“Well, I suppose dying’s as good as an excuse to start living.” – Charlotte “Chuck” Charles, Season 1, episode 1 Pushing Daisies
Ironic isn’t it, that the show about a man who can bring back the dead would be so right about it’s own fate. Pushing Daisies will in fact be a show that will live longer and develop the audience it so wanted after it’s premature demise on air.
The facts were these, the piemaker named Ned (Lee Pace, The Fall, TV’s Wonderfalls) has a gift. He can touch something that has died and bring it back to life, but only for exactly one minute. If within that minute he touches the thing again, it goes back to being dead, this time permanently. If he does not, something else within Ned’s current vicinity will die instead. And Ned cannot touch that the thing that he touched again, or it will go back to being dead. Such is the case with his childhood sweetheart, Charlotte “Chuck” Charles (Anna Friel, Land of the Lost), whom was found murdered on a cruise ship. Ned couldn’t bear to touch her again and make her forever deceased, so he kept her alive. The two are very much in love and live together, but can never touch.
Ned is a piemaker, a trait passed on by his deceased mother – who was the fist victim of Ned’s magic touch, and how he learned about the consequences of a second touch – and he owns a pie restaurant, The Pie Hole, with his partner Olive Snook (Kristin Chenoweth, Four Christmases, Broadway’s original cast of Wicked). Olive is hopelessly in love with Ned but is not the type of person to sabotage him and his newly refound love. Emerson Cod (Chi McBride, TV’s Boston Public), a private investigator, learns of Ned’s abilities and begins secretly employing him to discover clues about murders. How better to learn who killed someone than by bringing that someone back to life for exactly one minute?
Chuck had lived her life with her two aunts, Lilly (Swoozie Kurtz, Liar, Liar) and Vivian (Ellen Greene, Little Shop of Horrors) Charles, since her mother (so she was told) died in childbirth and her father died because he was in the vicinity when Ned kept his mother alive for more than one minute. Lilly and Vivian are severely agoraphobic, never leaving their house. Chuck cannot bear the sadness that her aunts feel about her untimely passing, so she bakes them pies with homeopathic mood enhancers to help lift their spirits.
Emerson is also relentlessly searching for his daughter who was taken from him by her mother, a con artist. He has written a pop-up book called “Lil Gum Shoe” full of hidden clues so that when it is published, his daughter might read it and find her way back to him.
By the time we arrive at season 2, Pushing Daisies has already established its quirky formula. Someone dies and Ned and the gang must figure it out, all while the stories of the main characters is developed a little further every week. But this is a TV show with grand scale. With candy colored sets and costumes that Tim Burton would be jealous of, a full score by Emmy winning composer Jim Dooley (The Simpsons Movie, Obsessed), and a fairy tale style narration provided by award winning actor/voice actor Jim Dale (Dr. Terminus in Pete’s Dragon, and the voice who reads on every Harry Potter audiobook).
Like so many TV shows, the writer’s strike took it’s toll on Pushing Daisies. By the time the pilot episode aired, critics were marvelling at the show’s originality. But only nine episodes were written before the writer’s strike hit and the first season went from 22 to only 13 episodes. A very long hiatus between seasons and a very frustrated home audience resulted in lackluster second season ratings. Even though 13 episodes were written, only 10 of them aired before ABC cancelled the show. They finally decided to air the remaining three episodes but they did so quietly and in a remote Saturday night time slot.
This release of the second season includes the three unaired episodes, including what has become the series finale. The very end of the finale is extremely rushed in trying to tie up all the loose ends, but fans have been abated by the news of the Pushing Daisies comic book series that will be overseen by show creator Bryan Fuller and will be published by DC Comics. Hopefully our hapless heroes will get the ending they so deserved, warmed up and a la mode like the comfort food that Pushing Daisies has become.
Episode 1 – Bzzzzzzzzz! – Honey based makeup company Betty’s Bees is under scrutiny with shady business deals and a dead cover girl. Guest stars Missi Pyle (Soccer Mom, Spring Breakdown) and French Stewart (3rd Rock From the Sun).
Episode 2 – Circus, Circus – The gange investigates the murders of several clowns. Guest star Rachael Harris (The Hangover).
Episode 3 – Bad Habits – A nun falls from a bell tower to her death, but it wasn’t an accident. Chuck wants to discover her lineage. Guest stars Mo Collins (MADtv), and Diana Scarwid (TV’s Wonderfalls).
Episode 4 – Frescorts – My Best Friend, Inc. supplies best friends to lonely people, but foul play is suspected when one of their nicest friends is found killed. Guest stars David Arquette (The Tripper).
Episode 5 – Dim Sum Lose Some – A Chinese food restaurant owner is found murdered, and the gang discovers an undercover gambling ring going on in the restaurant. Guest stars Stephen Root (Office Space) in a four episode arc.
Episode 6 – Oh Oh Oh It’s Magic – Ned meets his twin half brothers who are in a magic show with guest star Fred Willard (A Mighty Wind).
Episode 7 – Robbing Hood – A gazillionaire with a trophy wife is found dead in his mansion. Guest stars Jennifer Elise Cox (TV’s 10 Items or Less), and Shelley Berman (TV’s Boston Legal).
Episode 8 – Comfort Food – One of my favorites of the season! Olive and Ned go to the annual Best In Belly Comfort Food Cook-Off while Emerson and Chuck deal with Chuck’s dad who Ned had revived and Chuck didn’t let die again. And Olive does a cover of the Bangles’ song “Eternal Flame”. Guest stars Beth Grant (Donnie Darko, Speed), Tim Bagley (TV’s Monk).
Episode 9 – The Legend of Merle McQuoddy – The Pete’s Dragon themed episode! A lighthouse keeper named Nora and her son Elliott is searching for her husband who is lost at sea. Merle McQuoddy’s creepy local legend includes eerie sounds coming from the sea caves below. The episode also includes an a capella version of “Candle On the Water”. Guest stars Alexander Gould (Showtime’s Weeds), David Koechner (Semi-Pro).
Episode 10 – The Norwegians – Vivian hires another private investigator firm, the Norwegians, to investigate the disappearance of Dwight. The Norwegians dig too deep, and end up digging up the graves of Charlotte Charles and her father. Guest stars Orlando Jones (Evolution, the old “Make 7 Up Yours” commercials) and Ivana Milicevic (Casino Royale)
Episode 11 – Window Dressed To Kill – A woman who dresses window displays at Dicker’s department store is found murdered in a recreation of one of her displays. Guest stars David Arquette reprising his role from earlier in the season.
Episode 12 – Water and Power – The millionaire who owns the Papen County dam is found dead, and the suspect is the woman who happens to also be the mother of Emerson’s child. Guest stars Christine Adams (TV’s Lie To Me) and Gina Torres (I Think I Love My Wife)
Episode 13 – Kerplunk – The Darling Mermaid Darlings, aka Lilly and Vivian Charles, come out of retirement to perform at a travelling aquatic show. Guest stars Wendy Malick (TV’s Just Shoot Me), and Nora Dunn (Boston Legal).
The DVD release is presented in a 1.77:1 aspect ratio. I don’t think this show could possibly look bad, even if I were watching it on VHS. The sound is Dolby Digital and I found no problems with it. The score is perfectly balanced with the dialogue, weaving in and out seamlessly to create the appropriate mood.
All extras are found on disc 4:
The Master Pie Maker – This behind the scenes featurette has interviews with each cast member and with Bryan Fuller, talking about creating every aspect of the show from the dialogue to casting the child versions of the four main characters. 12: 33
From Oven To Table – This shows the making of some of the makeup effects on the show, particularly that of the deceased. It focuses on the fried egg makeup in particular. 5:17
Secret, Sweet Ingredients – This featurette showcases the brilliant score and shows some of the scoring process with Jim Dooley and Bryan Fuller sitting down to watch each episode and talk about what ideas they have for that episodes score. This is an excellent extra. 7:45
Add A Little Magic – This featurette shows some of the CGI effects and focuses on the rhino scene. 4:00
Pushing Daisies is a gem, one of those brilliant but cancelled shows that will live on and develop a huge cult following thanks to DVD and Blu-Ray. The extras are lacking, but the show itself more than makes up for it, making the Complete Second Season a must-own for any fan of Pushing Daisies.
Warner Bros Home Video presents Pushing Daisies: The Complete Second Season. Directed by: many directors including: . Starring: Lee Pace, Anna Friel, Chi McBride, Kristin Chenoweth, Jim Dale. Written by: many writers including: . Running time: 562 minutes minutes. Rating: NR. Released on DVD: July 21, 2009. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: Anna Friel, Chi McBride, David Arquette, lee pace, Pushing Daisies, Stephen Root