Pushing Daisies: Dummy
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.
As 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.
|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%)|
Gallery: Pushing Daisies