Described by producers as a “forensic fairy tale,” Pushing Daises centers on a pie maker named Ned, who has the mysterious ability to bring dead things back to life by touching them. The problem is, another touch renders that person or thing dead again permanently. Further, if something is revived for more than one minute, something of similar “life value” in the vicinity drops dead, as a form of balance. Ned, expertly played by Lee Pace, lives a fairly lonely life baking pies and working with Emerson Cod (Chi McBride), a private detective, to solve crimes by bringing victims back just long enough to finger the murderer.

pushing-daisies.jpgThings are working out pretty well for Ned until he learns that the only girl he ever kissed (at age nine), has been murdered on a cruise ship. Seizing the opportunity to see Chuck (Anna Friel) again, Ned revives her once her body is shipped back home. Despite the consequences, he can’t bring himself to touch her a second time. In the end, Ned allows Chuck to live and a rather undesirable funeral home director die in her place. Predictably, Ned and Chuck begin to fall in love again. He takes her home to live with him, but they are forced to deal with the reality of never being able to touch.
The story of Ned and Chuck’s relationship sets the emotional tone for the series. How do two fairly young people so clearly in love, keep a relationship going without so much as a touch? Their emotional ups and downs feel real and are easily understandable to the television viewing public. On the other hand, Ned and Emerson’s investigations into various crimes and murders, keep things moving for those that prefer a little action with their dramedy’s.
The show’s surreal tone, which feels a lot like a day-time Tim Burton fairy tale (appropriate, considering the show is the brainchild 0f Bryan Fuller (Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls) and Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black, The Addams Family), is full of quirky touches, like a storybook-worthy, detail-obsessed narrator and a pair of aunts for Chuck who are shut-in former water-show performers (Ellen Greene and Swoosie Kurtz (in an eyepatch!) It feels like every turn brings something new to enjoy, be it a Hitchcock-inspired montage for Emerson, claymation side trips into Ned’s childhood or the incredibly talented Chenoweth breaking out into a song from Grease.
On the face of it, the premise for Pushing Daisies seems ridiculous. However, the series producers, writers and directors were able to create something wonderful by using stunning visual and camera effects to create a kind of magical world. Each episode introduces original characters who bring something new to the table. Every member of the cast is fun to watch and there are memorable guest appearances by Jayma Mays, Carlos Arazraqui, Joel McHale, Molly Shannon, Mike White and Paul Reubens.
“Corpsicle,” the first season finale, may have been the strongest episode of the season. It mixes comedy and drama, effectively bringing all of the elements that make the show so good together. There’s comedy before a shocking ending. This type of versatility is the mark of a great show.
The anamorphic widescreen transfers on these episodes are beautiful, with a stunningly clean image that’s free of any noticeable imperfections, and bursting with bright, sunny, vivid color. The show uses a great deal of special effects to create a hyper-realistic, otherworldly look, and while the crystal-clear quality helps make that happen, it also reveals a lot of the digital work, making it look less “real.”
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is solid, though subtle. The dialogue is clean and clear, delivered straight down the middle, and the music is strong and excellent, though not overpowering in any way. Audio options include English Dolby Digital 5.1 and Portuguese Dolby 2.0 tracks, while subtitles are available in EnglishSDH, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Thai. There is no closed captioning.
Bonus Features:
Pie Time: Time for Pie is a presentation of various short featurettes. The season’s nine episodes are listed around spinning pie trays, and clicking any one leads to a static image containing more pies. Each pie is a behind-the-scenes clip pertaining to that particular episode; most involve actor Lee Pace and creator Bryan Fuller discussing their favorite scenes from the given episode.
“Pie-lette’s” pieces discuss cinematography and tone (3:21), the creation of the Pie Hole (1:45), and Pace and Fuller’s favorite scenes (2:53). “Dummy” has a clip about the casting of Young Ned (1:41), and of Pace and Fuller discussing Kristin Chenoweth and Riki Lindhome (3:24).
For “The Fun in the Funeral,” the series’ color palette is discussed (2:12), and Pace and Fuller return to comment on Ellen Greene and Swoosie Kurtz (2:29). The work done on the title character for “Pigeon” is explained (1:05) as well as the creation of the windmill town (2:40). On “Girth,” Pace and Fuller discuss Olive’s horse racing backstory, and the sets’ wallpaper is noted (0:55).
“Bitches” delivers another Pace and Fuller chat, this time regarding Hitchcock references and who’s the better kisser between Anna Friel and Kristin Chenoweth (2:59); the casting of Chi McBride is also explained. On “Smell of Success,” Pace and Fuller talk about the potency of a swimming scene between the two aunts (1:58). The elaborate CG crane shot from Bitter Sweets is analyzed (1:42), the production design is detailed upon (2:32), and Pace and Fuller comment on the appearance of Molly Shannon, Raúl Esparza, and Ned’s revelation to Chuck (6:09). The season finale, “Corpsicle” contains a clip about the CG cheese crab featured (1:32).