October 1st, 2008
Sometimes a show isn’t profound, or fascinating, or deep. Sometimes, a show’s originality and charm are what elevate it to the level of being one of the most anticipated returns of the fall season, not a cliffhanger or any sort of buzzworthy (I know, I know) story element.
Pushing Daisies is one of these shows. I’ve always found it tough to blog about Pushing Daisies on any sort of extremely critical perspective: it’s a show that people either love or hate, and falling so strongly on the love side of things I can’t help but be more giddy with excitement than brimming with allegorical readings. If Pushing Daisies offers a cranky Emerson Cod, spastic Olive Snook, optimistic Chuck, awkward Ned, wacky Aunts Lily and Vivian, and more of Digby (Television’s best canine co-star) than I could ask for, I’m not going to be complaining anytime soon.
“Bzzzzzzzzz!” (With exactly nine Zs, I checked) is more of the same: not quite the revolution that Chuck’s second season premiere was for that show’s trajectory, it’s an episode that smartly places the focus on the central premise of the series while allowing the opportunity for almost all of its characters to have their various little moments. Settling in from the end of season drama that we were left with, Pushing Daisies remains what it was before: a comfy, cozy and whimsical universe to escape to for an hour each week.
I know I said above that I wasn’t going to be overly critical, but let’s give Pushing Daisies more credit than that, considering that this episode has a very clear theme to it. It’s all a question of home, really: Olive is uprooted from hers to protect her secret (and escape from the tension of keeping it), Vivian is left without one with Lily’s departure, Chuck potentially finds a new home at her first real job, Ned has to face the idea of having a home without Chuck in it due to her potential departure, and Emerson is writing a pop-up book guide for his estranged daughter to come home to him.
It’s a smart theme for a show that, not to be too cliche here, always does feel a little like home: returning to these characters feels like a welcome reunion more than a reintroduction, a chance to live again in this world that offers something very unique. While essentially a procedural at heart (although this episode was one of the show’s more integrated forays into that territory), the show’s charm has given it a resiliency and life that gives it more momentum than you’d ever expect.
The story this week is, smartly, all about both the episode’s central theme and our characters, in particular Chuck (who cared for Bees at her Aunt’s home before her untimely death and timely resurrection). It’s not really a storyline about anything or anyone in particular, despite having Missi Pyle (Betty), Autumn Reeser (Kentucky) and French Stewart (Woolsey Nicholls), but rather a chance for our characters to interact in the kind of ways they should be interacting considering recent events. Ned, Chuck and Emerson get to continue their great little dynamic without being bogged down in any major drama (Ned and Chuck having dealt with most of theirs last season), while the central character drama finds itself in the show’s ancillary characters.
And the good thing about having Swoosie Kurtz, Ellen Greene and Kristen Chenoweth around is that they can make drama so very hilarious, and quite interesting at the same time. Yes, I’m with Alan Sepinwall that the entire “Lily gave birth to Chuck in a nunnery, but ends up her Aunt, even though Lily was also dating Chuck’s father” thing more confusing than anything else, but I didn’t notice as Chenoweth and Kurtz were trapped in the lovely Sound of Music nunnery take-off where there’s a pig named Pigby, and where Olive would like to sign up for “a different kind of poor” where there are porters and worldly possessions.
The scene where Olive nearly explodes (like a shotgun, one of a whole slew of wonderfully played similes) is such a great example of all of the show’s characters ending up in one place, but the show often does better with them split up. That scene was brilliantly chaotic (love Chuck on Emerson’s back), and there was some good tension, but the show feels almost bogged down when it’s played as a constantly intermingling ensemble compared to the nice division between the Aunts and our three crimsolvers. Olive is the one who can move between them, so here’s hoping her stay at the nunnery doesn’t last for too long before she’s back in town, even if I do want to see more of Pigby.
The Bees storyline was solid, but it was more or less a foil for our characters than anything else: Fuller didn’t seem to have much interest in the mystery outside of its connection to Chuck’s past, and I can’t really blame him for that. His interest is in the stories and the characters, which is why this whimsical universe suits him so well: the show wouldn’t work without it, as it sustains the more traditional elements of the show’s structure and elevates everything else to that other level. Fuller feels at home in this universe, and I have to hope that the ratings will be solid so that he can continue to call it home for quite some time.
- It’s hard not to love the opening scene wherein Ned, in his underwear, has hundreds of dead bees dumped on him, all bursting back to life as all sorts of water bugs die a horrible death in conjunction with Ned’s decision. It’s a great piece of whimsical special effects work…and I swear that’s the last time I say whimsical.
- Loved Emerson listening in through the old-fashioned Wire: loved “He is stalking you!” in particular.
- Other favourite line before I cut this short to deal with entirely not cozy or fun personal business: “If I could breathe right now, I would vomit.” That or Olive calling Lily’s lady parts “Cabbagepatch.”
- Curious to see where they go with Ned’s father showing up: wonder who they’re casting.