To say that I thought this show sounded crazy-insane is giving it the benefit of a doubt. My curiosity was aroused by a pair of trusted reviews and after that a personal recommendation. Following that, I promptly found it at a video store, rented the first disc, popped it into the player and fell “head over heels” in love with the charms of Pushing Daisies…
When he was but a ten-year-old boy Ned discovered he had… a curse - or a gift? - of a sort. He watched his mother die of what appeared to be a heart attack right on their kitchen floor while baking pies. But then he touched her and she suddenly was among the living again… but alas, the neighbor almost immediately dies. Then later that night when leaning down to give her son a good-night kiss, Ned’s mother dies all over again – and this time she doesn’t awaken. Confused and upset, Ned’s world is about to further shatter when his grief-stricken father ships him off to boarding school, separating him not only from his remaining parent, but his childhood sweetheart, Charlotte. As time passes, Ned learns to single-handedly cope with his curse; he soon realizes that he can bring something – or someone back to life, but only for one minute and if he were to touch that person again, they’d die: forever. Years go by and Ned (Lee Pace) becomes an established bakery owner of The Pie Hole, one of the premier bakery shops around. He has a partnership with a private detective named Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) who uses Ned’s ability to re-awaken the dead in order to solve his cases – and any reward money that he might get as a result only helps Emerson’s cause. All of it is a well-oiled process until a young woman by the name of Chuck Charles becomes the top story on the ten ‘o clock news.
Chuck dies under mysterious circumstances while enjoying her first – and only adventure. Raised by her recluse aunts (Ellen Greene, Swoosie Kurtz), Chuck was a free-spirit but one that was sheltered when her aunts took her in following the death of her father. When Chuck is rumored to have been murdered on the ship, Emerson nabs the case and brings his trusty sidekick along… only problem is when Ned lays eyes on “Chuck,” he realizes she is Charlotte, the one girl he never forgot about. Awaking Chuck (Anna Friel), Ned tries to follow the rules that his gift demands but only problem is he can’t let go of Chuck a second time – and his ability to bring back the dead has another catch: if he doesn’t touch the person a second time, someone else must perish. By allowing Chuck to stay among the living, he gives her a second chance – one she fully embraces, but angers Emerson, and his only employee Olive (Kristin Chenoweth) who is in love with Ned, and makes no secret of it.
Okay, so anyone who likes quirky productions cannot go wrong with this show. It’s most definitely on the good kind of “insane” and is still to this day one of the most creative programs I’ve seen. ABC had developed a plot that worked in their favor because at the time – and even to this day, there was really nothing else like it on television. The premise could be thought morbid – or rather it is but there is something about the show that is perfectly endearing. The very nature of the show is always light-hearted. It is kind of like sitting down to a warm cup of your favorite tea or hot chocolate and catching up with old, treasured friends. It has been a long time since I watched the entire DVD set (instead I’ve merely re-watched the occasional random episode), but following that long ago rental, I was so enthralled with the series that I didn’t even finish renting, instead I followed a hunch and merely bought the entire first season and happily finished watching it at my own pace – needless to say, I positively adore this under-appreciated series...
It takes the right kind of audience to find something special in a series such as this. And what I mean by that is not everyone will think this is worth a look because they will be too “concerned” about how the premise might present itself – a story that is likely to raise its share of eyebrows and rattle a few staunch viewers. That Ned can wake the dead is, I’ll admit a bit of a stretch but the show has an infectious energy going for it and some truly wonderful characters. The way that Ned and Chuck respond to one another is perfectly charming. They have such a tender chemistry that it’s hard not to root for their happiness; Olive is hilarious (Kristen is as wonderful as ever in this role) and Emerson is… well, he’s the deadpan humorous voice in the show. (Two of my very favorite episodes are “Dummy” and “Bitter Sweet.”)
Whether or not you’ve already seen this, or are just getting into the series, know this – you’re not likely to see television quite like this anytime soon.
(Pushing Daisies is rated TV14 which equals a PG13 MPAA rating. The reason for such a rating was quite a bit of sexual innuendo that would often creep into the scripts. Naturally, the better part of the show is morbid, so the humor sometimes follows suit. At least one episode implies intimate relations between an unmarried couple. Various bodies are featured in the morgue – the camera pans most of the murders.)