Pushing Daisies, ABC Television, Season One

Sometimes a new television show receives tremendous buzz before its release -- and Pushing Daisies deserves it! This show is a breath of fresh air that has remained consistently entertaining as a technicolor fairy tale with romance, adventure, mystery, whimsy, comedy, a sophisticated narrator, and lots of dead bodies.

As a child, young Ned had a crush on his next-door neighbor, young Charlotte "Chuck" Charles. Ned also discovered a special ability: He could bring the dead back to life with a touch! However, this ability had two drawbacks: If he touched the resurrected person again they would die and stay dead, and if he didn't touch them within a minute someone else would die. He learned these lessons the hard way: When Ned brought his mother back to life Chuck's father dropped dead a minute later; and when Ned's resurrected mom kissed him goodnight she flopped back to death. Ned was sent away to school, while Chuck was raised by her aunts Lily Charles (Swoozie Kurtz) and Vivian Charles (Ellen Greene), who had been professional synchronized swimmers until Lily lost an eye while changing a litter box.

On to the present! The grown-up Ned (a delightfully awkward Lee Pace) has become a piemaker at a restaurant called the Piehole, where he resists the frequent advances of waitress Olive Snook (Kristin Chenoweth). Ned also tries to keep his ability a secret, but he was discovered by burly private investigator Emerson Cod (Chi McBride), who came up with a way for them to make money: Emerson finds high-profile murder cases; Ned brings the victim back to life with a touch, finds out who killed them, then touches them again less than a minute later; and they find and catch the criminal and split the reward money. Oh, and Ned lives with his dog -- the first thing he brought back from the dead -- who's still alive and happy even though his master can't pet him.

Things get complicated -- well, more complicated -- when, investigating a big murder on a cruise, Ned finds out the victim was Chuck from his childhood. After Ned brings Chuck (now played by the lovely Anna Friel) back, he can't bear to make her dead again. So now Emerson isn't thrilled to have "the dead girl" always hanging around, Chuck is upset she can't return to her aunts, Olive is incredibly jealous of the new woman in Ned's life, and Ned and Chuck are very much in love -- and she'll die the moment they touch.

Pushing Daisies is like a Tim Burton romantic comedy, with seemingly grim elements being transformed into magic. The cast is absolutely likeable, and the stories manage to be creative week after week. In addition, all of the characters keep growing and surprising us as the show goes on: Olive is still jealous of Chuck but becomes friends with Lily and Vivian; Ned struggles with whether or not to tell Chuck that he caused her father's death; and tough-guy Emerson knits when stressed. The language isn't realistic, but it is consistently clever and amusing ("You seem decidedly unhappy." "I haven't decided anything of the sort yet.")

I cannot recommend this show highly enough. It's consistently intelligent, thoroughly quotable, and tremendously entertaining. Set aside time every Wednesday night for Pushing Daisies.

Overall grade: A+

Reviewed by James Lynch

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