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Monday, September 29, 2008

Fall TV: Crazy about "Daisies"

Hold onto your knitted handgun cozies: "Pushing Daisies" is coming back from the dead. Last season's most whimsical, weird, wonderful show only churned out nine episodes before being cut short by the writer's strike. Having not aired since December, even the most fervent "Daisies" fans — of which several of us Channel Surfers proudly count ourselves — could be forgiven for a spattering of memory loss where Ned, Chuck, Emerson and Olive are concerned.

With the second season approaching mercifully soon (Oct. 1), and a gorgeous first-season DVD set in stores now, here's a quick recap of everything you need to know before making the return trip to Coeur d'Coeurs. (Note: This recaps includes a fair share of spoilers, so the uninitiated should beware.)

In the pilot episode (cutely titled "Pie-lette"), we're introduced to pie-maker Ned (Emmy-nominee Lee Pace), who makes a mean three plum, and can bring the dead back to life with a single touch. The catch is, the resuscitated party can only stick around for one minute, or else someone else in the vicinity will kick it. A second touch from Ned and they're dead again forever.

This is all well and good for a while — though I'm guessing he stays away from eating lobster — and in fact, the ability lends Ned a reluctant side gig helping cranky private eye Emerson Cod (the invaluable Chi McBride) crack unsolved murders by asking the victims themselves how they died and cashing in on the reward money. But when one of those victims turns out to be Ned's childhood sweetheart, Charlotte "Chuck" Charles (Anna Friel), Ned can't bring himself to re-deadify her, much to Emerson's open, withering dismay.

Chuck and Ned are in love, openly and blushingly. Trick is, they can never touch -- not even so much as brush pie crumbs off each other's cheek — or Chuck will go back to pushing up daisies. (Ohhh, THAT'S what the title means!) It's also not the only chink in their armor of amour: Back when Ned was a boy, his mother dropped dead of a brain aneurysm, and the young piemaker, only recently having discovered his unusual powers, brought her back. He had not, at this point, learned of the one-minute time restriction, and so his neighbor, Chuck's father, keeled over backwards while watering the lawn.

With Chuck back and suddenly such an important part of his world, the secret has been bubbling in Ned's stomach like the rotten fruit he brings back to life for his pies. The end of last season handled the fallout of Ned revealing his secret, and presumably this season will follow up the tenuous trust issues that Chuck has developed.

Meanwhile there's Olive Snook (Emmy-nominee Kristen Chenoweth), petite ex-horse jockey and waitress at Ned's pie shop, who's desperate to do a little touching of her own with her boss. Originally supposed to be a more peripheral character, Olive became a much larger presence thanks to the casting of Broadway star Chenoweth, and so much the better. Olive became a perfect foil in the early episodes of the show, desperate to find out Chuck's secret in an attempt to break apart the strangely incontiguous lovebirds.

Her plans lead her to the doorstep of Chuck's aunts and guardians, Lily (Swoosie Kurtz) and Vivian (Ellen Greene), a pair of former synchronized swimming stars stricken with dual bouts of crippling social anxiety disorder. Their niece's apparent death (Ned insists Chuck keep her distance from the grieving pair, to which Chuck reluctantly agrees, barring the odd pie she has delivered to them) has only exacerbated their shut-in tendencies. Olive's affection for the aunts prevents her from revealing Chuck's secret (or what Olive thinks the secret is, that Chuck faked her death) and together with Chuck concocts plans to break Lily and Vivian out of their funk. The main ingredient of the plan is a vial of homeopathic mood enhancers Chuck bakes into the crust of the aunts' pies (and sold door-to-door by Olive's would-be paramour, Alfredo.) The doping has some unintended side effects when an overdose leads a loopy Lily to reveal to Olive a long-hidden secret: She is, in fact, Chuck's mother.

All of this plot-wrangling — as bizarre and far-fetched as it sounds (and is) — is mere window-dressing for the nimble writing, the sharp comic acting, the brightly colorful set design, the musical interludes, and the dizzy romantic overtones of a prime time fairy tale for adults, complete with a omniscient, sometimes rhyming narrator (Jim Dale). It makes for a blissfully silly hour of television, and by the looks of the Season Two preview, it's only going to get better.

"Pushing Daisies" season 2 premiere airs Wednesday at 7 p.m. on ABC.

-- Adam Reinhard,

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I don't have the Season One DVD in my hands yet, but I'm quite excited for Wednesday night's return. And (hopefully) more appearances by Paul Reubens during the season.

-- Tom

By Blogger Press-Gazette blogger, At September 29, 2008 at 4:38 PM  

And I'll also add ... "Mmmm, Olive."

-- Tom

By Blogger Press-Gazette blogger, At September 29, 2008 at 7:22 PM  

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