I wanted to love Pushing Daisies. And, as I was watching, I tried to convince myself I that I did. But, once it was over, I finally admitted that it just wasn’t very good.
Pushing Daisies tries so damn hard to make you like it. It wants you to think it’s just a little smarter, funnier, sweeter, and more profound than it actually is. It’s like an annoying ten-year-old gifted kid.
The writing staff for Pushing Daisies did what any writing staff does when they can’t find the funny. They went for heavy-handed quirkiness. The female lead’s aunts were cheese-obsessed synchronized swimmers, one of whom had lost an eye from spilling kitty litter onto it. Such quirkiness was a poor substitute for real characterization and humor.
The show’s dialogue and delivery were off-putting. Every straight line existed solely to set up a clearly telegraphed punchline. The actors didn’t converse so much as they seemed to be waiting their turn to deliver said punchlines. I felt like I was watching a show acted by aliens who only knew our culture from watching transmissions of the last few Gilmore Girls seasons.
Even worse than the dialogue, the ceaseless narration was awful. I think the narrator spoke more than all the other characters combined. Not a good sign when your screenplay is so weak it needs to be propped up continuously by a frameworking gimmick.
Finally, I didn’t buy the forced chemistry between the two main characters, Ned (the guy) and Chuck (the girl). It felt like every time Ned spoke — no matter how mundane the comment — we got a close-up of Chuck smiling in admiration. Whenever Chuck so much as tilted her head, Ned looked at her in awe. Rather than trusting the audience to sense any chemistry without assistance… Rather than showing us any specific reasons for the characters to like one other so much… Rather than letting the characters’ relationship develop naturally to the point where we see them fall in like (or love) with one another, we were pretty much told from minute one, "These two people find each other absolutely fascinating — and so do you!"
There were some positives. The show was beautiful in HD. Chi McBride did a yeoman’s job with the only character who’s not a caricature. And Chuck made for a cute ex-corpse. But those are details; the bulk of the show was a saccharine mess.
ABC should be applauded for being willing to put something different on the air. Good on them for giving this adult fairy tale a try. It’s a neat idea for a show, and it’s got a good heart. I can appreciate why so many others enjoyed it. But the writing wasn’t very good, and the show was too concerned with telling me just how precious and charming it was. By the time it ended, I thought my TV had been staring at me with puppy-dog eyes for an hour.
Because pilot episodes aren’t always a reliable indicator of how a show will turn out, I may give the show another week. Or maybe I’ll have more fun if I spend next Wednesday night hanging out with my grandma and her creepy Hummel collection.