Tag Archives: Bryan Fuller

The Final 3 Episodes: Pushing Daisies – “Water & Power”

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“Water & Power”

June 6th, 2009

“It’s like putting your faith in the idea of someone before really knowing who they are.”

The above quotation, pulled from the episode, was my personal reaction to Pushing Daisies. I was “all in” from the moment I heard the premise of the pilot, pretty much, and was even more excited based on that episode. And there is something dangerous about that like, for example, having to deal with the fact that it was on the air for about 1/8 the amount of time as According to Jim. But the one thing that Pushing Daisies, as a show, never did was to displace my faith in any violent fashion – I was disappointed by its short end, but its quality rarely faltered, and that is something important to remember as we continue our journey through these final three episodes.

When you enter into a bittersweet series of episodes like these, knowing that the show has been canceled and that not all resolutions will be possible, an episode like “Water & Power” is a real microcosm of that feeling. As soon as the episode begins with a shot of a young Emerson Cod, you realize that this will be the show’s last chance to give this character a proper sendoff, especially as it relates to his search for his missing daughter. It was a recurring bit of story that was never actually a storyline: we saw the book he made, and we were there when he told Ned for the first time, but it’s never actually been the central point of a mystery of the week.

But, of course, it never will be again either: although the episode allows the issue of young Penny to emerge as the purpose of the show’s narrative, it doesn’t resolve the storyline in some sort of final way, and leaves the door open for all of the things we know the show won’t have. It introduces a few highly compelling recurring guest stars, for example, but we know the show will never get to see them return, and since it doesn’t offer any real finality for Emerson and Penny it feels like yet another chapter that, while satisfying for what it could have been, isn’t all that satisfying for what it ended up being.

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The Final 3 Pushing Daisies – “Window Dressed to Kill”

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“Window Dressed to Kill”

Season 2, Episode 11

“The more you face your trauma the more power it has over you.”

I had meant to make a note of the return of Pushing Daisies to readers ahead of time, considering that ABC certainly isn’t promoting their 10pm Saturdays burn-off of the remaining three episodes of the show’s second season, but part of me wasn’t quite looking at this as a real event. I haven’t seen an episode of Pushing Daisies in over five months, and while some got to view the episodes online (their aired in the U.K.), and others got to see them screened during PaleyFest (I was unfortunately at Coachella that day), I’ve been entirely free of the exploits of a certain Pie Maker, the Alive Again Avenger, my favourite private dick and the subject of tonight’s episode, Olive Snook.

I don’t think I realized how much I missed them until I faced that fact tonight, watching a fantastic hour of comic/dramatic television knowing that there are only two hours left to go, and that after that these characters will fundamentally cease to exist outside of a comic book or whatever other form Fuller keeps the series alive in. These characters deserve more than what they received from ABC: the show, canceled in favour of ABC’s plentiful number of midseason replacements (all but one of which failed), was certainly struggling, and wasn’t destined for stardom, but in all of our commotion over Chuck’s fate I think part of me will miss Pushing Daisies’ unique blend of whimsy and mystery more than I would have missed that show.

“Window Dressed to Kill” wasn’t a particularly noteworthy Pushing Daisies episodes outside of its position as one of the “Final 3,” but it so embodied what the show does best that it’s hard not to be overpowered by this desire to write letters, buy pies, and just about anything else you could imagine, even when you know it’s all for nothing. This review, similarly, is positioned as such that it is only a celebration of the episode, knowing that whatever character development I speak of will have only two more episodes to continue, and that whatever stories I think have potential will likely prove unable to reach that stage in their development.

But damnit, I’m going to talk about them anyway.

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Pushing Daisies – “The Legend of Merle McQuoddy”

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“The Legend of Merle McQuoddy”

December 10th, 2008

I am going to miss Olive Snook most of all.

Yes, I will miss everything else about Pushing Daisies: Emerson Cod’s quippy one-liners, Chuck’s emotional integrity, Ned’s neurotic worrying, Jim Dale’s charming narration, Lily’s shotgun, Vivian’s heart on her sleeve, and the various quirky individuals who populate this world week after week, incapable of sitting still as they balance between our world and the whimsical universe Bryan Fuller has created.

But there is something about Olive Snook that pleases me the most, and makes me most upset for the show’s passing. It’s her sheer exuberance: without Ned and Chuck’s burdens, or Emerson’s gruff persona, Olive is the character who most gets to interact with the more fanciful elements of these storylines. The best mysteries are often the ones in which Olive takes part, or where Olive’s participatory spirit extends to the other characters – they have a certain bounce to them, a visual and aural sharpness only possible by the spunk her character brings to each scene, and they are in fashion throughout “The Legend of Merle McQuody.”

It is a testament to Kristin Chenoweth that Olive is still this charming even as she returns to idea of unrequited love, a notion which nearly sunk the character in the first season when it felt like an excuse to keep Ned and Chuck from connecting. Now that the show has settled, Chenoweth has made Olive’s emotional state more natural while also being integrated more closely into the week’s mystery. After being paired with Ned on “Comfort Food,” Olive here becomes a Jr. P.I. in Training with Cod Investigations, resulting in a fantastic comic pairing, some wonderful Olive moments and, most importantly, another in a series of great segments as Pushing Daisies marches towards its final Legend.

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Pushing Daisies – “Robbing Hood”

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“Robbing Hood”

November 26th, 2008

I was one of the few who, really, wasn’t jumping up and down over last week’s episode of Pushing Daisies. While the episode was, no question, a strong investigation into Ned’s character and the show’s central questions, it all felt a bit heavy to me. And while I’m not saying that the show shouldn’t be allowed to enter into that territory, when I’m up to my neck in deadlines part of me would rather an episode of Pushing Daisies that feels more indulgent than self-indulgent, if that makes any sense.

This week, by comparison, falls on the other side of the spectrum; some, and quite justifiably, are likely to find that the story of a Robin Hood-dunnit seems inconsequential compared to last week’s episode, and that it felt especially marginalized when there was quite a large amount of development in relation to the arrival of Dwight Dixon (especially in terms of fallout from his discovery of Chuck’s empty grave in last week’s episode).

For me, however, I thought that it was what Pushing Daisies is: a crime procedural glossed up with charm out the wazoo and a sureness of character which allows them to balance recurring storylines with a deft hand that most standard procedures aren’t capable of. So, while this episode certainly felt more forced than last week’s, that it still charmed the pants off me is perhaps the greater accomplishment. And I won’t tell a lie: when I’m scrambling to write my 20-page research paper on Performance in the transition from Aestheticism to Decadence in 19th Century Literature, I much preferred this lighter concoction than I did last week’s overload.

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Cultural Flashback: Tim Kring and the Fall of ‘Heroes’

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Cultural Flashback:

Tim Kring and the Fall of ‘Heroes’

My brother asked me this week why I hadn’t yet commented (like Mo Ryan at the Chicago Tribune or James Poniewozik at Time) on the emerging story wherein Tim Kring, creator of NBC’s former-hit Heroes, referred to people who watch his show live weekly “dipsh**s” while discussing the show moving away from serialization in a recent appearance.

Now, clearly, this is hideously uncool and condescending coming from someone who runs a show that is only surviving due to these kinds of devoted fans, and who is being forced to dial back serialization as opposed to it happening naturally. But to be honest, my emotional attachment to Heroes is so low right now (five episodes behind and counting, I think) that it didn’t really affect me: I just shook my head, wondering whether the man seriously even understands his own show.

There was another element to my detachment, though, and that is an element of “I told you so.” Last March, only two months into the life of Cultural Learnings (aka when likely very few of you were reading), myself and Matt Elliott (formerly of BE Something, a TV-focused blog, and now writing very intelligent pieces on generational workplace scenarios at Y Working) got into a lengthy discussion about the state of the two big serial shows of the time, Lost and Heroes. Remember, this was at the point before Lost’s tremendous third season really hit its stride (and before the amazing twist of Through the Looking Glass, which led Matt to renew his faith in Lindelof/Cuse), so Matt’s original article discussing what Heroes could do to avoid “becoming like Lost” was not as crazy as it might sound today (in other words, don’t hate on his article, he meant well).

Matt made a tremendous number of fantastic suggestions for Heroes’ future that would have done some good, but in writing my response my point was simple: with Tim Kring at the helm and with an already overbloated cast, I did not foresee a scenario where they would, or even could, implement the things that could save the show. I was not, in fact, a believer.

I don’t repost this to toot my own horn, though, so much as I repost it to remind us of a time when Heroes could have been saved, where the man at the helm could have made decisions that would keep him from having to degrade his own audience in an attempt to make his show seem…I don’t even know what he was trying to do. And, as they again attempt to reboot the series to become more relevant, maybe some reminders of Matt’s suggestions could prove beneficial to Kring or, ideally, whoever they get to replace him.

What you’ll find below the fold is my original article with some inserted commentary (consider it to the Director’s Cut) – enjoy!

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The Search for a Showsaver: Heroes, Bryan Fuller and NBC’s Big Little Problems

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The Search for a Showsaver

November 4th, 2008

In case you didn’t hear (I’ve been out of commission in terms of blogging due to a major presentation, so my Twitter feed has been the best source of information/reaction), NBC over the weekend let go Jesse Alexander and Jeph Loeb, the two head writers at their highest rated scripted series, Heroes. Note how I make the distinction: no longer a hit, the show has been relegated to simply being the highest rated amongst NBC’s anemic fall lineup.

This is a fact that NBC wants to fix, a purpose I find admirable if a tad bit idealistic. At this point, Heroes’ problems are that awful mix of inevitable (that some viewers would tire of the serialized narrative), creative (an admitted lack of quality and consistency ever since the first season finale), and logistical (budget overruns, an overabundance of cast members, etc.). Taken individually, the problems might be easy to handle: you offer more social networking integration to hook in what hardcore viewers you have, you bring in a new showrunner who is capable of bringing some quality writing the show’s solid foundation, and you cut some cast members and focus more on character than action or setpieces.

But, solving all three at once can’t be done: any creative or logistical changes could alienate the existing fanbase, and there is no guarantee that a showrunner will be able to balance the creative side of the series with the budget cuts that NBC is forcing on the series. Plus, at the same time, Tim Kring is still in charge of the series, and while Loeb and Alexander may be the scapegoats I’d tend to think the problem goes beyond them to the man truly in charge.

So while names like Bryan Fuller are bandied about, it begs the question: can NBC save Heroes?

Keep reading to find out.

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Pushing Daisies – “Circus Circus”

“Circus Circus”

October 8th, 2008

In the prologue to the second episode of Pushing Daisies’ second season, Ned learns a lesson that may be all too self-prophetic for Bryan Fuller’s charming show: that “new beginnings only lead to painful ends.” Considering last week’s alarmingly low ratings numbers, joining Chuck and Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles on the lists of shows bouncing back creatively if not in terms of viewership after the writers’ strike cut their seasons short, Pushing Daisies might well be headed for an end that will certainly be painful considering how much I love this show.

But as the episode progresses, what is demonstrates is that new beginnings aren’t nearly as hard as Ned’s initial lesson made it out to be: that striking out on your own, or suddenly being on your own, or hoping for a new period in your life to begin, can be both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time without having to fall into either category. While it may seem like a show shouldn’t be able to create a common thread for a pie maker who can bring back the dead, an alive again childhood sweetheart, a picture-book making detective, two eccentric Aunts, and an employee who’s at a nunnery, all while also managing to construct an entertaining circus-based murder mystery, Pushing Daisies has proven its mettle.

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Emmy Awards Preview – Nominee Analysis: Pushing Daisies

Of the new shows which premiered in fall network lineups in 2007, there’s only really one that expects to make a big splash at the Emmy Awards. While plenty of new shows will be highly competitive, they debuted in the summer on cable networks where much of the season’s quality came from. Between the strike and a fairly mediocre development season, the freshman lineup of the networks just didn’t measure up…except for Pushing Daisies.

It was the most-buzzed about pilot for a lot of reasons, from its witty writting to its fanciful direction to its lead and supporting stars. While the show only aired nine episodes before going off the air due to the strike, and won’t be returning until the Fall, the show still made a fairly big splash with critics and viewers, and was nominated for a handful for Golden Globes earlier this year.

But translating that to Emmy success will be difficult, not the least of which because comedy is an intense set of categories this year and because the show has been off the air for six months. Considering that so many networks basically gave up on a lot of their freshman lineups, I think that the general perception did the same: while the pilot’s strength in technical categories and for Bryan Fuller and Barry Sonnenfeld is likely to shine through, whether the show’s extremely talented actors can do the same remains a big question. But if the submissions are strong, perhaps there is hope yet for the little pie shop that could.

Outstanding Comedy Series

Submission: “Pie-Lette”

The reasons you need to submit the pilot episode for a show like Pushing Daisies are numerous: not only is it the show with the biggest budget and therefore the strongest effects work, but it also feels the most like a small, contained story. While ABC ensured that every episode opened with a detailed sequence explaining the complicated life/death sequences of the show, “Pie-Lette” is without question where it has the most resonance as he makes the decision to bring his childhood sweetheart back to life. Part of me wishes that the episode had more for the supporting players to do, but this is about selling this sweet and charming show first and foremost, and the pilot certainly does the best job of this.

YouTube: The Opening of the Pie-Lette

Chances: The show is a strong competitor in this category due to its hour-long running time and a very showy episode submission, plus it’s definitely the biggest new comedy if they’re looking for something new.

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The Sophomore Test: Pushing Daisies – “Dummy”

The Sophomore Test: Pushing Daisies

“Dummy”

While breaking into the headquarters of the Dandelion Car Company, Ned the Pie Maker experiences a mixture of happiness and trepidation, and poses a rather telling question:

“Why does it always have to be a mixture?”

I concur, Ned, I concur: watching tonight’s sophomore episode of Pushing Daisies, my reactions formed a dangerous mixture of optimism and pessimism. With each passing scene, the pilot’s potential flashed in front of my eyes before disappearing shortly after. It was an emotional rollercoaster, but I am now back on solid ground and capable of breaking this mixture down to its key ingredients.

While it’s too early for the verdict, Pushing Daisies’ second stanza featured a comparable level of wit, an adequate level of characterization, a mildly disappointing dialogue devolution, a massively predictable procedural story, a case of overnarrativitis, and one overly long musical number. What does this all mean?

Pushing Daisies is still the best new show of the season…but they’ve got some work to do.

[There are light spoilers below, but this is really designed as more of a preview than a recap. So, if you want to know what to expect, keep reading.]

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