Sunday, 21 October 2007

Ones To Watch #1: Pushing Daisies

Autumn coming always leaves me with a large sense of melancholy. It's a stark reminder that I accomplished nothing over a summer break apart from eating excessively and sitting on a sofa in front of endless TV repeats - despite having plans to have "The Best Summer Ever!" and... y'know... step outdoors. It also reminds me that the feeling of happiness that summer instills will rather quickly get progressively crapper, the days will shorten, the wind will become sharper, the rain will become more frequent and Argos & every sofa company out there will start to broadcast Christmas adverts in the middle of October.

One thing that perks me up about the autumn months however is television, namely the Fall TV line-up. Whilst not a big deal over here in Britain possibly due to the fact that we all stay in to watch TV over the summer because going outside involves battling against flood-enducing downpours; in America, the marketing big-wigs realised long ago that as Autumn, or Fall if we're being grammatically American, approaches, people come indoors of an evening and start to watch TV. Hence this is the time that just about every big show on every big network launches, hoping to win the ratings battles in time for sweeps (another explanation for another day). This means that, should you have access to American TV in any sort of way, September brings a a treasure trove of new shows along with new seasons of your old favourites. And 2007 looks to be a good year.

2007's Fall Line-up seems to focus on what I like to call... "lovely dramas". The kind that don't have big, complex plotlines that run through entire seasons ala Desperate Housewives, nor do they have the feature-film pizazz and feature-film budget of Lost or Heroes. Shows like Ally McBeal, Sex and the City, Veronica Mars and even down to shows like Monk and What about Brian all fit this mould. They're light, fluffy, make you laugh and don't particularly tax you in a way The Unit, for example, does.

Whilst I plan to go on about several different shows that have either just started this September or have come back for a new run, there is one show that shines far and beyond any new show this season and so far already rivals the TV elite in terms of quality. And that show is the incredibly hyped (and deservedly so) Pushing Daisies, which broadcasts on ABC.

If you haven't heard of this so far, let me try to explain, although it is one of those shows that sounds terrible in word but brilliant in execution. When Ned was a child, he discovered he had the ability to raise things from the dead. However he soon realised this power had a catch, should he touch that particular thing once more, they will be dead again, and dead forever. He also realised that should he make something alive again for more than a minute, nature balances it out by killing something else of similar value in proximity of him. This is shown in example when he brings his mother back to life when she suddenly dies on the kitchen floor. A minute later, in the house opposite, the father of his childhood sweetheart, Chuck, dies suddenly as a consequence. Then later on that night, when his mother kisses him goodnight, she dies once again, but permanently this time. Thus all this sets up a show that involves him becoming a pie-maker (never fully explained why, but worked so beautifully into the whole show that you won't care), helping a private investigator, and falling in love once again with his childhood sweetheart who he finally sees again after years apart... but who he can never touch since he has brought her back to life.

All this mixes in together to become what is, in both style and story, a modern fairy tale. So sweet you can't help but smile, so beautifully shot with all sorts of bright colours in just about every scene that you can't help but become immersed in their world, and so wonderfully told via a huge amount of original ideas you can't help but smile even more than you already are at each and every one of them. Superbly funny and immensely clever, it proceeds at such a quick, bouncy rate that it never stops to make sure everyone watching understands what's going on, and it just doesn't care when it creates a plot point that has everyone watching saying "WTF!?" in unison. For example, in the second episode, the plot revolves around a company that is making a car fulled by dandelions. Just once is it mentioned that this is not a particularly normal thing to do, and it's this kind of moment that helps you realise that this is a fantasy land where the good guy always wins and people always fall in love. The kind of show that will happily dedicate 2 minutes of it's time to a version of 'Hopelessly Devoted To You' just because it's funny and just absolutely lovely to have in there. It's the kind of show so good you wish that some British TV channel would take the risk and try something like this instead of putting out the safe, stale drivel that is Heartbeat, Casualty, The Bill and all those others. Does British TV really have to stick to dramas that can be described in one short sentence and starts with "Drama set in a..."? But that's another rant for another time.

But back to Pushing Daisies, and one notable mention besides the brilliant and unnamed narrator, has to go to the cast. Built up of relative unknowns, they are superb and are a good chunk of why the show is as good as it is. The only two who are even slightly recognisable are ex-Brookside lesbian turned proper American actress Anna Friel (who plays the slightly eccentric and delightfully cheery Chuck) and Chi McBride (who plays grumpy, dry-witted but ultimately nice Emmerson Cod), who fans of House M.D. will remember appeared in a couple of episodes of season one as the grumpy owner. Everyone, even the dog, plays their part superbly to the point where I'm already starting to think that no-one else could play these roles half as well as they could.

There are bad points however. There are a whole lot of moments when you'll tut and think "well isn't that handy?" when one of them suddenly has something to hand or can miraculously do something that saves the day. Also, for a story full of murder mysteries, so far none of them have been solvable by the audience, a very-very limited "Whodunnit?" situation in each episode, mainly because the killer or the motive is suddenly explained out of the blue by the narrator.

But you know what? I don't care about any of these gripes. This is the perfect show to sit down and just watch for an hour, knowing you'll be thoroughly entertained. And best of all, it's been picked up for British broadcast! Finally, ITV 1 will have something worth watching when Pushing Daisies starts in January. Yes, I know it's pointless me telling you about it now since it's so far away and yes, I shall rant and rave more about this show nearer the time, but I advise you mark your calendars now, this is well worth a watch.

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