Empty8-9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3
You'll know it when you click on "Pushing Daisies." Instinctively, you'll reach around for your sunglasses. Few shows give your pixels a workout like this one.
Of course, there's more to "Daisies" than an arresting color palette, but the show's stimulating optical quality is one of the more obvious differences between this unusual, whimsical dramedy and just about everything else on the air.
The series, from creators Bryan Fuller and Barry Sonnenfeld, is a masterful mixture of life, romance, optimism and youthful exuberance, all played out under the threat of instant death. It is so unique and has such an uncanny charm that it is impossible to watch the premiere without wondering whether succeeding episodes can come even close to the pilot. The fact that ABC sent out only the pilot adds to the concern.
At the outset, narrator Jim Dale, in his best fairy tale-telling voice, describes what happened to Ned (Lee Pace) when he was 9 years old. His dog ran onto the highway and was immediately hit by a speeding truck. That's when Ned discovered that, just by touching, he could restore life.
Ned learned, sometimes the hard way, of the other rules that came with his gift. A second touch returns the person (or animal or insect) to permanent death. In addition, if the second touch is not administered in a minute, someone else dies. Meanwhile, those who have been touched can live forever, or so it seems from Ned's dog, now 22.
Ned grew into a shy, introverted guy with a great talent for baking pies. He supplemented his income with a partner, Emerson Cod (Chi McBride). Together, they visited the bodies of recent murder victims. Ned's first touch lets the victim name the murderer; the second touch restores his morbidity. Then, Ned and Emerson divvy up the reward money.
One day, Ned sees a TV news story about a woman killed before she was tossed off a cruise ship. He recognizes the victim as his childhood sweetheart, Charlotte "Chuck" Charles (British actress Anna Friel). Once he brings her back to life, old feelings return, and he does not want to lose her again. (The logical thing would be for Ned to send her far, far away to avoid any accidental contact, but where's the series in that?)
There is strong chemistry between Pace and Friel, but they are only two corners of the show's love triangle. In the third corner is comely Olive Snook (Kristin Chenoweth), the waitress at Ned's the Pie Hole restaurant, for whom touching Ned is not out of bounds.
Fuller and Sonnenfeld created a colorful fantasy world, but that might be the easy part. To keep the series from becoming too confining, Ned and Chuck must spend more time in the real world without losing their sense of wonder or becoming one-note characters. For that to happen, the producers will need a special touch of their own.
Warner Bros. Television
Executive producers: Dan Jinks, Bruce Cohen, Barry Sonnenfeld, Bryan Fuller
Producer: Graham Place
Co-producer: Livia Hanich
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Teleplay: Bryan Fuller
Director of photography: Michael Weaver
Production designer: Michael Wylie
Editor: Stuart Bass
Music: Jim Dooley
Art director: William Durrell
Casting: Liberman/Patton Casting
Ned: Lee Pace
Charlotte "Chuck" Charles: Anna Friel
Emerson Cod: Chi McBride
Olive Snook: Kristin Chenoweth
Aunt Lily: Swoosie Kurtz
Aunt Vivian: Ellen Greene
Young Ned: Field Cate
Narrator: Jim Dale