Anna Friel and Lee Pace in Pushing Daisies by Ron Tom/ABC
Nearly five months passed between the time I got my first look at the miraculous
pilot and the second episode. It was worth the wait. I am officially in love.
Flashback (I wish I could count back the days, hours, minutes and seconds as precisely as Jim Dale does in his spot-on narration): It's the week before the network upfronts in May, and I'm in Los Angeles working on the TV Guide Network's
America's Next Producer
show when a studio exec not even associated with
leaks me a copy of the pilot, which I'd heard was good but had no idea was THIS good. From the moment I saw it, I was enchanted and could only hope that fellow critics and viewers with open minds and open hearts would share my enthusiasm. I was also so satisfied by what I'd seen that I couldn't help wondering if they'd be able to pull it off on a weekly basis.
Flash to the second week of October, and in brilliant high definition, I watch the second episode of
unspool in all of its colorfully wacky glory. Not just daisies this week, but dandelions. Dandy indeed. And frogs brought back to life to escape dissection. And refrigerators stuffed with cheese. And a private eye (the hilarious Chi McBride) who knits handgun holders. This show is so fanciful and fun, so exuberantly sweet in spirit even when it completely embraces the macabre (like the room of hanging corpses lying in wait to be disguised as crash-test dummies). And it's also blissfully romantic.
How great was it to see Kristin Chenoweth exercise her substantial singing chops, lamenting her love for the adorably awkward Ned (Lee Pace) by crooning an after-hours version of "Hopelessly Devoted to You" while twirling around best-undead-dog-ever Digby on the pie-shop floor. And then there's the rapturous climax of Chuck (the marvelous Anna Friel) and Ned finally sharing a kiss as the Danny Elfman-like score swells. The fact that both are encased in transparent body bags, so no flesh actually touches (because that would send Chuck back to the afterlife), is both beside the point and very much the point.
ABC likes to bill the show as a "forensic fairy tale," emphasizing the procedural as well as fantastical elements of the show. Watching this episode, as our heroes faced a garish (if easy-to-spot) villain who was more funny than frightful, what came to mind was the classic
. Oh, if only Diana Rigg would do a cameo!
The only thing missing: Chuck's crazy aunts played by Swoosie Kurtz and Ellen Greene. Thankfully, the trailer revealed they'll return next week. I'll be there. And like this week, I'll be hoping to be surprised and enchanted all over again. There is nothing else like this show, and I can't think of a single other new network series that hit it out of the park in its second week the way
did. There is hope for this fall yet.