The premise for ABC's new fall series, Pushing Daisies, seemed somewhat interesting but not quite enough to get me into watching the show. Ted, the protagonist (but not narrator of the show, and one of the high points, as it turns out) of the series, has been gifted since youth with the ability to reanimate the dead with his touch. At first, this gift seems miraculous, except for two huge caveats: (1) if he ever touches that person/animal/food again, they die, this time permenantly, (2) if he does not touch that person again within 60 seconds, someone else within close proximity will fall over dead.
Of course, had I known that Barry Sonnenfeld was not only the executive producer of the show but the director of the pilot, I wouldn't have waiting nearly a week to watch it. (Okay, there was a lot of football on this weekend, so things might have just happened this way no matter my excitement level.) For those of you who are too lazy to Google, Barry is either best known as the early cinematographer for the Coen Brothers (e.g., the Raising Arizona and the top notch Miller's Crossing) or as the director of such offbeat films as Addams Family, Get Shorty, and Men in Black. Within one minute of the start of Pushing Daisies' pilot, you know he has brought his bizarre, yet charming talents to the series. The already cliche description of the show is a 'fairy tale for adults'. I think it best a mix like this: cartoonish, gharish, dangerous. And utterly fun.Let's compare where this series is already on target, and Chuck is already flailing. Lee Pace plays Ned as restrained, unquirky, sincere and completely likeable. Zack Levi plays Chuck as frantic, over-the-top, and rather pathetic. Ted and his Chuck (not Zach Levi, thankfully, but Anna Friel) have a genuine chemistry that is obvious from minute one, and they are very cute together. Chuck (from Chuck -- I did not realize how confusing this could get, and now I regret it) likes Sarah Walker for some reason that I can't figure other than she's hot -- oh wait it's in the script.
Perhaps it's unfair that Pushing Daisies also got the services of Jim Dale to do the voiceover. As the voice of the audiobooks for the Harry Potter series, he brings a fantastical feel to the show, I'd go so far as to say a feeling of wonder. But aside from his sonorific voice, someone was clearly cribbing notes from Ron Howard's voice work on Arrested Development -- Jim delivers some terrifically funny insights that otherwise would be awkward to put into the regular story.It is not yet known if/how many needless strawberries have met their untimely fate because of his bakery business. What is also unknown is how Barry got the name of his store, 'The Pie Hole' past network censors. (Christ, even the picture capture - above - of the store on ABC's site is captioned "Inside the Pie Hole". Are they trying to get in trouble?) What we do have is the first pilot of the year to set the bar high enough that the series is under pressure to follow up with as smart and engaging episodes.
Bonus: Check out the comic from the series. If this goes anywhere near this level, this show is going to rock.