Pushing Daisies’ second season was also its last. The show’s unequivocal commitment to its voice, style and narrative was both its greatest strength and greatest weakness. Like films such as Amelie, The Brothers Bloom or The Royal Tenenbaums, its whimsical style seems to have both excited and marginalised television viewers in equal measure.
Essentially the best way to know if you will like this show or not, is to watch one episode. If its tone and hyper-real world appeals to you, you’ll want to watch the rest of the series. If not, you’ll know to give it a wide berth.
For those of you who have never seen Pushing Daisies, the facts are these: Ned, a piemaker, can raise the dead. If he touches a dead thing it comes back to life. If he touches it again it dies. If he lets the dead thing stay alive for more than one minute, someone else must die. When he finds out his childhood sweetheart Chuck dies, he raises her again, and allows her to live. They are very much in love, but can never touch otherwise she will die.
Season two is a welcome development of the groundwork laid down in the show’s first season. It feels like a show much more aware of its own strengths. In particular, Olive Stone and Emerson Cod, who up until the start of season one had very much supporting roles, are wisely given their own back stories, as well as much more screen time. This allows the narrative to move from the love story between Ned and Chuck to a much more ensemble piece.
It also makes much better use of its “Mystery of the Week”. Like Joss Whedon’s shows: Buffy, Angel and Dollhouse, which all started out with this format, Pushing Daisies manages to seamlessly weave its characters’ season-long arcs with whatever case has to be solved that week. This means mysteries in the second season have much more resonance to them. As the characters we know and love have more invested in the cases, we as viewers naturally become more invested.
Finally, there’s a purity of emotion and character to Pushing Daisies that mark it apart from most shows I love. Characters never really change that much, even if their circumstances do. Olive still loves Ned; Ned and Chuck love each other; Emerson Cod remains cynical and distant. Normally I would hate this type of storytelling. However, such is the perfectly judged tone of the show, that I found these never-changing character traits incredibly endearing and refreshing.
Perhaps it’s because in between the cynicism and depression of shows like The Wire, Mad Men and The Pacific, it’s nice to have something so devoted to its own cheery disposition.
During the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year, I remember seeing a poster for Tim Vine, where one reviewer said: “You wouldn’t want every comedian to be Tim Vine but it’s good to know one is.” Perhaps this best sums up my feelings about Bryan Fuller’s show: I wouldn’t want every show to be Pushing Daisies, but it’s good to know one is.