Death has been a focal point of many television series – “The Ghost Whisperer” and “Six Feet Under” for two opposite examples – yet unlike most of these shows, “Pushing Daisies” gives the subject new life.
Ned (Lee Pace, “Wonderfalls”) is a pie monger with a unique talent: He can bring the dead back to life with one touch. With private detective Emerson Cod (Chi McBride, “Boston Public”) and re-animated childhood sweetheart Charlotte “Chuck” Charles (Anna Friel, “Niagara Motel”), he solves murder mysteries and pulls shenanigans along the way.
The show’s storybook feel and enhanced, eye-catching colors are ingenious. The characters are as colorful as the scenery, possessing hilarious quirks and twitches without being over-the-top to the point of unrealistic. Cod is a good example of this: Breaking his stereotype as the stoic detective, Cod knits to relieve stress. After only a few episodes, sweaters and gun-cozies clutter his office.
So far “Daisies” hasn’t featured many guest stars. It’s mainly been, “Oh, it’s that guy! I remember him from . somewhere.” But the first (semi) big name came last week with the arrival of Molly Shannon of “Saturday Night Live.” The show’s carefree spirit – not to mention the fantastic wardrobe of ’50s-style cinched waists, tropical shirts and stiletto heels – will likely attract even more stars.
But the show’s lightheartedness often comes at a hyper-cute cost. It sometimes tends to dive too far into the “separated lovers” bit with Ned and Chuck, who exchange dialogue that would make a kitten roll its eyes. Calling hugs “an emotional Heimlich” or kissing through plastic wrap gets syrupy pretty fast.
“Daisies” also occasionally falls into “Scooby Doo” levels of predictability. As usual, the killer is always the least likely suspect. For example, during the search for the killer of Billy Balsam (Mike White, “The School of Rock”) the taffy storeowner, the audience is drawn to two characters: the conniving Dilly Balsam (Molly Shannon) and the health inspector. Balsam’s fiery temperament targets her as the all-too-likely suspect, so the health inspector remains the only other possibility. Thankfully, instead of giving the program a sitcom-like quality where everything is resolved by the end of each episode, the writers expand upon previous arcs to keep viewers guessing.
“Pushing Daisies” keeps getting better with more original stars and intricate plots. Even if the show doesn’t suit your immediate fancy, anyone can appreciate the Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation magic. Plus, with its 8 p.m. time slot, viewers have nothing else to watch but “Kid Nation.” At least “Pushing Daisies” has dialogue other than “deal with it.”
Wednesdays at 8 p.m.