Wednesday, October 03, 2007

'Pushing Daisies' - TV's Best New Show

Normally, my co-workers enjoy the puns I put into the titles of many of these blog entries, but for today's posting, I didn't want to mince words.

I previously reviewed "Pushing Daisies" (ABC, 8 p.m.) last week, but I'm giving it a second review because, yes, the show is THAT good. At least in my humble opinion.

Written by the great Bryan Fuller ("Wonderfalls") and directed with an absolutely gorgeous sense of color by Barry Sonnenfeld ("Men In Black," "The Tick"), "Pushing Daisies" is one of the most original concepts I've seen in years - a modern-day fairy tale and love story in which the two main characters physically CAN'T get together. There is no will-they-or-won't-they suspense like you see with other programs.

Ned (Lee Pace) has the most miserable superpower you could think of: He can raise the dead with a mere touch. Two little problems, however. If he touches the dead thing a second time, it dies - permanently. And if he doesn't touch the person or thing he just revived within 60 seconds, someone else must die.

Bad luck for Ned, who discovers the power as a child when he rescues his dog, but good luck for private investigator Emerson Cod (Chi McBride), who learns of Ned's ability and decides to use it for his own gain. Cod convinces Ned to revive the dead, ask who killed them, then split the reward. It's a perfect scheme until the next murder victim they investigate is Ned's childhood love Charlotte "Chuck" Charles (a winsome Anna Friel). Ned can't bear to touch her a second time after reviving her, leading to quite a bit of awkwardness since everyone now believes Chuck to be dead.

"Pushing Daisies" is the best of everything TV is meant to be - funny, romantic, sad and smart. Actor Jim Dale's narration is nothing short of brilliant, adding to the fantasy atmosphere of the show. Pace and Friel could be in star-making roles if this show makes it, and McBride is excellent in a complete departure from the roles he usually plays. And Kristin Chenowith is perfectly cast as the waitress in Ned's pie shop, with her own feelings of unrequited love.

In fact, there are really only two problems with "Pushing Daisies."

1) The pilot was so good that Fuller & Co. have set themselves an extremely high bar to clear on a weekly basis.

2) The show will likely last three episodes. Fuller already gave the American public quirky brilliance with "Wonderfalls," and the average viewer, wanker that he or she is, didn't get it. "Pushing Daisies" is even better than "Wonderfalls," but I can see how this series is going to fly over a lot of people's heads.

That would be a terrible shame, because Fuller has crafted scenes in which two characters have some of the most romantic moments seen on TV in years by NOT holding hands, hugging or kissing. The dialogue is sharp and crisp, and visually, it's wonderful show to look at.

Give this one a shot, folks.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Wednesday nights may be the most competitive of the week, and I'm hoping that the fact that "Pushing Daisies' is the lone hour-long dramatic offering in the opening timeslot will help its cause. Its competition? Two mediocre Fox comedies in "Back To You" and "Til Death," NBC game show juggernaut "Deal Or No Deal," the horrifying "Kids Nation" on CBS and "America's Top Model" on The CW.

It's 9 p.m. where things get interesting. ABC claims overall victory on the night with "Grey's Anatomy" spinoff "Private Practice," but I know there was a great deal of "Grey's" nation disappointed with this show, so will the ratings hold? Meanwhile, NBC has created a mini-juggernaut for the night with "Bionic Woman," followed by "Life." And "Gossip Girl" (CW, 9 p.m.) is carving out its now niche audience.

CBS is still doing strong as well, with "Criminal Minds" at 9 p.m. (tonight marks the departure of star Mandy Patinkin) and "CSI: NY" at 10 p.m. "Dirty Sexy Money," (ABC, 10 p.m.) which I think is one of the cleverest new shows of the season, is struggling, unfortunately.

And, as always, "The War" (PBS, 9 p.m.) continues tonight, focusing on the Pacific theatre.

Finally, the Major League Baseball playoffs kick off today, with three games on TBS.


AlexR said...

I take enormous exception to your assertion that "Back to You" (the new Fox sitcom with Kelsey Grammer) is mediocre.

The pilot was decent but not great - the second episode was hysterical. Maybe the show is not of "Frasier" proportions, but even some other major Television critics like Matt Roush really loved episode #2. So did I.

As for "Pushing Daisies", I have to say, I am really not overly excited by the premise. I liked "Wonderfalls" but didn't love it. I am generally stoked about shows that try & be weird or 'whimsical' so my expectations are low.

"Desperate Housewives" tried to be whimsical and now I find it to be one of the most loathesome and annoying shows on television, after showing initial promise.

But, your review is practically begging us to watch so we will watch tonight and see.

Phillip Ramati said...

I found the second episode of Back to You to be a big improvement over the first, and laughed several times. But, come on, can you honestly tell me that it ranks with any of the great sitcoms on the air right now - HIMYM, The Office, Scrubs, et al? I'm trying to be kind and NOT compare it with Frasier, which is one of TV's all-time classics.

Maybe Back to You will continue to grow on me, but I don't love it to the extent I loved those other shows when they first debuted.

Jonathan said...

I agree with the 2nd episode of "Back to You" comments. I really thought I was watching a different show; all of the things that annoyed me in the pilot, I found hillarious in the 2nd installment. And no, I would not put it up there with "Mother," "30 Rock," "Scrubs," or "The Office." And talk about a whimisical and original show that has made it all these years, "Scrubs" is quite the achievement. Too bad "Daisies" isn't on NBC where it would stand more of a chance. Looking forward to watching it; luckily my Cubbies are in Arizona tonight, so the game won't be on till 9:00 here.