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New Season: "Pushing Daisies"

By admin Published: October 3, 2007

Premieres tonight on ABC.

Pie Hole
Maybe I should just shut my pie hole about this show...

I have seen the considerable enthusiasm among some of my colleagues for "Pushing Daisies." I have also read the discussion of applying the word "twee" to it. ("Twee," which I looked up to be sure, means "affectedly clever. ... mincingly cute or sweet.") I am probably closer to the "twee" crowd than the enthusiasts, but I'm still largely on the fence about the show overall.

"Pushing Daisies" is a magic-laden, Dickensian-narrated, "Addams Family"-looking, oddball of a show about love, death, intimacy, murder and being photographed from very peculiar angles. Its main character has the power to bring people back to life, but there are strings attached -- strings that may lead to others' demise (as in the lovely, gone "Carnivale"), strings that keep him from getting close to the very people he has cared enough to help.

In some hands -- Joss Whedon comes to mind, as well as "Carnivale" -- this could be the stuff of tragedy, or romance with an overlay of sadness. But "Pushing Daisies" -- from Bryan Fuller and Barry Sonnefeld -- treats it as wistful comedy, keeping the audience at some emotional distance, notably via Jim Dale's narration. Actors like Lee Pace and Chi McBride are playing it cool and then some. It's as if the show's makers don't want to touch us either.

But what they do aim to do is dazzle us, with a colorful visual style reminiscent of comic books and Sonnenfeld's previous work (including "Addams Family" and "Men in Black" on the big screen and the live-action "The Tick" and the revival of "Fantasy Island" for TV). And dazzle they do. While I would stop short of the extravagant claims that you've never seen something like this on TV ("The Tick" was also pretty elaborate visually), "Pushing Daisies" nonetheless puts the vision back in television. You can't just follow along with the dialogue. You have to watch the screen.

But when you watch and listen, you may still come back to, well, "twee." This is a show that is not content to be clever. It is self-consciously so. It's not content to let you recognize that it's interesting. It cries out, "See how interesting we are! Be impressed!" It doesn't just want to be pinky-out elegant; it's making pinky circles in the air so you'll notice.

None of which will keep me from coming back for a second episode. But it does make me watch the show skeptically, and that skepticism will make me harder to impress in future shows.

On the other hand, I really liked Sonnenfeld's "Addams Family," "Men in Black" and "Fantasy Island." So maybe "Pushing Daisies" will push me off the fence -- to a good side.

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