastly underrated film, The Good Shepard, and thereís no question that we will be seeing more of him thanks in large part to his work here. He provides a most original type of heroic detective in Ned.
In addition, the chemistry between Pace and co-star Anna Friel, a gorgeous sight for the eyes I might add, is another superb quality the show has to offer. And as much as I adore Ms. Friel, Kristin Chenoweth is simply irresistible as the rival love interest. She steals just about every scene sheís in.
Pushing Daisies is a most dynamic and original series. I fear that because of its extraordinarily unique qualities, it may not last long on the air. Hereís hoping more and more people discover this one of a kind series on DVD or Blu-ray and help give it extended life during its second season.
I've gotten to see some impressive television offerings on Blu-ray, including Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, but Pushing Daisies really shows how good it can be. The show is a colorful banquet of art design and imagination, and the high definition anamorphic transfer makes for incredibly beautiful and detailed viewing. Images are crisp and superbly contrasted throughout. Very, very impressive.
The TrueHD soundtrack is better than you might expect for a broadcast television show...plenty of dialogue, to be sure, but the effects and music beds make for extra dynamic range and a more expansive listening experience than you might otherwise expect. As with the video quality, Warner has exceeded the norm and raised the bar as far as Blu-ray television presentations in this department.
Keeping with the spirit of the show itself, and in similar fashion to the DVD release, the extras on this First Season package from Warner are provided in a most unusual manner. Basically, thereís an interactive featurette titled ďPie Time-Time for PieĒ. Upon choosing this viewing option, which you can do with all of the nine episodes, you can access numerous behind the scenes material and mini commentaries from the cast and crew. Just wait for a slice of pie to appear on the screen and youíre good to go! The extras arenít available individually, but I give extra credit for the unique approach.
Pushing Daisies is every bit as engaging as I expected when I first learned of its premise. Iím only disappointed that the First Season wasnít longer (thank the writerís strike for that misfortune) but Iím so won over by the series that I am already pumped for the new season!