Judge Erich Asperschlager wishes he could bring dead television shows back to life.
Our review of Pushing Daisies: The Complete First Season, published January 7th, 2009, is also available.
"At that moment, in the town of Couer d' Couers, events occurred that are not, were not, and should never be considered an ending. For endings, as it is known, are where we begin."
Two seasons, two chances for Bryan Fuller's lush and original series Pushing Daisies to get kicked in the teeth. The show's first year fell victim to the writer's strike, which cut the season to a short nine episodes. Picking up nearly a year later in the fall of 2008 with season two, the show had lost momentum and viewers, all while costing ABC a bundle to make. After 10 episodes, the network pulled the plug, leaving fans to wonder whether the final three episodes, produced but held back, would ever see the light of day. In a move of delayed largesse, ABC ran the final episodes this summer. Those fans lucky enough to catch the show's ending got some much-needed closure. Those who missed the episodes thanks to the network's lackluster promotion have a chance to catch up, and to relive this excellent final season, with the DVD release of Pushing Daisies: The Complete Second Season.
Facts of the Case
Thirteen episodes across four discs:
• "Circus Circus"
• "Bad Habits"
• "Oh, Oh, Oh…It's Magic"
• "Robbing Hood"
• "Comfort Food"
• "The Norwegians"
• "Window Dressed to Kill"
• "Water & Power"
As I said in my review of Pushing Daisies: The Complete First Season, this show crept up on me. I enjoyed the first season, but didn't really get into the series until the second. It's no use going back and asking "what if," but with the way the second season expanded the show's mythology and creativity, I have to wonder what the show might have accomplished in a full first season. The final entries in that initial nine-episode run upped the ante for Ned and Chuck with him revealing that he was responsible for her dad's death, and the second season hits the ground running, balancing that continuing story with Olive learning the true identity of Chuck's mother. Even more than the first season, the final episodes give story time to secondary characters like Olive, Emerson, and Aunts Lily and Vivian. Young Olive and Emerson appear in flashbacks in addition to the kid versions of Ned and Chuck. In fact, the final three episodes conclude the Olive, Emerson, and Aunts storylines in such a satisfying way, it seems that Fuller anticipated the show's untimely end.
While the main character storylines are suitably wrapped up by the end (thanks in part to a minute-and-a-half epilogue added to the last episode), some of the best stuff in season two doesn't get the closure it deserves. The side story of a mysterious con man named Dwight Dixon who knew both Chuck and Ned's fathers introduces a potential Indiana Jones-like treasure hunt that never happens. Even more importantly, it ties into a subplot about Ned, Chuck, and their fathers that ends on two frustrating cliffhangers (one quite literally).
This second season of Pushing Daisies takes everything that made the first season great and makes it even better. Lee Pace, Anna Friel, Chi McBride, Kristen Chenoweth, Swoozie Kurtz, and Ellen Greene (as Ned, Chuck, Emerson, Olive, Lily, and Vivian, respectively) seem more comfortable in their roles and their characters are given greater depth by Fuller's witty, stylish scripts. The look of the show is even more stunning, if that's possible, with lush, detailed sets and costumes. The season starts with a mystery set in a bee-based cosmetics company headquarters, built to resemble a giant hive on the outside, with hexagonal architecture and decorations on the inside. In "Comfort Foods," Ned and Olive take part in a cook-off where all the competitors dress in food-themed uniforms and have lavishly designed booths. It's pure fantasy, of course, but that's what makes Daisies so special. It's a treat for all senses (even taste, to the degree that Ned's mouthwatering pie displays always make me hungry), and it's unlike anything else on TV.
Pushing Daisies looked phenomenal on TV and it looks as good, if not better, on DVD. Though Blu-ray is arguably the best way to watch the show, those of us stuck with last year's tech have no reason to complain about the standard def release. The colors are rich and vibrant, and the details are sharp. Much of the credit goes to Fuller's vision and the designers who bring the show to life. It would be hard to screw up source material this good. The 5.1 surround mix isn't overly aggressive, but it does complement composer Jim Dooley's layered original score.
The Second Season extras, all on the fourth disc, consist of four featurettes. "The Master Pie Maker" (the longest at 12 minutes) honors creator Bryan Fuller. It features interviews with the cast, crew, and Fuller, and is genuine enough that it doesn't feel like a puff piece. "From Oven to Table" (5 minutes) uses the example of the woman-melted-to-the-lighthouse-lamp to show the process of creating visual effects for the show. "Secret Sweet Ingredients" (7 minutes) is a well-deserved tribute to the work of composer Jim Dooley, whose score is as core to the Daisies experience as Michael Giacchino's is to Lost. Finally, "Add a Little Magic" (3 minutes) is a concept-to-execution look at the season's biggest CGI effect: the rampaging rhino from "Window Dressed to Kill."
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Though the extras are worth watching (if on the short side), Daisies is the kind of show that begs for audio commentaries. That neither of the season sets includes commentary tracks is a real shame.
Also, for as good a job as the show does wrapping up the series in the last episode, the epilogue narration feels rushed and tacked on. That's probably because it was. Considering how many prematurely cancelled shows offer no closure at all, we should be grateful to Fuller for adding the closing Cliffs Notes-style montage to "Kerplunk" at all. If I'm going to be mad at anyone, it should probably be ABC for putting Daisies in a position where it needed a quick wrap-up at all.
There's talk that Fuller will continue the Daisies story in comic book form, but it's cold comfort for those of us who will miss this smart, stylish show. Neither season of Pushing Daisies ended up the way its creator intended, but Fuller and his talented team did the best they could with what they had—and ended up making one of the best shows on network TV. Thanks to DVD, it can live on.
I could go for another slice of pie.
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