At first, you think, maybe those colors aren't really that beautiful and bright. Maybe the music isn't that inspirational, and the narrator not really so soothing, yet authoritative. Certainly, the fantasy couldn't be that delightful.
Maybe Pushing Daisies, premiering tonight at 8 on 6ABC, isn't really that great, you think. In a season where so many new shows have been leaden, derivative and so forgettable, maybe it's just that something a little different stands out.
So you watch it again. And again. And you realize that this may be one of the most beautifully crafted and original TV shows ever to get fall consideration on a big network.
Ladies and gents, if you don't watch TV because you think it's all the same, if you're fed up with redundant reality shows, sick of stupid soapy sexuality, pooped by procedurals and their blood and guts and salty language, please take a look at Pushing Daisies.
It opens sadly. Little Ned is romping through a bodacious field of daisies with his golden retriever, Digby, 3 years, 2 months, 6 days, 5 hours and 9 minutes old, which, in his case, is particularly important because at this moment, Digby gets hit by an 18-wheeler and lives no more.
That is, the narrator explains, until Ned learns that "he wasn't like the other children." He touches dead Digby, and the dog springs back to life.
Through trial and error, some of it "most unfortunate," Ned does his Lazarus thing and learns that a second touch consigns a creature forever to the world of the dead, and that if the touch is not administered within one minute, a nearby living being must replace the one who has been rescued.
We move ahead 21 years and, by wonderful chance, Ned brings his childhood girlfriend, Charlotte "Chuck" Charles, back to life. He was her first kiss, and in her extra minute of life, she laments that he will be her last.
At this point, like her, you may be thinking, "This sounds pretty weird."
Heed Ned's observation: "That's not weird. It's magical."
And it remains that way, as Chuck sticks around, replaced on the other side of the Styx by someone who belongs there, and our sweethearts learn to let their love grow without ever touching.
"I suppose dying is as good an excuse as any to start living," says Chuck, who has spent her life caring for her screwy maiden aunts, one of whom wears a patch, having been blinded in her right eye in a tragic kitty-litter accident.
There's not a dud among the folks associated with this show.
Bryan Fuller, who dreamed up Fox's Wonderfalls and Showtime's Dead Like Me and was an executive producer last season on Heroes, created Pushing Daisies. Producer Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black, The Addams Family) is his collaborator, and he directed the first episode and will do at least two more.
The wonderful Jim Dale, who made the Harry Potter audio books (and set a Guinness record for his 134 different voices), is the narrator. Little-known Lee Pace and British actress Anna Friel are darling as the leads, but the quality of the supporting actors can give you a real feel for the blessings of this show.
Chi McBride (the principal from Boston Legal, the banker from The Nine) plays Emerson Cod, a private eye who teams with Chuck and Ned. With a different case each week, resurrected victims finger their killers, and the trio collect rewards.
Tiny Kristin Chenoweth (Annabeth Schott on The West Wing) is Olive Snook, a gal who would like Ned for her own. Veteran film, TV and Broadway staples Swoosie Kurtz and Ellen Greene play Chuck's aunts.
Once "a renowned synchronized swimming duo, they shared matching personality disorders and a love for fine cheese," Dale tells us.
Blake Neely and James Dooley's music boosts Pushing Daisies' fabulous air, and William Daniel's art direction is jaw-dropping.
The whole thing comes in a captivating intensified palette. "I just turn the dial a little more on the machine," Sonnenfeld told TV critics this summer.
Many of them are hoping viewers turn the dials on their machines to take a look at Pushing Daisies. Of course, it's not for everybody, but it's the kind of ambitious, fun, original try that will appeal to plenty of people outside the mainstream of TV viewers, if they will only take a look.
If they don't, critics' hopes will be dashed once again, and another show that deserves success will go to the ratings graveyard, where there's no magic touch to bring back the dead.
Jonathan Storm |
Tonight at 8