Pushing Daisies is the latest import from the US that has a British woman in one of the lead roles (see Bionic Woman and The Sarah Conner Chronicles) and which is being shown on ITV (see Bionic Woman and Entourage). However, they are showing it on the main channel, ITV1, at prime time on a Saturday evening. Now that is unusual.
What’s more unusual is the show itself and the fact that it is appearing on the home of comfy, cosy, unchallenging dramas. Pushing Daisies has a delightfully bizarre premise: Ned (Lee Pace) has the ability to bring dead creatures back to life (which he discovers when his dog is run over); however, if he touches them again, they return to their dead state. He brought his mother back to life, only for the father of his neighbour (and his crush, Chuck) to die – it seems that a localised death incidence occurs to balance the reanimation – and then his mother dies when she kisses him good night. This leads him to be distant from the rest of humanity, leading him to become a pie maker with his own shop (he can use his ability to revive ingredients for his pies).
A private investigator (an hilarious turn from Chi McBride) witnesses his ability, and together they use it get the reward money from recently killed people – it’s easier to identify a murderer when you can ask the corpse. Things get complicated for Ned when he revives his former crush, Chuck (Anna Friel), and lets her stay alive. They both still have feelings for each other but can’t touch each other, which obviously gets in the way of a normal relationship.
The charm of this show, and it is utterly charming, is in the specific manner in which it has been made. There is a surreal quality attached to a certain American quaintness, which vibrant primary colours dazzling every scene. This twee feeling is amplified by the narration of the story: Jim Dale, famous here for Carry On films, but famous in the US for reading their version of the Harry Potter audiobooks, tells the tale as an omniscent narrator with a distinct rhythm and word choice that gives it a singular feel. It’s quite delightful.
This is matched by the leads and the playfulness of the characters and the story. Pace is a charming presence as the lead, but it is the chemistry with Anna Friel as Chuck that is the perfect confection. Friel is not a great actress (a quick glance through the resume shows very little of worth) but she always had a sweetly pretty quality that always shone through and makes her perfect for this role. And, with a light-heartedness to the script (such as having a travel agent called Boutique Travel Travel Boutique), it really is an absolute delight. So it’s such a shame that we won’t get the second episode here until they repeat the series – the retarded controllers at ITV have cut it because they don’t want to get in the way of Euro 2008. Unbelievable.