There has been some excitement about Pushing Daises from folks who like smart weird TV. For those that are watching it the attitude has been the sadly appropriate "this is great: this will be cancelled any second now." It was created by Bryan Fuller who also brought us Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls -- similarly quirky shows that deal with death and spirituality in a very pop-silly way.
Pushing Daisies has an exhausting premise. For no reason a guy has the ability to touch things and bring them back to life. If he touches them again, even accidentally, they go back to being dead, this time forever. If he brings something back to life for more than a minute the universe "course corrects" (as Desmond on Lost would put it) and takes the life of a random person in proximity. I got tired just writing that, but nowhere near as tired as I get hearing it reiterated at the beginning of every episode by a condescending, if endearingly sweet, narrator. Joss Whedon has said that the first six episodes of any show are the pilot -- you have to keep reintroducing your concept in your first six episodes because anyone of these might be a viewer's first one. Firely does this deftly. Pushing Daisies tries to use variations on the lesson to keep us from getting bored -- at least they do not repeat the rules the same way again and again over the opening credits for example -- but there is so much that needs explaining, I cannot imagine there is any way to do it where you do not feel like you are getting punched with the exposition fist. At least one reviewer said the narrator makes it work because he is so perfect; the narrator does a yeoman's job, I agree, but in my opinion there is no way to pull it off gracefully. Explaining the premise is like one guy lugging a sofa into the room every week. (To make matter's worse this is not the only place the narrator intrudes -- constantly the show is telling when it should be showing). And the arbitrary rules do not grow from the story -- they feel imposed by the screenwriters to gives their characters good conflicts: Ned brings his childhood sweetheart back to life, but they can never touch now (ten bucks says the creator's favorite star crossed lovers were Rogue and Gambit); Ned went over the one minute mark when he was a child and accidentally killed his sweetheart's dad; keeping his sweetheart alive killed someone else. And so on. Good conflicts all, but not natural ones.
The show feels like nothing else on television, but it feels a lot like early-1990s Tim Burton, especially the colors, and whimsical stock characters. Since even Tim Burton is no longer Tim Burton, I suppose this is necessary, I still feel like I am watching re-runs.
On the other side of these problems, however, is a charming cast, possibly the most charming I have ever seen -- in part because none of the actors is overexposed, none of them are standard issue. Lee Pace, who plays Ned, is a relatively new actor but I already love him. He has the weirdest part to play, the strangest mix of emotions about his powers, and he carries it off brilliantly. Suppressed friendliness, love forever chained to fear.
I fell head over heals in love with Anna Friel years ago when she did Pantene Commercials in the UK (and this new wonderful Virgin Atlantic commercial there as well). Pantene is pronounced Pan-TEN in the UK by the way. (and Adidas in the UK is prounced AHD-ee-das not Ad-EE-dis).
She is elfin, but completely approachable, beautiful in a unique and specific way. I would describe her as quirky-beautiful -- exactly the mode the show is going for. Plus her name is "Chuck." My heart absolutely melts.
And Chi McBride, whose best role was the principle on Boston Public (a show I loved) -- has tremendous presence, and does weird better than I would have expected. Swoosie Kurtz is great to see again, and even Kristin Chenoweth, who I kinda hate, really gets the part she is supposed to play.
The show has a lot of problems, but the casting alone is enough to keep it afloat for me. This is the TV equivallent of buying a comic book just for the art. It probably will not be enough to keep it afloat for the network so watch it now.