Pushing Daisies: Even Better Than Free Pie

As we all know, the early bird gets the free pie. Thus I dragged myself out of bed at 7am this morning to visit the Pie Hole, a mobile recreation of a pie shop from Pushing Daisies, a charming fantasy/mystery/romance series returning to ABC this fall.

New York City was the last stop in the Pushing Daisies “Touch of Wonder” Tour, which has been making its way across the country to promote the upcoming sophomore season of the show. I scored a free apple pie, as well as a spatula, pie cutter, and refrigerator magnet branded with the series logo. They also handed out DVDs of the recently released first season to fans who could answer trivia questions that were either embarrassingly simple (“What’s the name of Ned’s pie shop?”) or embarrassingly challenging (“In the second episode of the first season, what kind of fuel did the cars run on?”).

The show’s premise is a bit difficult to describe. The series pitch calls it a “forensic fairy tale,” which doesn’t help much, but once you watch an episode you’ll agree that it’s strangely appropriate. The plot focuses on Ned “the Pie-maker” (Lee Pace), who has the remarkable ability to bring the dead back to life with just a touch; a second touch kills it again permanently. If he allows the revived thing to live for longer than a minute, something nearby of equal value dies in exchange.

Ned uses his powers to bake the freshest fruit pies around and help solve murder mysteries for reward money—by interviewing the victims themselves. He also brings his childhood sweetheart Chuck (Anna Friel) back to life, permanently (and at the cost of another). The fact that he can’t touch her again without killing her is the source of much of the show’s conflict. Additionally, Ned feels responsible for the death of Chuck’s father, after accidentally reviving his own dead mother. Pushing Daisies is a heavily character-driven show with a true ensemble cast, co-starring Chi McBride, Ellen Greene, Swoosie Kurtz, and Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth, who had a musical number in an episode last season. Every character has a secret, and their complex motives and actions extend the plots beyond the formulaic.

Despite the tragic results of Ned’s power and its implications on his relationships, the show manages to maintain a fair amount of levity, albeit with often dark and irreverent humor. Featuring bright colors, lavish special effects, sparkling writing, and inventive murder plots, Pushing Daisies is alternately heart-warming and heart-breaking, but always enjoyable. It consistently surprises the viewer, frequently seeming innocent while engaging in subtle double-entendre. This show mashes together so many different elements, it shouldn’t work—but instead it operates on several levels and offers something for everyone. The gorgeous visuals and direction and the whimsical narration by Jim Dale lend it a distinctively fairy tale flavor. Ned and Chuck are also one of cutest couples ever to grace your television screen.

Pushing Daisies was created by Bryan Fuller, whose previous efforts Dead Like Me (Showtime) and Wonderfalls (Fox) were equally quirky and well-written, but suffered from typical network interference. The third time might be the charm for Fuller: Pushing Daisies received an early full-season order from ABC, then a second season renewal shortly after the writers’ strike truncated the first at only nine episodes. It’s also garnered plenty of awards and critical acclaim, not to mention a faithful fan base.

The second season premieres this Wednesday, October 1st at 8:00pm EST on ABC. Even if you missed the first season, I highly recommend you check it out. There are few shows on television this original and entertaining.

Click here to see some Blair Witch-like video of the event this morning outside of Good Morning America‘s studios in Times Square. There is also an additional tour stop planned in NYC, tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 8:30am at the ABC Studios (West 66th Street and Columbus Ave).

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