Death, pie and divas

October 25, 2007

I’m a lazy TV viewer. I don’t really have much in the way of appointment programming, and why should I when I can turn on the TV at any hour of the day and find an episode from the Law and Order franchise? But I have fallen hard for Pushing Daisies (ABC). Given that it’s like a live-action fusion of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service and Antique Bakery, how could I not? Here are ten reasons I love it:

1. The structure. Like many of my favorite manga series, the show has a strong premise (a guy can raise the dead briefly without consequence, or permanently if he’s willing to allow something else to die in the resurrected creature’s stead), a predominantly episodic format, and enough strong subplots to round out the hour.

2. The dialogue. “Just because I keep a bottle of vodka in my freezer doesn’t mean I have to drink it. Oh, wait… Yes, it does.”

3. The setting. There should be more entertainments set in pie shops. When things like pears in a gruyere crust can come up organically in conversation, I am happy.

4. The premise. They deal with dead people. I have no resistance to this.

5. The ensemble. Not only is each member of the cast solid in his or her own right, they have terrific chemistry, no matter how you mix and match them. The writers manage to juggle everyone’s subplots well too, so you get a good dose of everyone in each episode.

6. The look. Everything is as color-saturated and artificial as a splashy movie musical from back in the day, and it’s really comforting to me. Also, I feel strangely flattered that they spent so much money on design instead of just taking a camcorder into some PA’s aunt’s apartment.

7. The narration. Oh, Jim Dale… I thought I would be reduced to obsessively replaying my Harry Potter audio books if I wanted to enjoy your gentle, witty readings. I’ll still do that anyways, but you’re pitch-perfect once again.

8. The tone. There’s an overall sunniness to things that’s appealing, but it might become too much if there weren’t darker undercurrents. There’s balance, which is always appreciated.

9. It feels like a musical. Beyond having major Broadway talent like Kristin Chenoweth and Ellen (Little Shop of Horrors) Greene, the show feels like it could burst into song at any moment. I’m glad it doesn’t, but I love that vibe. (And I really love that it had a quick scene of Chenoweth and Greene belting out “Birdhouse in Your Soul” as they drove along in a paneled station wagon. Get out of my head, show!)

10. Chenoweth: I know I sound like the most stereotypical Broadway-loving homosexual in the world, but she is just peerlessly fabulous, partly because I find her a little frightening. Her performances always combine manic energy and unpredictable comedy with this kind of spooky precision that gives everything more force without making it seem artificial. She’s impossible, in other words, and I’m so glad she finally has a TV role that’s worthy of her.