Tuesday, 1 June 2010

TV Meme, Day 1: A Show That Should Never Have Been Cancelled

Television is a dastardly mistress. The existence of a show is ever more ephemeral than that of a film, especially in a time when few shows are in demand on DVD and only a select few are lucky enough to be aired after their time has expired. If a show doesn’t go completely all out or suffice to a bland, generic niche in its first few episodes the dreaded c word emanates – cancelled. In the wake of the 2007-2008’s writer’s strike a marvellous new show was put on hold. It reappeared half a year later, even more innovative than before. I suppose, though, in a way it was ahead of its time and it was cancelled with only 24 episodes in two seasons. Such was the story of last decade’s comedic masterpiece Pushing Daisies.
Pushing Daisies was – not by coincidence, I’m sure, just like the euphemism from which its title derives. What is the phrase pushing up daisies if not a whimsical and perhaps irreverent title given to the dead. And it’s this same whimsicalness which is inherent in the atypical hilarity, blindingly bubbly colour palette and ferociously original concept of the show. The story…? A young boy realises he has the inexplicable gift of reviving dead things, but like all gifts it comes with stipulations. If he allows the undead thing, or person, to live for more than one minute something of similar “life value” dies (a man for a man, a flower for a flower, an animal for animal). He revives his dead dog while a bird falls dead; he revives his mother after a heart attack precipitating the death of his childhood sweetheart’s father. What Ned does not know is that if he touches the revived again they die again – permanently. Thus, a good night kiss from his mother renders her dead eternally. Ned becomes a pie maker and happens upon his childhood sweetheart – dead. He revives after some emotional conflict, and therein lays the crux of one of the show’s main conflicts. Chuck and Ned are in love, but alas, cannot touch.
Yet, Pushing Daisies is not a romantic comedy full of emotional angst – though it is romantic and comedic; neither is it a detective procedural, like the machinations of Ned and company suggest. When I say that Pushing Daisies is unlike anything on television before or since I do not jest. Brian Fuller’s story exudes originality and brilliance and it’s something that is rarely seen. The cast of the show play a significant part in the brilliance. Lee Pace has an average-guy likeability that renders him oddly charming and together with Anna Friel they are just adorable together. Chi McBride offers a strange humour that is effective and Ellen Green and Swoosie Kurtz make one wonder why they’re so often forgotten, for they are talented.
But, it is a certain petite 4”11 blonde who steals the show. Really, it is an occupational hazard of being Kristin Chenoweth. Kristin really is a third wheel to the romance of Ned and Chuck and yet we consistently root for her in her ridiculous machinations for Ned’s attention, it’s a comedic marvel of a performance – hence her much deserved Emmy win.
Pushing Daisies does something special. Each episode surrounds the dead and their story, yet each episode leaves you with convinced of the joy in life. It balances the dark (and perhaps more realistic) overtures of disaster in the world with a blind faith and glee that is completely charming. I don’t know why Pushing Daisies met such a woeful end. Can a show be too good for the public? I never know why more weren’t watching, I don’t know why ABC performed one of its most cruelly inane acts. But cancelled it is. Nonetheless, Pushing Daisies is a marvel and I’ll soon be buying it on DVD. Chances are you haven’t seen it.

You should rectify that.
This entry is part of my ongoing meme on TV Moments
 R.I.P: 2007-2009, Pushing Daisies


cinefille said...

I love Pushing Daisies. This is one show I would love to be turned into a movie. (Even though some of the charm would be lost. But what can you do?Sigh.)

Robert said...

I had a friend who really loved this show, now with your recommendation I surely shall check it out!

Ryan T. said...

Thank you for doing this show! It was a very close second to Firefly which I ended up writing about on *my* Day 1 entry!

Chenoweth winning that Emmy must have been the greatest Emmy win of the decade for me. Ha!

Walter L. Hollmann said...

Love, love, love this show, and though I know it's an irrational, utterly stupid desire...I really wanted Olive to get together with Emerson Cod. Just my love for both actors demanded it. Lee Pace in this is my hero.

Fritz said...

That's the first show I thought about when I saw the title of the post. I just looooove this show so much. I was depressed for weeks when I learned it was cancelled. I just love these characters so much, it's unbelievable!

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

cinefille yes, the charm would be lost on the big screen. but i'd still be all up on that.

robert oh please do. i hope you love it as much.

ryan YES. when chenoweth won it was just sweet.

walter olive and emerson sure would be hilarious together...and the size difference!

fritz i too was depressed at its cancellation. abc just disappointed me.