I already posted a few days ago about the pleasant surprise I got watching a friend's preview DVD of NBC's "Chuck". Well, that same night my pal also had a few other preview DVDs for us to watch. Another great one we watched was ABC's "Pushing Daisies".
As with "Chuck", I thought that the commercial campaign going on for it didn't do it proper justice. If shows like this are what the success of "Battlestar Galactica" and "Heroes" and its ilk have brought us, I'm very cool with that. But the networks HAVE to learn how to "sell" them properly. And this better get a good lead-in/schedule spot.
Then again, "Pushing Daisies" actually has much more in common with dear departed shows like Bryan Fuller's "Dead Like Me", the Barry Sonnenfeld 1998 version of "Fantasy Island", and to me most strongly the much beloved Bryan Fuller project, "Wonderfalls" (not that inanimate objects talk, its just the tone of the thing). And THOSE were all great shows too, but the resemblance makes me scared this show might get canceled, because all of those great shows were. Fuller and Sonnenfeld have gone this route before with TV and it hasn't worked out--not because the shows aren't great, but because they are EXPENSIVE and the networks seem to demand monster ratings to keep them going. Fuller and Sonnenfeld love producing off-beat charming material, and this show is very much that. If America is ready for it, then it will be great. If not? Well... we've already discussed what happened with "Wonderfalls", right?
It also had a touch which felt like some of the better Tim Burton movies (I see a lot of Edward Scissorhands, at least in how its been produced, edited and written, if not the actual story or characters). It has that bedtime story/mythic thing going on, and its great.
The premise has been talked about in the commercials, so there's really no spoiler aspect. A guy has a magic power. He can touch dead things and they come back to life. With some caveats he discovers in a series of sequences which I can tell you without overt spoilage are done with an aura of black comedy, which are in fact quite funny if you let them be, but which could piss off Maw and Paw Middle America. Since these caveats are exposed almost immediately in the Pilot, and appear to be in most of the promo commercials anyway, I don't have a problem revealing them--firstly, if he touches the person a second time, they re-die, this time for good. Secondly, if he leaves them alive for more than a minute, someone ELSE (who's in very close physical proximity) dies in their stead. And he STILL can't touch that revivee again.
This gets quite complicated in ways I don't really want to spoil during his childhood, and lets just say... it sets up a scenario where we can easily believe he's been kind of screwed up by this, and yet he's still got this aura of innocence about him.
Flash forward to his adulthood. Again, without spoiling anything major outside whats already in preview commercials, lets just say he's established a life where he can use his ability in um... kind of a good way... although he's certainly profiting from it. He's waking murder victims, asking them who killed them, and then with the help of a partner who's a private detective, collecting the reward money. He also runs a pie store. Yes, I said a pie store.
The plot picks up with him finding out someone from his past has been murdered. Again, I don't want to spoil too much, but I DO know its been pretty much revealed on the commercials and fall preview guides and such that this person is a girl he loves. He revives her and then has to live with the fact that he can't touch her--or she will die again. There's a lot more to it, of course, but the point here in to avoid spoilery specifics and just give you impressions of how well it WORKS.
As I said at the top of this--I think it works well. Assuming America accepts it. The actors are all pretty good. The male lead, Ned, is a guy named Lee Pace, who I recall nothing about, but he seems okay. Actually... IMDB says he was in the main cast of Fuller's "Wonderfalls" (as the brother of the main character) and that DOES help explain one of the reasons why I unconsciously associated the two shows I guess. Ned is just a bit weird because of this ability, but also kind of child-like.
The female lead, with the odd name of "Chuck" (a nickname for Charlotte) is played by Anna Friel, and she is absolutely wonderful in the pilot. She's quirky and yet very magnetically charming. The actress wins you over within seconds of first appearing and you can easily see why the inability for our hero and heroine to touch would be so tragic. She's one of those rare characters who completely and totally owns you by the end of a pilot.
Chi McBride plays Ned's Private Detective "partner", Emerson Cod, and while he doesn't do anything THAT special with the role, he does keep it light enough to keep it enjoyable. I think he's going to be thrown into the role of the wise guy, since Ned is the innocent one, and Chuck is the spunky one.
Kristin Chenoweth (yes, THAT Kristin Chenoweth) plays Olive, who is a waitress in Ned's pie shop and who also appears to be his next door neighbor. Olive seems to be in love with Ned, but he doesn't want to get emotionally close to anyone, because of his little power and the personal cost of it to anyone in physical proximity to him if he accidentally lets a revivee live past that minute.
Chenoweth is the weak link in the cast I think, but I'm willing to give her a chance. Swoosie Kurtz and Ellen Greene also appear as well, as Chuck's um.... VERY weird aunts.
It's an odd show, but like NBC's "Chuck" (no relation to the female "Chuck" on "Pushing Daisies") I hope it makes it.