The turkey has been eaten, the pants have been unbuttoned, the scale has been temporarily banished. It was a fine holiday. I did give thanks for the many big-ticket items in my life — family, health, a job, and living in the most beautiful place on the planet — but it occurred to me that I needed to complete my triptych of WordHappy posts.
I do love television. From back in my formative years, where my judgment skills were being forever warped by repeated rerun viewings of Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch and Family Affair — did I mention my most cherished toddlerhood possession was a Mrs. Beasley doll? — to the present, television has been a daily member of my family. So when I stumble upon a new series, and lo and behold, it is fantastic from its very first moments, well, I feel like a proud distant cousin or some equally tortured family metaphor.
That’s how I felt when I watched the series premiere of Pushing Daisies, the latest creation of Bryan Fuller. God bless the man, he started as a writer for Star Trek:Voyager and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (and yes, I say that without irony, as a full-fledged fan of all the Star Trek incarnations: Resistance is futile.). Next came one of my all-time favorite too-good-to-last shows, Wonderfalls, about a very world-weary clerk in a Niagara Falls giftshop who begins to have inanimate objects like brass monkey bookends talk to her. Do me a favor and rent the box DVD set or go buy it or something. It’s so well constructed that watching it is time well spent. Fuller also created and wrote episodes for Dead Like Me, and has written two episodes of Heroes, another of my weekly appointments. So the man has good writing precedent going for him.
Happily, despite the high expectations held for Pushing Daisies, they have been met and exceeded. You’ve probably read about the hook already: a piemaker has the dubious “gift” of being able to bring dead people back to life with his touch — but only for a minute, otherwise someone else must die in their stead. And if he touches them a second time, boom! back to dead forever. So having brought his long-lost childhood sweetheart and one true love back to life, the piemaker can now never touch her. And complications thus ensue.
Now, the premise is fraught with the danger of being too twee to survive. But the show has adroitly scuttled around those dangers in a number of ways. First, the show is gorgeous — hypersaturated with color, with a heavy dose of Amelie influence. Second, Fuller is quite good at writing magical realism, to the degree that he holds his own, in my own opinion, with writers like Alice Hoffman. He takes the magical element and has his characters commit to it one hundred percent, even if it makes no logical sense in an otherwise logical universe. The piemaker, Ned (played wonderfully by Lee Pace) is a very logical man saddled with a very illogical gift and now suffering from the most illogical of conditions: being in love. The bedtime story quality is only enhanced by the providing of an omniscient narrator, voiced by (could it be anyone else?) Jim Dale of Harry Potter audiobook fame. And clearly, I wasn’t the only one who was reminded of Sebastian Cabot narrating the old Disney Winnie the Pooh movie, because the third episode of the series has a great running gag about Winnie the Pooh getting stuck in Rabbit’s hole:
Emerson, the private investigator who uses Ned’s gifts to solve murders for financial gain, gets stuck in a funeral home window. He has the following exchange with Chuck, Ned’s newly reanimated true love, who is standing outside:
Chuck: Remember, mind over matter will make Pooh unfatter.
Emerson: I might be stucked, but I can still reach my gun.
It’s just the most fun to watch. If you aren’t already a fan, definitely check it out.