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Pushing Daisies: The Complete First Season (2007)

Warner Home Video
DVD Released: 9/16/2008

All Ratings out of
Show: 1/2
Video: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/13/2008

For decades, television was seen as inferior to theatrical films. The movies had all of the big stars and creative talent, and second tier worked in TV. Actors often were thought of as "paying their dues" in TV in order to make it to movies. However, starting in the 90s, TVs began to get a newfound respect and movie stars began to appear on television shows. Then in 2000, a show called Survivor changed everything and TV execs began turning to reality programming and game shows. Suddenly, a medium which had been making grade strides wasn't working hard enough. The series Pushing Daisies has an odd place in all of this, as it bridges the gap between TV and movies, and where other shows weren't working hard enough, it tries too hard.

As Pushing Daisies opens, we are introduced to 9-year old Ned (Field Cate), a young boy who realizes that he has the ability to reanimate the dead. He is fascinated by this and brings some animals back to life. Following an incident where Ned reanimated his own mother, Ned learned three very important lessons about his power; first, in order to bring someone back to life, something else had to die; secondly, if he ever touched a reanimated person or animal again, they would stay dead forever; and third, if he brought someone back to life, he had one minute to touch them again without sacrificing another life. During this time, Ned developed a crush on his neighbor, Chuck (Sammi Hanratty), but through learning about his powers, Ned managed to kill his mother and Chuck's father, and thus, the two were sent to live elsewhere.

The story then jumps ahead to the present. Ned (Lee Pace) owns a diner called "The Pie Hole" and is an expert at making pies. (A skill that he learned from his mother.) Because of his power, he leads an isolated existence. His waitress, Olive Snook (Kristin Chenoweth) has a crush on Ned, but he doesn't reciprocate. Private detective Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) witnesses Ned use his powers and instead of reporting this to the media, proposes a deal -- Ned will bring murder victims back to life just long enough to learn who killed them, Cod will "solve" the murder, and they will split the reward money. When a young woman is murdered aboard a cruise ship, Ned agrees to help Cod with the case. Ned is shocked to find that the woman is an adult Chuck (Anna Friel). He reanimates her, and this opens a veritable Pandora's Box. After all these years, he finds that he still has feelings for her, and yet, he can't touch her. And, the fact that Chuck is still alive must be kept a secret. Thus, Chuck comes to live with Ned and helps with not only making pies, but solving murders.

So, that synopsis should make it obvious that Pushing Daisies has one strike against it right out of the gate -- if you weren't there from the beginning, then you're going to have a hard time catching up. However, at first glance, the show looks as if it's a worthy investment. There's no denying the fact that Pushing Daisies is very different from most anything else on TV. It's colorful and whimsical and moves to its own rhythm. The show manages to take a very morbid topic and combine it with enough primary colors to make Dick Tracy wince. The first part of that statement isn't all that surprising considering that the show comes from Bryan Fuller, the creator of Dead Like Me.

But, after spending some time with the show, you quickly realize that beyond Pushing Daisies' quirkiness, the subject matter is D.O.A. The Dr. Seuss-like narration seems cute at first, but soon grows very tedious. The stylized look of the show, which was influenced by Fuller and Barry Sonnenfeld who directed the first few episodes, persists throughout the series, but loses its novelty after a while. Odd characters come and go throughout the show, but there is little character development. Small subplots aside, the show is very episodic. On the whole, the show seems so determined to be strange and fun that it forgets to be anything else. The Dr. Seuss meets Beetlejuice schtick seems like fun at first, but the show needs to offer more.

The powers-that-be at ABC should be applauded for taking a chance on something as different (to other things on TV) as Pushing Daisies. The fact that the show has a different look and deals with a living dead girl certainly doesn't spell ratings bonanza. And because it was different, I really wanted to like it. But, I eventually became exhausted by the show working so hard to be different. The "Hey, mom! Look at me!" approach makes the show feel gimmicky and insincere. The show has been renewed for a second season, and perhaps it will come back to life.

Pushing Daisies: The Complete First Season rises from the grave on DVD courtesy of Warner Home Video. The 3-disc set contains all 9 episodes from the show's first season. The episodes are letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfers are enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. As one would hope, the show looks fantastic on DVD. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look fantastic and practically leap off of the screen. The image has a very nice depth as well. There is no overt video noise or artifacting. The picture is never overly bright or dark. This is better than digital broadcast quality. The DVD features a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track provides very good stereo and surround effects. The stereo effects are nicely detailed and the surround effects often accent the flashback scenes. The show's musical score also sounds great.

The lone extra on the Pushing Daisies: The Complete First Season DVD set is "Pie Time: Time for Pie". This odd feature offers a great deal of work for the viewers, as it has short featurettes for all nine episodes. This is divided into nine sections and each section contains at least two segments. These are all quite brief (3 minutes or less) and focus on elements of the show, such as the sets, the actors, costumes, etc. We also get segments which have star Lee Pace and creator Bryan Fuller commenting on certain episodes. There is some good information here, but it could have easily been streamlined into one longer feature.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long