I feel compelled, both by my love for its fanciful adult fairytale overtones and my deep, girlish devotion to Lee Pace, to speak up for Pushing Daisies.
This is, simply put, the most original television show on prime time these days. It revolves around Ned, a pie-maker played by Lee Pace, who can magically bring people back to life with his touch. This talent is not without caveats, of course. A second touch will put a person out forever, and the reanimated can only be alive again for one minute — otherwise, someone else has to die. Ned uses these powers to help a private investigator solve murders the easiest way, by asking the dead how they came to be that way.
In the first season, Ned was given a second chance with his childhood sweetheart, Charlotte “Chuck” Charles (Anna Friel), after her murder and subsequent resurrection. Ned broke the rules for her and let her stay around. Their relationship is particularly special because, despite his affection, Ned can never touch her, so they must almost always fall back on words to bridge the gap between them. Their exchanges have given television some of its sweetest and most imaginative dialogue ever.
The whole thing may sound ridiculous, because it kind of is. But viewers are easily distracted from the show’s unlikely premise by a colorful world, whimsical storylines, and the utterly real and believable interactions of the central characters. Underneath all the vivid sparkle and flash, these are people with very real problems — love, loss, rejection, cynicism. They just deal with trouble using more wit and flippancy than usual.
Since the beginning of the show’s second season this fall, Pushing Daisies has kept up its twisted dealings with death and retained its overall fantasy feel. The heroes have solved murders involving nuns and a friend-for-hire service; Ned and Chuck have seen the first few bumps in their relationship, as all couples do. The show is moving along with all the brilliant bouncing wonder of season one.
Yet not enough people are watching it. It’s been pulling in around six million viewers per week, which is a solid number but rather unimpressive when compared to other ratings. Cancellation rumors have begun to circulate.
The thought breaks my heart, honestly. I love the show. I love that Pushing Daisies tells stories no other shows are telling, with players more funny and unique and genuine than most of its competitors. It’s obviously a different kind of program, but it exists completely confident in the exceptional world it has created.
Perhaps first-time viewers find the sets garish, the dialogue saccharine, the plots outlandish. But I believe that anyone who gives the show a real chance, and gets to know these characters and their problems, will find himself relating and sympathizing with situations and people that may at first seem too distant to touch. Like all fairy tales, the one enjoying the tale must give himself a chance to settle into an unfamiliar world. Anyone who judges it before allowing for this is missing out on the true phenomenon of storytelling that Pushing Daisies offers.
Pushing Daisies airs Wednesday nights at 8/7 central on ABC. Watch it. You won’t be sorry.