“Pushing Daisies” — A Slice of SciFi Review

Reviewed by: Samuel K. Sloan (FarPoint Media Executive News Director)

daisies.jpgCritics that were favored with a pre-launch viewing of the new ABC show “Pushing Daisies,” loved it, said it was the greatest thing since grandma’s home cooking. The hype surrounding the series raised the anticipation of SF fans to frenzied heights.

Now that the show has premiered this past Wednesday the big question is — Did it live up to all the anticipation, did it meet the high expectations of fans?

The answer is — Sadly, “Not so much!”

Don’t get me wrong, “Pushing Daisies” is a good show, an adequate newcomer that will probably hang in there and get a loyal following. I plan on sticking around to see where they take it, at least for a few more episodes. However, if it doesn’t pick up, then I will have to drop it in my DVR circular file from hell. The premise of the show is fresh and one that alone gives it a lot of promise if the showrunners and actors can go with it.

A man who loves and bakes pies for a living was granted, as a child, the gift to be able to touch dead people (and things) and bring them immediately back to life. A second touch from him make them dead again. The catch is this, if he doesn’t re-touch them within 60 seconds they stay alive and someone else within a certain radius of him drops over dead — so his gift is actually a double-edged sword.

In the pilot episode all the backstory is given in about 15 minutes, but didn’t feel that rushed because of the narrative delivery of the story-teller. Our protagonist named Ned (played by Lee Pace), as a young boy has a crush on his next door neighbor’s daughter. He accidently kills her dad after his mother drops dead of a stroke and he brings her back to life. Since he didn’t send her back to death within 60 seconds, the girl’s father, who is out mowing his lawn, keels over dead. Ned never tells the girl, called Chuck (Anna Friel) – short for Charlotte, that he was responsible for her father dying.

Jump 20+ years later and Ned is in his Pie Shop working with a private detective, played by the great character actor Chi McBride. Together they solve murders, insurance and other death cases by Ed touching the victim, asking the victim who killed them and then re-touching them, allowing McBride’s character to solve the case. Between the two, they are making a pretty decent living.

Chuck and Ned are thrown back together after she is murdered aboard a cruise ship. Ned brings her back to life to discover who killed her, only to spark the love he had for her in the past and he fails to re-touch her, giving life back to her. Of course someone else dies in her place and I won’t spoil it for you in case you’ve missed the pilot episode.

Lending their supporting talents are the wonderful Swoosie Kurtz and Ellen Greene, who play Chuck’s very eccentric shut-in Aunts. Anytime Swoosie can grace the camera is always a joy and she once again brings credibility to another character as the one-eyed, shotgun totin’ Aunt Lily.

Like I said, the premise is a good one, but I just didn’t feel the two lead actors delivered on what was potentially a good idea. Except for McBride, Kurtz and Greene the other two primaries weren’t able to keep pace with the ingenious script. Pace was overly slow-witted and Friel too bubbly to be believable.

I do hold out hope for this show as the only flaw was what I mentioned above. Time should solve Pace and Friel’s problems in front of the camera, but in today’s fast-paced move to cancel shows, time is the one thing Pace and Friel may not be granted. We’ll have to wait and see if next week’s episode shows a maturing in the abilities of its two leads.

Because of the pre-hype, ABC did garner a goodly share of the viewing audience on Wednesday with 13 million tuning in to see Ned bring back the dead. That was 2 million more than tuned-in to see Jamie Sommers kick some bionic butt in week two of the NBC drama “Bionic Woman” on the same night.

On the Uncle Sam scale of 0 to 5 stars — I give “Pushing Daises” *** because I think it will get better – At least it shows potential for life.

If you missed the premiere, “Pushing Daises” will be re-aired tonight.


  1. says

    Perhaps you weren’t watching the Pie-lette closely enough? For example, the lead character is Ned, not Ed. Also, he wasn’t “granted, as a child, the gift to be able to touch dead people (and things) and bring them immediately back to life”; the narrator tells us he *discovered* this gift as a child, when his dog was killed, but we’re led to believe he was born with it.

    I hope you do keep watching; I think Pushing Daisies is an amazing show.

  2. says

    Whether his name is Ned or Ed doesn’t change my review of the show. Don’t get me wrong — As I said in my review, I liked the show for what it was (I gave it 3 out of 5 stars after all)…it simply didn’t live up to all the advanced hype it got before it premiered.

    And, the point about when the gift was recieved again changes nothing. Yes, the gift he had from birth but never realized until a child and even then only became slowly aware of its power and the rules of engagement.

    I will continue to watch because it does have potential.

  3. says

    Compared to the reality TV dreck that makes up so much of prime time on the networks, I found “Pushing Daisies” to be a welcome change.

    I’m not sure if the show lived up to the hype, either. What could, really. ABC knows that this show could be its Heroes, and they want everyone to know about it. I’m glad their marketing the show in such a hardcore way. I think any SF/F genre show that gets any sort of mainstream acceptance only increases the likelihood that more will get made.

    The worst SF/F show on television is better than the best unscripted reality or game show (except maybe Drew Carey’s improv’d dialog on the Power of 10. — is it wrong to fast-forward through the game part of the game show to only get the host’s witty banter?)

    I realize, Sam, that you consider your 3 out of 5 to be a favorable review “for what it was.” I think it’s going to take time and a lot of encouragement before Network television begins to air consistently good SF/F material. Their show runners and producers don’t really understand the genre. Might I humbly suggest that until they’re up to speed, we should grade them on a curve. As a fantasy show that was produced by a network with very little memorable history in the genre, it is an excellent effort. Far better than Flash Gordon, and the SciFi channel’s been doing this stuff for a while.

  4. Matthew F says

    I saw the pilot prior to the hype, so perhaps that affects my reaction to it. I think it’s the best new show of the season (based on one episode, mind you), and if it continues in the vein of the pilot, will be one of the top three network shows produced in a decade or more.

    I do have a soft spot for what I’d call Burtonesqe media, though. The show feels like a mix of the best of Tim Burton’s early films (Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Nightmare Before Christmas) and the sense of wonder of, well, Wonderfalls. It might be my love of those things that makes this hit such a sweet spot for me.

    Really top-notch. Great pacing, great writing, absolutely stunning production, and I thought every actor was spot-on. I appreciate your review and opinion, but I suspect we’re different enough that, in effect, we saw two different shows.

    Thanks for a thoughtful review.

  5. Andy W says

    I agree that the two primary actors are a little underwhelming so far, but I’m loving the charming quirkiness of the premise and the style of the show. The similarities to “Amelie” are particularly striking – in fact, it’s all I could think about while watching it. The visual style, narration and sense of heightened reality all fit.

    Great review!

  6. fred says

    I liked the dips back into the histories of the people and the quirky sense of humor. The narrative voice is excellent.

  7. Mainframe says

    Pushing Daisies looks to me VERY much in the vein of Roald Dahl – kind of a what it would be like for a Dahl character to grow up. It’s quirky in the best sense of the word. And like Dahl stories, it has to experienced with our inner child to really enjoy; when trying to view it with our adult self, it falls apart (kind trying to look at “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” with a hard sf mindset).

    Also like Roald Dahl stories, the characters are more exaggerated (and in the case of main character intentionally more subdued) than in typical fiction. Every thing is in sharper relief – and with a kind of lovely “British” kind of slant (hinted at by the wonderful narration).

    Stay tuned and enjoy the ride for what it is.

  8. Letitia Reeves says

    I was a bit disappointed in the show, but I really didn’t know what to expect. It seemed to me to be a cross between Tim Burton’s “Corpse Bride” and the “Little Shop of Horrors.” I liked those movies, however, but I felt the story line on this pilot episode dragged and the two main characters dragged as well. I loved Olive and Emerson, but missed the aunts mentioned above(had to leave room temporarily). It is interesting and very different though, so, I’m hoping it gets better and I’m going to watch at least another couple of episodes in the hopes that it improves.

  9. Chris says

    I think you missed the point of the show. I don’t believe the show was trying to make the characters believable. It is all about the story telling. A farce. This show is reminiscent of A Nightmare Before Christmas, Little Shop of Horrors (Disney’s version) and Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events. All of these shows utilize cinematography, script, wonderfully fantastical sets and scenes, and very much a tongue-in-cheek type of humor to bring you an entertaining story. I think Pushing Daisies accomplished all of that and more. I was amazed at the quality of the show considering it was a weekly series. I also think it is a stretch to consider this a Sci-Fi show.

  10. Ned or Ed? says

    @Sam: Even if it doesn’t change the facts, you come off as rather arrogant. You should’ve thanked Mel for being helpful by correcting you.

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