Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Take Me to the Pilots '07: ABC's "Pushing Daisies"

[It's here that I remind you not to view this as a review so much as a collection of first impressions. I doubt ABC would mind one way or the other, though, because I really love "Pushing Daisies." I'll get to the rest of ABC's pilots by next week. For now, I'm concentrating on Showtime's "Meadowlands" (trippy and interesting) and maybe finally getting around to "John From Cincinnati" and "Big Love" (I'm behind). So "Big Shots," "Dirty Sexy Money" and "Women's Murder Club" will go under a separate heading. Oh and although Sepinwall is too busy whoring himself out in the almighty name of Tony Soprano, he'll eventually get around to looking at these pilots.]

Show: "Pushing Daisies" (ABC dramedy)
The Pitch: If you loved "Dead Like Me" and "Wonderfalls" and "The Amazing Screw-On Head," here's a show that may be even more quirky...
Quick Response: I've never seen a pilot that so clearly DEMANDED a "Save This Show" campaign earlier and more urgently than "Pushing Daisies." Well, maybe I have. When FOX sent out "Wonderfalls," I knew I loved the pilot and I knew there was no way it could possibly succeed and it's no coincidence that "Pushing Daisies" is from Bryan Fuller, the man largely responsible for those three shows I mentioned in my pitch, as well as for some of this season's better episodes of "Heroes." The thing that may give "Pushing Daisies" -- about a man with the ability to resurrect the dead, albeit briefly and inconveniently -- is that it's quirky and loopy and whimsical where "Dead Like Me" was quirky and brooding and cynical. While I may have instantly fallen in love with Jaye from "Wonderfalls" and George from "Dead Like Me," I can understand why they weren't necessarily accessible to viewers who, well, aren't me. Despite his twisted past, Lee Pace's Ned is less of a sarcasm-spewing anti-hero than a swoonably romantic lead, which will improve the show's prospects. I liked Pace on "Wonderfalls" and this would be a star-making performance if ABC could get anybody to tune in to a weird-ass new dramedy without a powerhouse lead-in. Sure-thing supporting performers Chi McBride, Kristin Chenowith will also help (as will Swoosie Kurtz and Ellen Greene if they're going to be regulars). I'm tempted to wonder how well episodes will play without Fuller's marvelous wordplay (assuming he won't go all Aaron Sorkin on this one) and Barry Sonnenfeld's direction (the best think he's done since either 1997's "Men in Black" or the pilot for "The Tick," depending on your point of view). Then again, if viewers stupidly shun this one like Fuller's other shows, that won't become an issue. Others are likely to find the visuals, narration (courtesy of audiobook legend Jim Dale) and storybook format to be a little twee, but I didn't. As I said, let's start deciding now what we can send ABC to urge the network to reconsider canceling "Pushing Daisies." Flowers? Pies? Honey? Kristin Chenowith (she's small, persuasive and easily transportable)?
Desire to Watch Again: Strong. To date, "Pushing Daisies" is the best pilot I've watched this summer.
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: The only thing more likely to get "Pushing Daisies" cancelled would be adding Eric Balfour to the cast.


  1. Hey, I've watched Pushing Daisies! (And the three ABC half-hours, too.) I'm too busy whoring myself out to write about them, not to watch them. Get your facts straight, bub.

  2. Anonymous11:11 AM

    I liked this pilot very much but got a big sense of "where do they go from here?" at the end of it. Is the show going to be about finding a way for the two leads to actually be able to touch each other again, therefore fulfilling the love story? Or are they just going to tread water every week, solving murders and hitting the same note about love that can never be realized? The latter is my fear.

    I also liked Wonderfalls at the beginning, but after a few episodes got bored with the quirky and just wanted more from the show and I felt a similar feeling while watching this pilot. I'm going to give it a shot, but as Veronica Mars might say, "Mark me down as skeptical."

  3. Count me amongst those who found it twee; "overly precious" is how I've been describing it to people. Never been a huge Fuller fan (although "Company Man" is one of the best hours of TV I saw all year). The whimsy is so inorganic and annoyingly in your face (every shop and restaurant is given a too clever by half name, the visual scheme which plays like poor man's Burton, Kristin Chenoweth as a horned-up kewpie doll, etc...). I also agree with Carrie that I don't see how this premise can sustain itself for 22 episodes. The ticking clock element of its gimmick is fairly limiting and watching the show pretend it's never read an X-Men comic book while its two romantic leads struggle with their inability to be physically intimate was getting irksome by the end of the pilot.

    I give it 5 episodes before people are sending pies to ABC.

  4. Yeah. I fully accept the charges of tweeness or over precocity. Something in Fuller's style just resonnates with me for some reason.

    His week-to-week premises are all the same as well -- Ordinary person with extraordinary abilities has to use said powers to help one lost soul per week (either literally or figuratively). So George had to collect one soul per week and encourage them to go into the light on "Dead Like Me." And Jaye had to listen to one animal per week to set one person's life right. So if Aaron has to help solve one murder per week, I'm fine with that for a while, at least. The stuff with Anna Friel's character just adds a Moonlighting touch (GET IT?!?!? "TOUCH"?).

    All I'm saying is that I really liked the pilot and I know that I don't need to worry about where it goes from here, because it isn't going anywhere from here... It's a nice relief...


  5. Anonymous2:01 PM

    I loved the Wonderfalls pilot, but agree with the poster who said it got tired after a couple of episodes. And I thought Dead Like Me was completely overrated.

    I still definitely plan on giving Pushing Daisies a chance, but I have a feeling it will be another "The Nine": heavily hyped pilot followed by mediocre series that gets canceled after a couple of months and leaves fans upset. Unfortunately, I have a feeling the PD fans will be of the cultish variety and won't shut up about the cancellation for years and years.

  6. Anonymous2:36 PM

    anonymous, hah. Do you're saying my anger over the Firefly cancellation is a bit out of place this many years later?

  7. Anonymous9:24 AM

    ummm....Lee Pace's character is named Ned, not Aaron.