Ellen Greene, Swoosie Kurtz, Kristin Chenoweth, Stephen Root, Field Cate
Complete Second Season
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All photos © ABC
Reviewed by Will Harris
nce in a blue moon, a television series comes along that is so unique that it cannot help but inspire two thoughts at the same time: 1) “This is one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen in my life,” and 2) “There is no way that this series is ever going to succeed.” ABC’s “Pushing Daisies” was a series which inspired both of these thoughts as early as the opening moments of its pilot episode, and as to its fate, the facts are these: although the show definitely did not set the ratings on fire, it was sufficiently beloved by the network to earn a renewal, but when the series returned for its second season with considerably fewer viewers than it had possessed during its initial year, ABC was left with no choice but to cancel the series.
It is hard to imagine that anyone was shocked by this development. Despite the fact that every episode possessed a gorgeous palate of colors that put Warren Beatty’s “Dick Tracy” to shame, the premise alone was enough to keep the average mainstream viewer away: Ned (Lee Pace), a professional piemaker, can bring dead people and things back to life, with the caveats that a) if the dead person or thing stays alive for more than a minute, something or someone else must die in their place in order to keep the balance of the universe in check, and b) if he touches the revived person or thing a second time, then they die again…for good. Beyond the heavy premise, however, “Pushing Daisies” had such a uniquely dark, comedic tone and odd timing that it was never going to be a show that the masses would embrace.
The show’s second season found the series beginning to delve further into the families of its main characters, putting considerable focus onto the revelation from the Season One finale that Lily (Swoosie Kurtz) was actually the mother of Chuck (Anna Friel). Indeed, it was a secret so significant that knowing it actually drove Olive Snook (Kristin Chenoweth) to a nunnery. There was more discussion about the missing daughter of private investigator Emerson Cod (Chi McBride), an introduction to the piemaker’s two magician half-brothers, and the welcoming of a mysterious new character – Dwight Dixon (Stephen Root) – into the fold, one with a significant connection to Ned’s past. As ever, however, there was just as much focus on the case of the week, allowing for well-utilized guest appearances from Fred Willard, Kerri Kenney, David Arquette, French Stewart, Missy Pyle, Nora Dunn, Wendie Malick, Shelley Berman, Robert Picardo, Fred Williamson, Orlando Jones, and even George Hamilton.
“Pushing Daisies” was always destined to be a cult show with a short run, so much so that we should really just thank the gods of television that we even got a second season. With that said, however, we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge a certain amount of annoyance with the series’ decision to try and offer a rapid-fire wrap-up in the last two minutes of the final episode. If you didn’t catch it during its summer airing on ABC (and you’d be forgiven if you didn’t), you’ll be reminded of a parent who’s reading their child a bedtime story but needs desperately to pee, so they rush through the last dozen pages at a quick clip just get it over with. As well-intentioned as it may have been to try and assure viewers that there’s a certain amount of happily-ever-after in the future of Ned, Chuck, and the rest of the “Pushing Daisies” gang, one can’t help but feel that, all things being equal, it would’ve been better if they had just left well enough alone and ended things without any specific closure. What, like the viewers of this show don’t have the imagination to make up their own happy ending?
Special Features: There are four featurettes – “The Master Piemaker: Inside the Mind of Creator Bryan Fuller,” “From Oven to Table: Crafting a Script Idea into Reality,” “Secret Sweet Ingredients: Spotlight on Composer Jim Dooley’s Work,” and “Add a Little Magic: Executing Some Giant-Sized Visual Effects” – which fans will certainly enjoy. Still, it would’ve been nice to get some comments from Fuller about the conclusion of the series. (It’s not like there wasn’t time to get something committed to film between its cancellation and this DVD release.)