Did we like it?
Everyone involved in this US drama hit couldn’t have tried harder to make us love it. Isn’t this wonderful? the show shouted. Yet we felt ambivalent. While there are many things in Pushing Daisies’ favour, it felt like a glossy Christmas evening treat that would soon pale if it was served up all year.
What was good about it?
• In cinematic terms, Pushing Daisies probably had the best opening to a TV show ever. The colours, the vicacity, the overwhelming sweetness of Ned running through golden fields and then saving his golden dog Digby was amazing.
• The four key cast members do a fine job. Anna Friel brings to Chuck/Charlotte lots of cheeriness and cheekiness; Lee Pace as Ned conveys the bemusement one would undoubtedly feel if one suddenly acquired the ability to revive the dead with just one single touch (and kill them should their flesh meet again). Kristin Chenoweth is a delight as the ditzy waitress; and Chi McBride gives a harder edge to the show as private investigator Cod Emmerson who is keener on making a quick buck than making everything wonderfully rosy.
• We love the outlandish pie shop setting, with its crusted awning, and the look of the pies, even though we know that they contain rancid fruit brought back to ripeness and firmness by Ned’s magic touch.
• The quirkiness worked sometimes – notably with Chuck’s aunts Vivian and Lily, a former synchronised swimming duo who “share matching personality disorders and a love of fine cheese”
• The death of the thieving funeral home director. Much deserved.
What was bad about it?
• We’re not sure whether Anna Friel’s American accent was good or bad – but it didn’t quite convince us as she trotted out Christmas cracker philosophy such as “I suppose dying is as good a reason as ever to start living”.
• Jim Dale’s narration is relentless, twee and, after a while, so irritating that the off switch looks tempting. His amusement at repeating Boutique Travel Travel Boutique was lost on us and the precise calculation of years, months, weeks and days lost its effect pretty quickly. A lighter narrative touch, like we get on Desperate Housewives, would have been more tolerable.
• Death is treated with a little too much whimsy. As in 24, for example, it doesn’t seem to matter how many peripheral characters die. They have mothers, too, you know. And if the death is slightly amusing (death by asphyxiation using pink plastic bags sporting smiley faces), then it doesn’t matter at all. Too trite.
• The premise is good enough for a solid family movie, but seems a bit thin for a series. We’ve often been charmed by the opening few episodes of fantasy dramas before ditching them when the repetition and tweeness has rendered them boring.