While Pushing Daisies may have garnered 12 Emmy nominations, it may also have been one of the shows most hurt by last year’s writer’s strike. A story that is not only quirky but that is built on a dense and complicated–if entirely charming–mythology, Daisies didn’t really have the luxury of disappearing from our screens for an extended period and emerging unscathed. Built around a murder committed by bees, the season premiere sagged for the first third as the convoluted set-up–piemaker gifted with the touch of life; nature’s balance requires life for life; piemaker’s mom/Chuck’s dad/Chuck’s mom/homeopathic mood enhancers…you get the idea–was spelled out for viewers who might have forgotten it over the 10 months since we had a new episode.
Luckily, both the basics of the show (the glorious visuals; the warmth and connections between lonely people) and the new twists (moving Olive to a new setting; moving Chuck out of Ned’s apartment) are strong, and the rest of the episode shone. There might always be a corpse, but this isn’t CSI–this show is about both overcoming and incorporating grief to build yourself into something new. The identity of the killer hiding in a whacked-out version of Bert’s Bees isn’t the real story here–the point is Ned realizing how his home expanding is about making something new; it’s Aunt Vivian being able to get on a bus for the first time (having gotten over her feeling that public transportation is too intimate). The disconcerting thing about procedurals is that their obsession with death makes life seem so disposable. Pushing Daisies reminds us over and over through its obsession with death that life is glorious. While the mystery wasn’t terribly difficult to figure out, the way Ned and Chuck’s relationship is growing and maturing reflects what the show is really about.
As charming as Ned and Chuck might be, Kristin Chenoweth and Chi McBride are really the stars of this show. Chuck and Ned’s sweet romance might become entirely too sticky if not cut with the lemony comedic bite Olive and Emerson bring to the pie. We’re eaten up with curiosity wondering what secret tragedy has severed Emerson’s daughter from his life and where the story will take Olive and her new animal friend, Pigby. Pigby. If Chenoweth and Swoosie Kurtz in teal nun’s habits don’t make you laugh, I don’t think we’ll find anything that will.
Last year, we started keeping track of all the Hitchcock references Daisies was throwing at us. While I’m not sure I caught any of those tonight, having Chenoweth spin and sing in the Alps and make direct references to Sound of Music lyrics is almost as funny as having Ned pop up at Betty’s Bees as a temp from Happy Time, the temp agency in creator Bryan Fuller‘s previous brilliant and underappreciated medidtation on death, Dead Like Me. None of those, however, can top the prettiest, most color-saturated show on television stashing the incandescent Chenoweth in a nunnery straight out of Black Narcissus–I nearly fell off the couch when they revealed that long shot of the abbey, the well, and the gates.
There’s no other show on television that’s so gorgeous (hexagon-tiled floors at a honey-products company), so well thought-out to every last detail (bee-magnet Chuck dressed in florals), or so clever (Black Narcissus! Are you kidding me?), but there are a lot of shows getting better ratings. Susannah begged you the other day to tune into Life, reminding you of the tragic fates of other quality shows that reward attention and devotion. After seeing Wednesday’s ratings, I’m coming on bended knee to beg you to give Pushing Daisies a chance. Give yourself a chance to fall in love with a lonely piemaker and a dead girl and a knitting PI and a waitress who is a gun loaded with truth buckshot–and with the idea that love really can conquer death. You won’t be disappointed.