Wednesday, April 24, 2013

TV on DVD Review: Pushing Daisies - Season 1

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun, fun, fun with plenty of great characters and good stories
Cons: Only 9 episodes
The Bottom Line:
A quirky series
Mystery, fantasy, fun
Very short season

"The Facts Were These."

What do you get when you combine fantasy, mystery, romance, and a touch of comedy? TV series Pushing Daisies, of course. Through season one, the show has earned a reputation as being quirky and different. And it is. But trust me on this, that's a good thing.

This is the story of the Pie Maker aka Ned (Lee Pace). To the world, he is best known as the owner of The Pie Hole, where he serves delicious pies with his assistant/waitress, Olive (Kristen Chenoweth).

But Ned has a secret. With his touch, he can bring the dead back to life. Of course, there are some conditions. If he touches them again, they are dead for ever and ever. And if he doesn't touch them again in one minute, someone else nearby dies instead.

Since The Pie Hole doesn't pay all the bills, Ned works with private investigator Emerson Cod (Chi McBride). He brings murder victims back to life to find out who killed them, then the two split the reward.

Everything is going along fine until the next murder victim is the girl he calls Chuck, aka Charlotte Charles (Anna Friel). Chuck was Ned's childhood sweetheart, and he just can't bear to let her die, so he keeps her alive. While the two build a non-touch romance, Chuck's two aunts, Vivian and Lily (Ellen Greene and Swoosie Kurtz) mourn her death.

But Chuck's death is just the beginning of the weird cases. There are the human crash test dummies, the dog breeder with four wives, the bodies in the snowmen, and the exploding scratch and sniff book. And that doesn't even mention my favorite case, the headless horseman who is after Olive. How do each of these cases play out in the Chuck/Ned romance? Well, you'll have to watch that to find out for yourself.

I mentioned quirky and different, right? Because I can't pretend this show is anything else. I can't even imagine where the idea for the show came from. But I'm glad it did because it is brilliant.

While it pretends to be a mystery show, the mystery is hardly the point of the story. If it were, I wouldn't like the show at all because most of the time it is easy to figure out what is happening. Instead, the mysteries are an excuse to visit the characters each week and watch how their lives unfold. The writers do a great job of crafting cases that play into the issues of the larger story, whether it is the romance between Ned and Chuck or Emerson and Olive's jealousy of Chuck. Emerson always resents the fact that she is getting involved in their cases. And Olive? Well, she's had a crush on Ned since the day they met, a crush that Ned is oblivious to.

So, with the show being about the characters, it's great to say the characters are lovable. I can't think of one I even remotely don't care for. I will admit it did take a few weeks for the aunts to grow on me, but now I even like our visits to their house to see how they are fairing with their post Chuck lives.

I'm not going to belabor the point, but the acting is great, too. Every character and relationship is completely believable. They even take advantage of Kristen Chenoweth's Broadway background by giving her a chance to sing a couple times.

Playing off the characters and acting is the whit. There are some truly great lines here as the characters banter back and forth. Ned, Emerson, and Chuck especially get some great lines. And I can't leave out the humor provided by the omniscient narrator. Jim Dale, best known for reading the Harry Potter books on tape, does a great job giving us the facts behind the case or the feelings of the characters they aren't willing to share.

Not only does the show have a premise all its own, it also has a look all its own. I think it is best described as a Tim Burton clone. Every single color is bold and bright, whether on the sets or in the costumes. It was made for high definition viewing, and I can't wait to watch it on the HD-TV I've bought since the last episode aired. And the make up on the murder victims is absolutely brilliant. Creepy at times, but pretty funny, too. The show was nominated for several Emmys in the technical categories, and the fact that it didn't win them is a shame.

Due to the writer's strike, there were only 9 episodes of the show last season. That means the first season set only contains 3 discs and is cheap enough it's worth buying to experiment. There is one bonus item, an interactive featurette that includes interviews and behind the scenes information on every aspect of the show.

Don't let the fact that this show is different keep you from trying season one. Pushing Daisies will have you hooked on the fun in no time at all.

Season 1 Episodes:
1. Pie-lette
2. Dummy
3. Putting the Fun in Funeral
4. Pigeon
5. Girth
6. B!tches
7. Smell of Success
8. Bitter Sweets
9. Corpsicle

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