Thursday, November 01, 2007

"I love you, shovel.": Pushing Daisies

Pushing Daisies celebrated Halloween (a night I have no idea why the networks continue to program, low-rated as it can be) with an agreeably creepy ghost story, full of goofy wit and a collection of horror types and tropes that gave a sly wink to the whole genre. It was the perfect Halloween episode and just might have been the best episode the show has done so far. I like how the show is growing its universe and suggesting new avenues for story possibilities, even as it sticks to its procedural nature. I realize that some are disappointed the show's originality comes around the edges. Its stories are essentially old detective stories dusted off and given a glossy new coat. But that's fine with me as long as the stuff going on elsewhere is as much fun as it has been.

In particular, tonight's episode dusted off the old classic -- the Halloween episode that doubles as a ghost story. Whether or not your show had a supernatural bent, you could reliably do a ghost story at Halloween. Sometimes, the ghosts were real. More often, they were not. But somehow, the story commented on where the characters on the show were in their lives at the time. Daisies' ghost story was, essentially, a Scooby Doo episode (right down to the true culprit pulling off their mask and revealing their fiendish plan and how all of the clues that were dropped throughout the episode fit together), but it was a well-executed one that hit on a lot of Gothic ideals, right down to the secret boy who lived where no one could see him.

But, somehow, the episode was also about loneliness, especially the loneliness of death. Up until now, death has just been something that existed in the Daisies universe so it could have that cool fairy tale twinge to it. You never got the sense that the writers or creator Bryan Fuller had a point-of-view on death -- whether that was a sort of free-wheeling take on it as the next step in life or a mournful take. This episode, though, finally uncapped some of the emotions Chuck's aunts feel about her passing and nicely tied them in to how Ned feels about his father's abandonment (the Lil' Ned flashback this week dealt with how Ned learned his father had remarried led to one of the few forced moments in the episode -- Ned spending Halloween in the house he grew up in -- but it also drove home Ned's loneliness in a way that intensified his feelings for both Chuck and Olive).

But there was more. The fire-breathing horse was genuinely frightening, and while the resolution of who was posing as the ghost was pretty obvious (I mean, did anyone NOT guess it), a few of the twists and turns on the way there were worth the price of admission (including the way that the case made Olive and Chuck closer). The whole twisted past of Olive being a jockey could have been too much, but Chi McBride and Kristen Chenoweth sold it, and the cheesily awful horse-racing footage somehow became a plus, rather than a minus.

On top of all of that, though, this was a funny, funny episode, maybe the funniest so far. From the jokes about Olive's cleavage to her bed jumping to everything involving Digby to "Up next: Kittens on parade!", I think I laughed at more things in this episode than I have at any show this season so far (well, maybe not as much as last week's 30 Rock).

So. . .are we at the point now where we can just say that Pushing Daisies is safe, that it's going to turn out quite a few impressive episodes in this its (full) first season? I mean, that's five episodes in a row, with only episode two being as much of a miss as a hit. In a very disappointing fall, Pushing Daisies has been a nice little treat every week. I'll be sad to have to wait two weeks to see another one.


Carrie said...

Seriously, every week I fall a little bit more in love with this show. It doesn't bother me that the mysteries are easy to solve, as I think the mysteries on procedural type shows are often just as obvious and those shows don't have anything else BUT the mystery. This show is so full of life the mysteries can be simplistic and it doesn't matter because the surroundings infuse them with whimsy and/or gravity to make them more special.

The scene with Ned and Aunt Vivian on the doorstep was so touching. I actually teared up a bit. And the horse legs thing was brilliant.

Carrie said...

Also, can Ned never eat the pies he's made lest all the fruit go rotten in his mouth? What a horrible curse, to be a pie maker and then never get to eat any of your wares! would you get to be a good pie maker if you couldn't taste test your own goodies?

I think I'm making this too complicated. I suppose not all of the fruit he cooks with is rotten. Carry on.

Bianca Reagan said...

I watched this show for the first time last night and I wasn't that impressed. The show seemed too amused by its own cleverness. I know, pot meet kettle, but still. All three of my friends were laughing uproariously at the jokes and the timing of the people telling them, but it wasn't that funny.

I thought the piemaker was cute, but I'm so not into his relationship with Chuck. "We can never be together because if I touch you again, you'll be dead for real." Wah wah wah. If I only had a heart.

I loved Chi McBride and Kristen Chenoweth; they are so talented. If the whole show were about them, then maybe I'd watch it again.

David Sims said...

I think this show is getting away from me as well. It's lovely and I still really like all the characters but apart from the third episode, the mystery always tends to get away from me, mostly because I'm not at all interested.

The whole thing still feels a little crowded, but at least the narration isn't so in-your-face. I'd rather have more quiet character moments though, especially outside of Ned and Chuck. I mean, they do great character moments, but it always feels like there's too much other stuff going on at the same time.

I dunno. It's definitely an interesting show. I just don't think it's the diamond a lot of critics are already championing it as.

Also, Bones' Halloween episode was better.

Todd said...

Bones' Halloween episode WAS good, but this season has been so awful. Maybe I just shouldn't review that show.

I'm not terribly bothered by the mysteries occasionally being a little weak. They're better than the ones on, say, Criminal Minds, and I think they've gotten stronger from week to week. I'm willing to give them a LITTLE time to sort out the procedural element because writing a self-contained story that hasn't been done a million times before is hard, and I think they're getting far, far better at it. Compare the balance of mystery to character to twee in this episode with the balance in episode two (or in the pilot, where the mystery was essentially inexplicable).

David Sims said...

Bones is as good as ever (and the Halloween ep was among the best since Aliens in a Spaceship), but reviewing it isn't great, I agree.

The mysteries in PD aren't awful or anything. But I just feel they're keeping this show from real greatness. Do they always have to be mysteries? Can't they do something else? I just zone out so heavily during the mystery stuff. Plus it's just such a busy show, they really seem like a distraction. I'm a fan of the show, I'm just not as rapturous about it as a lot of critics already seem to be.

Sonia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sonia said...

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