Studio:Warner Home Video Year: 2008-2009 Cast: Lee Pace, Anna Friel, Chi McBride, Jim Dale, Kristin Chenoweth, Field Cate, Ellen Greene, Swoosie Kurtz, George Hamilton, Missi Pyle, French Stewart, Peter Cambor, Autumn Reese, Diana Scarwid, Rachael Harris, Lee Arenberg, Mo Collins, Graham McTavish, Mary K. Devault, David Arquette, Alexandra Barreto, Fred Willard, Paul F. Tompkins, Alex Miller, Graham Miller, Shelley Berman, Jennifer Elise Cox, Beth Grant, Josh Randall, Mary Kay Place, David Koechner, Alexander Gould, Perry Anzilotti, Orlando Jones, Michael Weaver, Ivana Milicevic, Nicholas Khayyat, Richard Benjamin, George Segal, Robert Picardo, Christine Adams, Gina Torres, Joey Slotnick, Wendie Malick, Nora Dunn, Willie Garson, Wayne Wilderson, Constance Zimmer, Sam Pancake, Ellery Sprayberry, Kerri Kenney Director: various Release Date: July 21, 2009 Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable) Run Time: 09h:22m:00s Genre(s): television
"The secret Chuck was keeping from the piemaker was born the night before..." - narrator (Jim Dale)
Another winner from creator Bryan Fuller, Pushing Daisies is certainly one of the more uniquely inventive and colorful television series of recent years, sadly canceled way before its time.
Movie Grade: A
DVD Grade: A-
It may have won some Emmys, but that ultimately didn't help save this wonderful series from Bryan Fuller (Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me), which found itself canceled before the second season could completely play out.
It's the story of a piemaker named Ned (Lee Pace) who discovers as a child that he has been suddenly given the ability to resurrect the dead with just a touch of his finger. The downside of that gift (or is it a curse?) is that if he doesn't touch the now-revived dead within 60 seconds, then something else must die instead. In the opening ep of season one young Ned learned this lesson the hard way as a child, and as an adult he resurrects his recently murdered childhood soul mate Chuck (Anna Friel), and though in love the two can never touch or else she will become permanently dead.
Season one had Ned and Chuck—operating out of The Pie Hole restaurant—quickly becoming involved with boisterous private investigator Emerson Cod (Chi McBride), who use the ability to temporarily wake the dead as a way to solve the plethora of wildly bizarre murders that plague the town of Couer d'Couers on a regular basis. That same premise carries forward into season two, tweaked by a couple of plot twists involving cute-as-a-button Pie Hole waitress Olive Snook (Kristin Chenoweth) and Chuck's aunts (Swoosie Kurtz and Ellen Greene), the former aquatic synchronized swim team once known as The Darling Mermaid Darlings.
With the release of the second and final season, fans of this intelligently clever series will get the opportunity to see the final three episodes that were never aired during the show's original run, ending in December 2008, including the finale (Kerplunk) that allowed Fuller to thankfully tack on a sweet coda that attempted to give some proper closure to things after the cancellation was announced. It's not a perfect sendoff but it works—at least it's not just a cliffhanger—and it does feature a beautiful flyby of all of the fictional key locations from the show's run and as much of a resolution as Fuller could muster in a couple of minutes. These three eps did eventually air in late May 2009, stuck in a no-man's slot on ABC on Saturday nights, coughed up with very little network fanfare so that if you had already removed the show from your DVR season pass list then in all likelihood you missed out.
With an obvious nod to the work of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Fuller has developed a show that is an absolute treat to look at, an absurdist surreal explosion of color and fantasy that is part storybook, part retro-noir romance/mystery/comedy. I can't recall when a television series ever had such a uniquely vibrant appearance (Ugly Betty, however, does come in a distant second), boasting a color palette that is saturated in a continual array of bright swatches. The sets and miniature backgrounds compliment the colors, and combined give Pushing Daisies its distinctive style, a completely charming visual design that really set this show apart.
It would be one thing if this show just looked good, but Fuller and company fill the mouths of every character with a fast-paced string of noir-ish wordplay that relies on a swirly platter of alliteration, references and innuendo. This isn't a series you can listen to casually if you want to get everything it has to offer, because aside from the visual glitz the writing further propels this into some enjoyably oddball stratosphere, as Chuck, Ned, Emerson and Olive deal with clownicide, a deep-fried chicken chef and the appearance of the mysterious Norwegians. And then there's the marvelous voice work of Jim Dale, who provides the frequent narration, served up with his distinctive eloquence that helps give things that whole storybook subtext.
I do love this show, and I'm sad that it's gone.
It's tough to find a show that was more tailor-made for the brilliance of HD than Pushing Daisies, and that makes the SD release of the series a slight step backwards. Not that there's anything to really find fault with here, it's just that if you've seen it in hi-def it's tough to want to see it any other way. The transfers, however, are clean, with the eps presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen; though they retain the series' explosion of bright colors quite well, there is a marginal loss in edge definition, rendering some sequences slightly soft. Comparing random scenes from this set to those still on my HD-DVR, I found the discs to lack a degree of consistent sharpness, though colors remain vibrant and vivid.
Audio is available in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, a mix that delivers the clever dialogue cleanly and without distortion. Much of the activity is spread across the front channels, with a nice sense of directionality accented by a well-placed background sound cue. Rears don't get used to excess, but when they do it provides the sort of dramatic lift that I wish was a bit more prevalent. A 2.0 Portuguese dub is also provided.
Season two is packaged in a slipcover featuring a cast photo, which houses a clear plastic case with inner artwork meant to resemble a honeycomb (a nod to Chuck's beekeeping ways); the four discs are mounted on a pair of hinges, two discs per hinge. A foldout insert keeps the honey/bee theme, and contains episodes/air date/plot information.
There are no episode commentaries, with the only supplements found on disc four, under the Extra Helpings banner. The Master Pie Maker (12m:33s) has the cast, producers and naturally Bryan Fuller discussing the series amidst assorted clips. Fuller refers to enjoying "slightly heightened dialogue", which if you've ever seen an episode of Pushing Daisies you know is a grand understatement. From Oven to Table (05m:17s) is a fun look at the creation of the wonderfully bizarre "fried egg" death from The Legend of Merle McQuoddy episode. Secret Sweet Ingredients (07m:45s) addresses Fuller's reliance on "wall to wall music", and this segment gives props to the work of composer Jim Dooley, who gives the series one its signature elements. The extras end with Add a Little Magic (04m:00s), which looks at the visual effects work done to create the rampaging rhino sequence from the Window Dressed to Kill ep.
Episode recaps are optional, as are subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese and Thai.