Old Show, New Season: “Pushing Daisies”

If the pilot for “Pushing Daisies” wasn’t the single best hour of television to emerge in the 2007 – 2008 fall TV season (and it wasn’t, because I still say that honor belongs to the pilot for “Reaper”), then it can at least be said with some confidence that it was the one which made the greatest visual impact, courtesy of its gorgeous colors. It also had a pretty damned unique premise, involving Ned (Lee Pace), a guy with the ability to bring dead people back to life – but only for a minute at a time, lest their return to life result in the death of someone else – who splits his time between making pies, solving crimes, and pining for Chuck (Anna Friel), a girl he can never touch. Oh, right: it also had a script that was sweet, sentimental, unexpectedly dramatic, and very, very funny.

Hmmm. Suddenly, I’m beginning to wonder if I need to go back and re-watch the “Reaper” pilot. Maybe I got this one wrong.

Nah, just kidding…but “Pushing Daisies” is a great show, and after having re-watched the entire first season on DVD, I found myself geared up to see where things were going to go with the series, especially after that bombshell they dropped in the season finale: that Aunt Lily (Swoosie Kurtz) is actually Chuck’s mother.

Season 2 kicks off with a considerable amount of catch-up, which only makes sense, given not only how complicated the series is but also how long it’s been since the show was last on the air. This is a good thing if you’ve heard lots of great stuff about the show but were concerned that you couldn’t possibly get into it at this late date. Believe me, this is about as good a summation as you could hope to receive…and while it’s stuff that the regular viewers will already know, they’ve managed to slide in a few new scenes here and there to keep it interesting for everyone.

From there, things ease into the primary storyline of the episode, which takes its cue from the real-life corporation known as Burt’s Bees and finds Ned, Chuck, and Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) investigating the murder by bee-stings of the new face of a honey-derived line of beauty products. As those who watched Season 1 know, Chuck’s always had a thing for bees, so it’s not exactly torture for her to go undercover and try to figure out what mysterious goings-on are occurring within the company.

Those who harbor a crush on Anna Friel will be pleased to learn that she manages to strip down to her dainty underthings within the first few minutes of the episodes, while those who feel the same way about Lee Pace should know that he does the exact same thing. (There’s a very good reason why Ned does this, but Chuck only does it in the spirit of “fair’s fair.”) Emerson is as grumpy and hilarious as ever, earning the latter adjective with his delivery of a single phrase: “wiggety-wiggety-whacked.” The aunts get the spotlight for a few minutes, but don’t look for Lily to give up the ghost on her secret…and don’t think that Olive (Kristin Chenoweth) is gonna let anyone else in on what she knows, either. Oh, sure, it’s killing her, but rather than spill the beans, she opts to get herself to a nunnery, where silence is appreciated. (Anyone for a “Sound of Music” parody…?) Still, it’s a pretty big secret, so don’t be surprised if Lily checks in on Olive to make she’s keeping her little yap shut.

Although there’s an absolutely preposterous bee-related moment during the second half of the episode (I generally accept anything that goes on in this show, but even I groaned), there are some great guest turns from French Stewart and Missy Pyle and enjoyable spotlight moments for every character. All in all, it’s a fine return for “Pushing Daisies.”

  

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