Written by: Bryan Fuller
Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
Get your head around this. It’s all about a guy who makes amazing pies. He can also touch dead people or animals and bring them back to life. But there’s a problem. If he touches them a second time they’re dead for ever. And if he doesn’t touch the resurrected again within a minute, someone else must die to take their place. He has a sideline helping a private detective solve murders by asking the deceased who killed them. Oh, and by the way, he’s just brought the love of his life back from the dead and can never touch her again.
Wouldn’t you have just loved to be a fly on the wall when series creator Bryan Fuller (best known to date for the shows Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls) pitched Pushing Daisies to a room full of hard-nosed studio execs?
Top marks to ABC for commissioning a show that feels too kooky for mainstream US TV, but overflows with enough charm, wit and invention to warrant major hit status. It hooks you from the opening lines of Jim Dale’s soothing voiceover, as we’re introduced to Ned, an ordinary nine year, 27 week, six day, three minute-year-old who discovers an unusual gift. Fast forward to the present – not that you’d know to look at it; Addams Family director Barry Sonnenfeld makes sure that the beautiful cinematography, all bright primary colours, feels like a slice of ‘50s Americana – and we’re in a fairytale world that’s pitched just the right distance from reality.
Twenty-eight-year-old Lee Pace, who was also in Wonderfalls, plays Ned as a likeable straight man, while Brookside’s Anna Friel delivers the American accent with aplomb.
But it’s with the supporting players that Fuller has the most fun. Chi “Mercury Rising, The Frighteners” McBride’s dead-pan private eye Emerson Cod and Kristin “The West Wing, Bewitched” Chenoweth’s ditzy neighbour/waitress Olive Snook are character archetypes delivered with flair. And in Chuck’s weird aunts Vivian and Lily (reclusive former synchronised swimmers) Fuller might just have hit the comedy jackpot.
But the best thing about this “Pie-lette” (see what they did there?) is the potential it offers for the future. How far can Ned’s gift stretch? Will Chuck realise that Ned’s “talent” caused her dad’s death? Will we learn more about the events leading to Chuck’s first death? Even before you even think about tackling the ingenious premise of a lead couple who can’t touch, there’s enough there to fill half a season. Indeed, if Fuller and co can sustain the “will they? won’t they?” storyline – Pace and Friel already have the chemistry sorted – this will be one of the star pupils from the class of 2007.