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Pushing Daisies: Dummy

by Joel Keller, posted Oct 10th 2007 9:45PM
Pushing Daisies: Dummy(S01E02) OK, I am now ever so slightly worried about Pushing Daisies.

Oh, don't get me wrong: there was plenty to like about the second episode of the most praised new show of the season. But there were two things that got me and every person concerned about this show's long-term future: a) Would the show get too cute (or twee, if closet Brit Anna Friel was discussing it. Alan Sepinwall was the first critic to use the term for the show, and I think it fits perfectly) for its own good, and b) would Barry Sonnenfeld's rumored budget overruns sink the show in its later episodes?

After watching "Dummy," my answers right now are a) it might if it's not careful, and b) it's starting to look that way.

The word that jumped out at me during the entire hour was "expensive." From the ultra-mod soundstages that stood in for the Dandy Lion corporation to the not one, but two prototype cars that actually moved, all I could think of was that Sonnenfeld and Bryan Fuller were not going to be able to keep up this fanciful look week after week. This is one of the most stylized shows that has ever hit the air, even more colorful and cartoonish than Ugly Betty, which set that standard last year. But "stylized" is also a synonym for "pricey," and I can't imagine ABC and Warner Brothers continuing to fund such an expensive series unless it does bang-up ratings.

Pushing Daisies: DummyAs for the tweeness, well... it varied this week. There were points where I was rolling my eyes at how cute things were; the rapid talking of Dandy Lion's president, for instance, and the fact that Chuck could speak to him in Japanese even though she didn't have to. But there were plot points that later justified both of these: we needed to find out somehow what Chuck did with her spare time while she took care of her cheese-loving shut-in aunts, and we found out that the executive was a Ritalin fiend.

But when Olive broke out in a fractured version of "Hopelessly Devoted to You" smack in the middle of the episode, by blood sugar levels skyrocketed. Yes, I know that Kristin Chenoweth is a fantastic singer. But to have her spend five minutes singing to Digby (and the floor cleaner) at the Pie Hole? At that point, I scribbled in my notes, "Short on story much?"

We're still not quite sure why Olive is there. Yes, we know she longs for Ned and is jealous of his relationship with Chuck. But are we supposed to be sympathetic? Because so far, she's been nothing but annoying.

The Chuck/Ned no-touching thing was put to the test a lot this week, with lots of falling into holes and the possibility of the two accidentally touching during the Dandy Lion chase. But they're finding creative ways of touching each other, like the body bag kiss and the taxi-divider-glove device Ned installed in his car at the end of the episode. How they're going to sustain this over a season or more and make it believable is going to be a real challenge.

Another slight worry concerns the mysteries around which each episode is built. This one -- a researcher is killed when he finds out the Dandy Lion is unsafe, and human bodies are used instead of crash test dummies -- was more style than substance. There wasn't much to figure out on this one, as there weren't a ton of suspects or any real misdirection. If this is going to tout itself at all as a procedural, the procedure part is going to need to be stronger. Otherwise, the story of Chuck and Ned will overwhelm whatever mystery is written that week; think Moonlighting with pies.

But, again, the chemistry between Lee Pace and Anna Friel is undeniable. And Friel brings that cute girly energy to each mystery -- "Any last thoughts or requests?" -- that will make this a lttle more than just a weird version of CSI. And, the writing is still funny, like when Jim Dale spelled out how Emerson was about to let loose with a "witty but slightly insulting remark," or Chuck calling the refrigerator the cheesebox and talking about her aunt's hidden erotica. Chi McBride's snide asides (I can be whimsical, too) do help tone down the cuteness a bit (as does his knitted holster and gun cozies). And the secret Ned has from Chuck, that he inadvertently killed her father way back when, will carry the show for a while. I'm just worried that the show will get intolerably precious before we get a payoff.

Do you think this show can sustain the tone and quality? Do you want it to? Let me know in the comments and the poll below.

Does Pushing Daisies need to scale back on the cuteness?
No, it's perfect.568 (42.5%)
Maybe a little bit, but I like it.635 (47.5%)
Oh, God, yes! My teeth hurt after watching the show!134 (10.0%)


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shmuffin123

Okay it's driving me nuts, but is "Digby" the dog the same Golden Retriever from those baked beans commercials (the one where the dog is trying to sell the recipe)?

Random I know but when he looks up at Olive during her song the thought popped into my head and I haven't been able to get rid of it...

October 15 2007 at 12:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
greg

I love Kristen Chenoweth!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

October 14 2007 at 8:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Candy Man

I am really shocked at how some people are reacting to this show. As Tozmervo pointed out, with the insane amount of colorless, formulaic shows on tv I would think we would all be foaming at the mouth for a show like this. This is the best new show on tv without a doubt. It is clever, entertaining and most of all FUNNY!

Watch Reaper or Chuck if you are looking for the WRONG way to do a show like this.. but this show is textbook in regards to quality. And let's not worry about the how the budget will last or what the future stories will be...can't we just enjoy it as it is and let it unfold. Around episode 15 then let's talk about where the story line and quality is not at episode 2!!

Kristen's number was a little much, but it was not done for cuteness but for comedy and from that perpsective it was hilarious. And can I just take a minute and bow down to the greatness of Chi McBride. This guy is hilarious and brings the perfect comedic balance to this show. For me he almost stole this episode and that is saying a lot.

So let's give this show some credit and a chance before we crucify it by episode 3!

October 14 2007 at 7:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
driftwood

It was cute but it was all creepy cute. I think there's a big difference. As I was going through the show I was beginning to think how disturbing it was. I found it great to be that cute and to make it more disturbing by being cute. The dummy mask was extra creepy. Oh and the bodies hanging on cords.

October 12 2007 at 9:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Eric

Did anyone get an Avengers feel from the murder story? I'm loving the show. The attention to detail is staggering, like how the floor buffer was just a little off on his dancing, and then they revealed that he was listening to his iPod. They can't keep up this kind of attention to detail, so I bet they will be reusing a great deal of sets later in the series.

October 11 2007 at 10:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
divineparasite

Let's face it there are a lot of good, yet dark shows on television. CSI, ER, even House to a certain extent, are shows that can be downers. Its kind of fun to have this cavity-filled hour in the middle of the week. Yes it can be roll your eyes cute, and we're tempted to say "tone it down", but like I said, a funny, eye-popping, quick-witted, series is just what we need mid-week. In between House's razor cutting wit, and CSI's morbid cases, "Pushing Dasies" is a welcomed changed of pace.

October 11 2007 at 8:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Caro

I had to miss the show last night, so I watched it on ABC.com just now... after watching, I was suspicious that I had missed some things, not to mention the fact that the video was only half an hour long. Then I read this recap and realized there were definitely bits that were missing (and which made the story make a lot more sense!)

Is ABC showing their shows online, but not in entirety, to encourage people to watch it live on TV? Or was that a fluke?

October 11 2007 at 4:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
segsig

I'm loving this show, which I didn't want to do!
I'm not a Chenoweth fan, but the dancing scene with the floor waxing guy was so funny.

October 11 2007 at 4:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
clgbutterfly

He does show the dog affection by using that awesome stratcher thing and Olive has already pointed out his lack of touching the dog, that's why she's there. Plus we now know that he can brush up against Ned's leg and be OK, it's just skin contact. Obviously why we always see him in long sleeves and pants. I am curious as to why he doesn't just wear gloves. I guess that would look a little odd, but he should atleast be wearing gloves while making pies (Sanitation!), but then we would get fresh fruit.
BTW what dies when he refreshens fruit? ;)

October 11 2007 at 4:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
LRS62

All I gotta say is that once I saw the gorgeous sprite that is Riki Lindhome playing the redhead, all my fears slowly faded into the background...

October 11 2007 at 4:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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