Gone Too Soon: “Pushing Daisies”

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Ned is a humble pie maker. He spends his days doing normal pie-maker things like chopping fruit, making crusts, and waking murder victims to ask who killed them so that he can collect the rewards with his PI partner Emerson Cod. The quiet life.

He is the proud (or often not-so-proud) owner of a magic finger, one that can bring a dead thing back to life with one touch and return it to corpse-hood with a second touch. If he happens to keep the dead thing alive for more than one minute, however, something else must die in its place. These are the rules. Small in number, but large in complexity. Don’t you love a show with a rulebook?

Ned goes around un-deading and re-deading people to his heart’s content until one day he brings back his childhood sweetheart, Charlotte “Chuck” Charles, and can’t bring himself to re-dead her, setting in motion a series of delightful complications and catastrophes in the fluorescent fairy tale of love, death, crime, forbidden touching, and more death called Pushing Daisies.

Pushing Daisies was itself re-deaded in 2009 after only a season and a half, but not before it told us a sweet, zany, and joyfully morbid story that will long be mourned and celebrated. And this is why:

 

The far-off land of Couer d’Couers

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Pushing Daisies is a fairy tale. In classic fairy tale fashion, Ned awakens his true love with a magical touch, and they go on to live happily ever after. Sort of. Happily ever after, but with a lot more crying, murder, and sarcasm than usual in order to make it more appealing to us. Like all the best fairy tales, this one takes place in a beautiful imaginary land of colorful characters and even more colorful colors.

Every location in Pushing Daisies is like an illustration of a vaguely recognizable but much more delightful civilization. It’s a fanciful, over-the-top community of yellows, oranges, and greens where everything is sunny and organic (including the mood-altering drugs). People run through fields of sunflowers, work in buildings shaped like pies, make cars fueled by dandelions, and have names like Sir Leonard Gaswind and Ramsfeld Snuppy, with all the action related by Jim Dale’s deep, whimsical warm hug of a narrator voice that sets the perfect storybook tone. The entire atmosphere is fantastical, optimistic, and completely original and unexpected. What other show looks or feels like this one?

 

Murder is fun!

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But for all the visual charm, it’s really the murdering that seals the deal. Combining the brightness with morbidity and gallows humor creates Pushing Daisies’ distinct style where even vicious murder is a good reason to be playfully exaggerated.

There are no simple gunshot wounds on this show. Please. How boring. Pushing Daisies is more about drowning Mike White in a vat of taffy or having Joel McHale accidentally slip on poisoned coffee and impale himself on a bedazzled dog brush, twice. The increasingly ludicrous methods of killing victims are just as amusing and far-fetched as the sets and costumes, and the aftermath of twisted necks, flattened faces, and full-body bee sting pustules are rendered in a similarly cartoonish way, halfway between live action and animation, straddling real life and fantasy. When I die, I want to be killed by Pushing Daisies.

Gleefully indulging in crazy deaths also helps balance out some of the sentimentality of the show. At least twice per episode, Ned and Chuck are completely adorable, verging on adorkable, but no matter how many cute ways they discover to gaze lovingly at each other or touch without really touching, we know someone is always about to get cut in half by an escalator, which helps.

 

This show is delicious

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It would be a slap in the face to the legacy of Pushing Daisies to go any further without discussing the serious topic of pie. You might say it’s a show about love, or a show about death, or a show about clever repartee and murder puns, but really it’s a show about pie. Rarely is there a scene that doesn’t involve eating pie, or making pie, or grating cheese on top of pie, or dismissing Kristin Chenoweth to go fetch some more pie. They do everything it’s remotely possible to do with pie except make Lee Pace perform a version of N’SYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye” rewritten as “Pie Pie Pie.” That never happened. But that’s what Kickstarter is for, right?

As part of the colorful flair of the show, every scene in The Pie Hole is backed by display after display of Technicolor pies full of peaches and berries, to the point that they actually present a viewing handicap. They’re so enticing that it’s easy to get lost in them until you realize you missed a whole scene while distracted by the Everest of strawberry pie looming behind Chenoweth’s eleven inches of height. It’s a real problem. In conclusion, pie.

Next page . . . Lee Pace’s eyebrows and other important topics

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