Pushing Daisies created by Bryan Fuller. Review by Tom McMeekin

Book Cover

Pushing Daisies is one of the most critically-acclaimed shows of the fall television season, and five episodes in it still holds its magic.

However, much of its appeal lies in subtleties that even an observant viewer can miss the first time around. Every line is a quotable gem. Also, the show can appear at times to hold too closely to its storybook-like atmosphere. Underneath its colorful cinematography, however, lies a rich subtext of metaphor and satirical humor.

Ned, a piemaker who can bring the bring the dead back to life with one touch, moonlights helping a detective, Emerson Cod. Emerson (Chi McBride) is the only person alive to know Ned's secret, until Ned brings back his childhood sweetheart, a girl named Chuck (Anna Friel). However, the narrator explains that Ned's gift comes at a price: "First touch, life; second touch, dead again forever ... Keep a dead thing alive for more than a minute, something else has to die."

Both star Lee Pace (Ned) and creator Bryan Fuller previously worked together on the short-lived cult series Wonderfalls. Aspects of both it and Fuller's Dead Like Me are echoed in his newest series. Kristin Chenoweth (Broadway's Wicked) plays waitress Olive Snook. She obsesses romantically over Ned, yet also manages to forge a tentative friendship with Chuck. The other regular characters are Chuck's homebody aunts, Lily and Vivian, played by Swoosie Kurtz and Ellen Greene.

Early criticisms of the show were that the narrator (Jim Dale of the Harry Potter audio books) was used too much and that Chenoweth's singing in the second episode did not feel appropriate and may scare off some potential viewers. Also, the pilot episode leaked months before the premiere was so strong, many worried the show would not be able to keep its momentum. However, these low points (with which many do not agree) are far outweighed by the positive.

The fast-paced dialogue of Pushing Daisies feels like banter from Gilmore Girls but tackles deeper subjects. Ugly Betty is perhaps the closest thing on TV right now, with its campy, romantic-comedy style. However, the most-buzzed thing about Pushing Daisies is its uniqueness. Among the crazy cases and characters are murderous crash test dummies (a story symbolic of environmental issues) and a girl who lives in a windmill (and invites in a guest she knows is lying because she's bored).

Despite the show's murder-of-the-week plot, it offers richly detailed characterizations. Quirks like the aunts' love of cheese and Emerson's tendency to mix up similar-sounding words (necrophilia and narcolepsy, for example) are frequently built upon.

It's a hilarious, whimsical show that lives up to its billing as a "forensic fairy tale."


Tom McMeekin is a writer and artist from Pennsylvania and a recent graduate of Clarion University. His Web site is TomMcMeekin.com.