In the first episode of the first season of Pushing Daisies, I was wrong about everything ever, and there is a 0% chance I’ll dislike this show. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to begin Pushing Daisies.
I can’t. Literally cannot.
- So, in case you’re not a video person (which is totally fine!!!!), I do like to accommodate folks who are just review readers, so apologies if this is repetitive if you did watch the commission for this. Or if you came to see me on tour! I told this story.
- Pushing Daisies was pretty much always on my rejected list. I believed that I had been so spoiled for the premise/set-up that it would take away the surprise of discovering the show for the first time. And that’s really important to me! I honestly want to give y’all a set of reviews that are devoid of the usual sort of expectant cynicism that comes with media criticism. Not that the world is ~bitter forever~, but I want to approach a new fictional world without preconceived notions of what it is. Granted, I’ve made a few exceptions, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I knew was about… okay, it’s in the goddamn title. Perhaps that’s a bad example.
- Anyway! I had lunch with a friend of mine before I left on tour, and they lamented the fact that I wasn’t watching Pushing Daisies. As they put it, they were certain that no show was more geared toward my taste and sensibilities, and they were sad I wasn’t going to watch the whole thing and write about it. So they asked me: What was it that I knew about the show that made me choose to reject it for Mark Watches?
- I then proceeded to very seriously describe to them a show about a group of people who work in a circus or carnival who use a hot air balloon to travel to alternate dimensions, and they did that thing when you talk to a puppy and they just tilt their head progressively further to the side? That thing. That is the thing they did.
- So here I am. I’ve known since late February that I was going to finally watch this show, and I told everyone who came to see me on tour about my plans to watch the Bryan Fuller world of shows, and now that I’ve finished Wonderfalls (ENDLESS SADNESS), here I am. I am going to watch Pushing Daisies.
- For the most part, this review is going to be a lot more… sober? Yeah, that’s a good word. It’s a lot more sober than the video for “Pie-lette” (OH MY GOD THAT NAME) because I’ve had some time to sift through my thoughts about this brilliant pilot. Again: If you want to watch me lose my shit, watch the video.
- Well, actually, let’s just start with this: THIS IS HONESTLY ONE OF THE BEST PILOT EPISODES OF A SHOW THAT I HAVE EVER SEEN.
- ALLOW ME A BIT OF ALL-CAPS FREAK OUTS.
- LEE PACE
- LEE PACE’S FACE
- KRISTIN CHENOWETH
- JIM DALE
- SWOOSIE KURTZ
- THE COLORS
- THE MUSIC
- THE NARRATION
- THE PLOT TWISTS
- THE RELENTLESS EMOTIONAL MANIPULATION OF MY HEART
- I have not seen a show like this in my life. In a way, it’s easy to imagine that Pushing Daisies actually takes place in the same fictional universe as Dead Like Me. There are some similarities between the two shows, as if they’re cousins, and it’s neat to think about reapers and Ned inhabiting the same universe. Both shows share a diner as a setting for a ragtag group of friends united by a need to get a job done.
- But there is only a loose association between the two, and it’s not one that’s obvious or heavy-handed. Pushing Daisies is a dramatic, over-the-top fantasy, with much more in common with traditional fairy tales than the realistic take on mortality and purpose that I found in Dead Like Me. The color palettes, the special effects, the very way this narrative is structured… it is exactly like Jim Dale is reading me a fairy tale before I go to bed. And it’s fucking glorious.
- My god, the opening ten minutes of this episode are unreal. Two huge character deaths, which is technically three if you count the fact that Ned’s mother dies twice. Bryan Fuller just presents us with the fact that Ned can bring things back to life with a touch, which only lasts 60 seconds before he must touch them again or a random person nearby dies. Oh, and he can never touch something he brings back to life or else it dies. Again. And all this exposition never feels weighted or clunky because of the way it’s styled. The fairy tale format of the pilot (which I’ll assume is part of the fabric of the show) helps move the story along at a refreshing pace. I mean, nothing here felt slow or prodding! Fuller jumps into things, and we’re just expected to follow along for the ride. I love that. SO MUCH.
- And for a show that’s openly optimistic and saccharine, there’s a lot of tragedy at the heart of this story. Ned lost his mother twice. He inadvertently killed his crush’s father. He can’t touch his own dog. He falls into a life of loneliness on purpose. He refuses to become attached to anyone, even when that person is Kristin Fucking Chenoweth. And really, how could he get close to someone? Obviously, he’s still hung up on Chuck in some way, but how can he ever explain this part of his life to anyone? Well, in terms of a romantic partnership, I mean. Because then there’s Emerson!
- Oh my god, does that mean this show is basically a fairy tale murder mystery? Every episode? Because there is absolutely nothing about that that sounds awful.
- It helps that this show has a very similar sense of humor to Bryan Fuller’s last two shows. Yes, there’s a tragic, dark past to all of this, but the show continues to feel whimsical and joyous despite that. IT’S DONE SO WELL.
- But it’s really the relationship between Chuck and Ned that’s at the center of this show, and it is patently unfair. IT IS UNFAIR. I thought it wouldn’t come up beyond the backstory, and then it’s Chuck’s body that’s pulled out of the ocean, and then Ned is bringing her back to life, and WHY DO I FEEL ALL OF THESE THINGS ALREADY? THESE CHARACTERS HAVE BEEN ONSCREEN FOR TWENTY MINUTES. THIS SHOULD BE HAPPENING. ABANDON SHIP, MARK. ABANDON SHIP.
- I don’t think this is even an issue of shipping, though. This whole tragic love is built into the fabric of the show. Ned loves Chuck, and that’s why he can’t bear to kill her again. However, her appreciation and attraction for him can never be physically reciprocated. It is unbearable to watch. It is 100% evil, and I am going to be tormented over the course of the next twenty-one episodes, aren’t I?
- The dialogue teases me. It is so poetic and heartcrushing. Symmetrical. Emotional heimlichs. I am fucking blown away by how quickly I was able to accept these characters, understand their motivations, and desire positive endings for them. This has to be a world record, and all the credit must go towards Bryan Fuller and his cast for creating this. It’s unreal, y’all.
- So I’m guessing I’m just getting a taste of what’s to come. Chuck, Emerson, and Ned will work together to solve crimes to claim the rewards; Ned will make pies; I’ll constantly want to make pies; Olive will continue to attempt to get Ned’s attention; Vivian and Lily will begin to explore the world. These characters are so distinct and well-defined that I’m excited to see what the writers do with them. I’m interested to see another case from beginning to end. But I am here for the endless suffering that will be Ned and Chuck. Y’all, that final scene with the whole hand-holding bit? It is both the sweetest and most heartbreaking thing you have ever asked me to watch, and I’m not going to heal from it.
- What have I gotten myself into?
The video commission for this episode is now archived on MarkDoesStuff.com for just $0.99!
Mark Links Stuff
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