Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"Give me your paws, Winnie the Pooh.": Pushing Daisies

Pleasantly pleased am I to say that the third episode of Pushing Daisies was a fine step up from episode two and maybe even marginally better than the pilot. Seemingly without breaking a sweat, the show deepened several of the characters and got into the moral grey area of the pilot (how Ned let the funeral director die) and let him off less easily than you would expect for a network TV show. The series still gave the disquieting notion that since the funeral director was a jerk, it was OK to have him go, but the strain the action put on the Ned and Chuck pairing was a nice little hurdle for the two to overcome, especially this early in the storyline. I'm afraid I'll quickly grow bored with the two finding plastic sheens to kiss through, but for now, I'm still enjoying their kooky chemistry.

Perhaps my favorite thing about the episode was how it tied the mystery of the week in to a deeper emotional place for the characters than the mystery last week, which seemed steadfastly set on making sure we understood the show's universe. This week, however, sent the characters back to the funeral home where they found Chuck in the pilot, and Chuck learned that her life was exchanged for another. Her palpable sadness and anger at this moment finally gave Anna Friel something to play outside of magical pixie girl, and she was more than up to the challenge. Lee Pace matched her with his frustration and attempts to say he wasn't a murderer, just someone who couldn't bear to re-kill Chuck (well, he IS a murderer, but the show was willing to at least admit the morality was sticky, which was more than I was expecting).

It also helped that the mystery itself was more assured than last week's entry. Last week's mystery was deeply predictable. While this one also was largely so, it had a lot more fun with the idea of a man raising the dead to solve murders (I loved that scene where Ned kept accidentally touching corpses). The story of trying to find all of the stuff the funeral director absconded with also expanded the kinds of mysteries the show can tackle, even as it eventually turned into another murder investigation.

I also liked that the episode let Olive in on the secret of who Chuck really is. Kristen Chenoweth is really playing this part to the hilt, and I'm surprised how quickly I've fallen for a character that I thought was a little underdeveloped in the pilot. Some might say Chenoweth goes too far, but I admire her commitment to the daffiness of the show, and I love that her new love interest is Raul Esparza. I don't know if Bryan Fuller just created this show to give work to Broadway legends he loves, but I sort of hope he did. I mean, is there any OTHER reason to create a television show?

But the pleasures of the episode (and the show) extend beyond the premise and the plotting. I'm not usually one to fall for TV dialogue, but it's strong here, and the delivery from the actors pushes it past strong and right to unusually strong. Chi McBride, in particular, is having a great time with this stuff, and it's just fun to see him play around with the words here. Dialogue is overrated as a skill, but it's nice to see it done so well, all the same.

I should admit that the cutback on production values was sort of noticeable from time to time (that scene in the funeral home basement was lit really, really poorly -- I get that's what they were going for, but it just became distracting), but it wasn't so noticeable as to pull me out of the show at all (aside from that awful CGI pan toward the top). Still, you could tell that they made an effort to work on standing sets as much as possible and keep the art direction to a minimum. Here's hoping that the show's modest hit status pushes its budget back up a smidge. I'm not sure we need to see young Ned every week, but I'm fine with it so long as he's slowly learning new things about his gift (and the firefly testing was a nicely subdued fantastical image).

So what's the magic number here? When do we stop worrying that this show will never work and just enjoy what's going on? I know I say I won't worry about this, but it's hard to not think about it, in the business I'm in. So are you noticing any of this, kids at home? Or do you just not care? Or did you give up after the pilot? (If you did, try to check this one out. The twee was backed off by just a smidge, as was the narration.)

7 comments:

Carrie said...

I loved this episode, and I am ALL IN for this as a series. I really think this one proved this show can work for at least a few seasons. Everyone onboard is very sure of the show's tone, and that's what ultimately sells it. And the dialogue! Oh, how I love the dialogue. I don't always like overly stylized dialogue, but this is some well-written stuff.

The only thing that will get old eventually is the kissing through plastic moments. They are cute for now, but pretty soon they are going to have to come up with pretty annoyingly inventive ways to keep this gag going. It might get old.

David Sims said...

Apart from the swordfight, which could have been a lot better telegraphed smaller budget or no, this was a really good episode. I hope they integrate Olive more as the show goes on but right now I do enjoy her little mini-show. Everything else was great. Emerson adds a nice dash of cynicism, Anna Friel literally lights up my life when she smiles, and Lee Pace is underplaying a pretty tough character perfectly. Perfectly! Yes! If they keep things around this quality, I am fully on board.

Carrie said...

Also, they made the line "I'm going to see if we have any plastic wrap" sexy. That's freaking amazing. I love this show.

Daniel said...

This is the best show in the history of ever.

I laughed REALLY hard when McBride had to run out of the funeral home while doing the sign of the cross.

Daniel said...

This is the best show in the history of ever.

I laughed REALLY hard when McBride had to run out of the funeral home while doing the sign of the cross.

David Sims said...

Daniel's double-posting aside (although Chi WAS v. funny), another thing occured to me. I was like, "whoa" at that Jedi line, cause it's basically the first acknowledgment this show's made to like, existing in the real world. I'm not sure if I can handle much pop culture existing in the land of the Pie Hole.

Daniel said...

It was an accident!