When Showtime cancelled Bryan Fuller’s acclaimed series “Dead Like Me,” he offered this in an interview: “There are plenty of stories yet to tell in the reaper universe.” Fuller probably didn’t know it at the time, but the next cosmos he would create on the small screen would be that of the revivers, not the reapers.
The reviver in question in “Pushing Daisies” is Ned (Lee Pace, “The Good Shepherd”), who discovers at a young age he has the ability to bring the dead back to life with the touch of his finger. Unfortunately, this power comes with a “curious caveat,” to quote avuncular British narrator Jim Dale. Ned must touch the revitalized subject again within a minute to re-kill him, otherwise someone nearby will snuff it instead. As Ned learns the hard way from his mother’s death, once said person is revived, another touch of his finger will put the undead back to rest.
With all the stipulations of this fantastic ability, Ned might be tempted to exercise the old porn-star idiom: just because you have it doesn’t mean you have to use it. Indeed, as an adult, Ned applies his magic touch mostly to withered fruit for his piemaking operation. That is, until detective Emerson Cod (Chi McBride, “Boston Public”) discovers Ned’s ability and realizes his temporary powers of rejuvenation are perfect for resuscitating murder victims just long enough to ask them their killer’s name.
Things get messy, though, when one of Ned’s first “subjects” happens to be Charlotte “Chuck” Charles (Anna Friel), with whom Ned shared his first kiss. And since our boy has no apparent penchant for necrophilia, he has no choice but to let his first love live. Of course, Chuck can’t touch Ned, which should make for an interesting courtship.
Elements of bizarre surrealism in “Daisies” shouldn’t be surprising – the director of the first episode was Barry Sonnenfeld, and he paints “Daisies” with the same dreamlike Burton-esque qualities as his movies “Men in Black” and “The Addams Family.” From exuberant waitress Olive Snook (Kristin Chenoweth, “RV”), who wears flower-print dresses that match her wallpaper, to Lily (Swoosie Kurtz, “Huff”), Chuck’s eye-patched agoraphobic aunt, the characters of “Daisies” don’t quite live in the same world we do. Even Chuck – the most relatively normal cast member – seems totally unfazed by the fact she was brought back from the dead by a man she hasn’t seen in 20 years.
These strange characters, combined with witty deadpan by McBride and enough murder mystery to satisfy “CSI” fans, are the reason “Daisies” is ABC’s most impressive new offering this fall. By combining the best elements of two genres that usually draw few of the same viewers, the show has created a wholly original synthesis that doesn’t look or feel like anything else on television.
Wednesdays at 8 p.m.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars