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October 09 2007

A Pushing Daisies Review. "It's as if Tim Burton and Joss Whedon had a love child."

As a major fan of both Tim and Joss I just loved this incredibly accurate comment about the best new show on TV and I wanted to point it out to spread the joy I experienced from reading it.

"It’s as if Tim Burton and Joss Whedon had a love child."

And it was born without a heart. What a terrible show.

I can understand the comparison, more to Burton than Whedon. But the first episode was so bleak, so heavy-handed and so unappealing to me, that I won't be watching again. The narration drove me insane. The premise was handled carelessly. The core relationship was completely unbelievable.

But I already know I'm in the minority on this.
"What a terrible show."

Its weird but thats what every single person at my old high school said about Buffy the Vampire Slayer when I told them that it was my favorite show. In fact I've never actually met anybody in person who likes Buffy. And that makes me very sad.

[ edited by xerox on 2007-10-10 07:16 ]
Actually from what I've read this show seems to be more like the love-child of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Tim Burton. The first episode of this series screamed "inspired by the movie Amélie", right down to the 1931 song Guilty.
I think the reviewer means that it looks like Tim Burton and sounds like Joss Whedon. The dialogue is very much like something Joss might write.
The show is absolutely brilliant. It's got heart and magic for days. And you know I love that it takes inspiration from Amelie. I hope it's given the chance Wonderfalls never got.
I liked this show a whole bunch - and I thought it had plenty of heart. It's just not... intimate, I guess, the POV is from somewhere a little distant, which reminds me of Wonderfalls, and not so much of Dead Like Me. It's farcical and broad, in many ways, and macabre and a tad noirish. It looks like nothing else on TV, and the acting is wonderful.

I've only seen one episode so far, so we'll see where it goes, but I'm loving this show so far.

And yah, I see where they get the unholy alliance of Tim Burton and Joss Whedon - it's rich and dark and charming and uncanny and whimsical and frothy all rolled up together into one Big Dark Chocolate Pie. Um, TV show. Which looks like a Movie. Narrated by that Voice that Harry Pottered me so well and signifies with his first syllable, "Once upon a time..."
I agree that this show is absolutely brilliant. At first, I thought...."Hmmmm....Wonderfalls meets Twin Peaks!" There is that darkness, to balance the sweetness.

But this is a one-of-a-kind show, one that no-one has done exactly like this before. And it is excellent. And, like QuoterGal and The Midnighter, I am loving it so far!
This show is sheer genius- I've seen the first two episodes and the ending of both has left me weeping for more. There's really no other show like it, and it's such a breath of fresh air. I can't remember ever being as excited about a new network show as I am about "Pushing Daisies", and I think the reviewer's description is apt. It's got the Tim Burton look and feel, and dialogue worthy of Joss. There's no better combination. :)

[ edited by Trek_Girl42 on 2007-10-10 10:03 ]
Love this show. Very Tim Burton, maybe slightly Jossian too though for my money there's a lot of Barry Levinson's "Toys" in the look and feel.

BTW, I started out a bit confused about the Jim Dale love from the Yank contingent (don't see you guys being big into the "Carry on ..." films. Oooh nooo, matron ;) until I found out he does the US Harry Potter audiobooks (the truly inimitable Stephen Fry reads the UK versions).

It's just not... intimate, I guess, the POV is from somewhere a little distant ...

I think it's hard to be whimsical and intimate (whimsicality seems to have an "outside looking in" quality to it IMO, a slight abstraction from reality), and this show has whim out the wazoo. And also, from a character perspective, "distant" is basically a single word summary of Ned at the start of his (assumed) arc - could be Fuller knows this and the show will gradually become more intimate as it progresses.

(agreed though QG, even though it was thematically similar, "Dead Like Me" was too earthy, helped - as the review mentions - by the swearing, to be as distant)

But the first episode was so bleak ...

Sure it's bleak, part of what makes it funny and poignant for me is its lightness in the face of the darkest aspect of being human i.e. knowing what we have in store for us, whether it's tomorrow or in a hundred years - we're the only creatures on this planet, maybe the entire universe, that can laugh in the face of certain death and that, IMO, makes us mighty. Saw a quote on Slashdot years ago that stuck, no idea where it's from but it captures the feel of 'Pushing Daisies' perfectly I reckon: "I looked into the abyss and the abyss looked into me - and we both winked" ;).

(the original quoter never offered apologies to Nietzsche's shade so neither will I ;)
Seems like the special gift of life- followed by death, again, in a minute, would be the sort of thing that would lead to a person being a bit distant-if only from fear of causing unintended damage-again. The tone is a perfect match. As you point out, Saje, this is the beginning of the story, and my guess is that this is one of the main themes of the show, and issues of the character.
Could the quirkiness of the show be attributed to the fact that it is exec produced by Bryan Fuller. The same person that gave us Wonderfalls and Dead Like Me. Since Brian worked with Tim Minear on Wonderfalls it doesn't surprise me at all to see a verse comparison. However, brilliant it may be, I fear it doesn't have the ability to make it through the season with the current premiss. They need to give the plot as much depth as the dialouge and hope ABC gives it a chance.

There is an interesting read over at the futon critic called the 10 things you need to know about the new season. There is a Buffy mention on the #5 thing. Also check out their new feature "Ask the futon", for another interesting read.
I love anything by Bryan Fuller. He's the next best thing to Joss on television. Not only is he responsible for "Dead Like Me" and "Wonderfalls," but he wrote the best episode of "Heroes" last season ("Company Man"), and has a great gift for dialogue and twisted humor. The "Pie-lette" for "Pushing Daisies" drew in two of my daughters who had no idea what the show was, and they were hooked.

I can't wait to see tonight's episode.
I love this show. It did remind me of being very Tim Burton, but not so much Joss.
I did not want to add another show to my week. I already watch too much and don't get enough done as it is. So after much hype, I DVR'd it to watch later. And I finally got around to it on Sunday morning. And I believe that's where it will stay. On Sunday mornings. I love this show. I love the quirky.
I thought the show was lovely. Lee Pace stole my heart.
I'd been hearing all summer about how wonderful this show would be, but I just didn't see how the premise was sustainable and like madmolly, I just didn't need another show to watch. I missed the first episode, but then I read the reviews and found out about Jim Dale's narration, and the presence of Swoosie Kurtz, so I watched it when it replayed on Friday. I liked it, but then I suspect quirky just might be my middle name.

I've adored Jim Dale since I saw Joseph Andrews (checks IMDB Gasp! 30 years ago.) I didn't know he'd read the Harry Potter books until I read those reviews. That might just get me to finally give the ones past the first one a go.
the love-child of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Tim Burton

Them's some big words right there! I've seen the first episode, and I enjoyed it immensely. I see the nods to their work, and similarities to the magical tales they both like to tell. However, I wanna see how the rest of the season pans out before making too much of a judgement. I'm just unsure they creators can keep up the pace at which they've started. I really hope we get more than a short season, and I also really hope the networks don't push it into an 'Ed' box. That'd be kinda sad.
I'm trying to avoid reading anything that critics have to say about this show so I won't read the article but the first episode was great. The tone and sensibility seems fairly close to both Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls, both of which I love, so I hope Bryan Fuller has a bit more luck with this show.
The premier didn't capture my interest enough for me to remember to record it tonight. So I join crossoverman in the minority. I see the Tim Burton, who's work doesn't do anything for me, but I don't see any real Joss influence, based on one episode.

I know this may be a matter of semantics but I detest "whimsy" and I don't think Joss ever indulged in it. It's a very different animal from eccentric and witty. So I totally disagree that the dialog sounds like something Joss might write, Joss could write circles around it with only half his creative brain engaged, IMO.
I'm so low-brow. It mostly reminded me of Babe and Nanny McPhee. Not Jossy in the slightest, IMO, but I still liked it.
... but I detest "whimsy" and I don't think Joss ever indulged in it.

Glory and Angelus both engaged in whimsy, among others in the Buffyverse (and whimsy can be witty too, they're not mutually exclusive. A lot of Oscar Wilde's stuff is chock full of whimsical wit for instance ;).

Fair play though, it's very Burtonesque, if you don't like him I doubt you'll like "Pushing Daisies". Horses/courses ;).
It's just sad visiting this page and reading about new shows on T.V. that aren't Joss Whedon shows. I want a new Joss Whedon show, dangit.
This show blew my mind. I spent the whole episode sputtering to my roommate how great it was. Out of all the new series I've seen this season, this one is best by far. Some of my faith has actually been restored in TV. ;)
I absolutely LOVED the premiere, but the writing is not remotely Whedonesque (pardon the pun) in my opinion. That's not to say it's inferior at all, but the flavor is very different.
Did it remind anyone else a bit of the *look* of "Waitress?" Of course, I don't mean just the pies but that last scene in the film and the look of "Pushing Daisies" had a similarly dreamlike quality.

I loved the first episode, and I imagine I will continue to love it...until it gets cancelled. I will say that I commented that it wouldn't last because most people wouldn't get it and wouldn't have the patience/intelligence/soul/heart to commit to something so unusual (but then again, we Whedongeeks aren't 'usual' now, are we?!?! ;-).
I really liked this show. I kept thinking of 'Edward Scissorhands' and 'Big Fish', so the Tim Burton influence is definatly there. It also reminds me of 'Wonderfalls'. I am always open to new types of programs and with so many procedurals on the air, this was a very refreshing change. To me, 'Reaper' and this show are so far my 2 favorite new shows. I wish it the best of luck and hopefully it will stay on the air a long time, or at least finish the season. I don't have a whole lot of confidence in the tv networks anymore, so who knows?
Quirkiness and whimsey are tonally as airy and delicate as souflees and can collapse just as easily. Ally McBeal anyone? In fact, anything by David Kelly? I think this will have congealed into preciousness sometime late in its first (or maybe second) season. I did enjoy the first episode though, so I'll keep watching for now.
Please know that I do not say this lightly.

Not since I first laid my eyes on Firefly back on my tiny, static ridden TV back in '02 have I loved a show so completely from the moment the end credits rolled. I took a second look at Pushing Daisies online, and found myself every bit as affected the second time around. Glorious.

Fuller has served up a fairy-tale, Tim Burton style, with all of the warm whimsy of Edward Scissorhands. The pie-lette was not bleak, not in the least. I would go so far as to say that it was, in fact, the polar opposite of bleak. It was too full of charm, and giddy looks, and some very, very funny lines. It was lush and promising, and a delight to watch. Props to Lee Pace, Anna Friel, and the hilarious eye-rolling Chi McBride. Great cast chemistry.

No, when I think bleak, I think of Children of Men. Not something that feels like this.

Anyone daring to do anything different on T.V. is getting the "Like Whedon" stamp these days, when the writer cannot find other ways of explaining it. This is very different.

Or maybe it's a conspiracy to start a cult following, a grass-roots love movement.

My only question is: how long before we get some Whedonverse cast and crew involved in this little gem?

[ edited by Raggedy Edge on 2007-10-10 17:34 ]
Raggedy Edge, I absolutely agree. This show is undeniably special, and I've never become so invested in a network show after just two episodes before. This show has a level of heart and spirit to it that doesn't come along very often; I am a huge fan of movies (like Children of Men) and shows (BSG) with a bleaker outlook but somehow this just grabbed me immediately. It's cute but not cloying, and I love that ABC was willing to take the risk with this one. It actually makes me believe that there is hope for network television. Last week's ratings were excellent, and hopefully they'll hold so "Pushing Daisies" gets the life it richly deserves. :)
I'm simply in love with this show. really wonder what Joss could do with it if he had a chance to work on one episode, directing or especially writing.
The beauty in all this is that everyone is trying to compare their show to a Joss Whedon show, indicating that his is the Golden Standard for television. It also indicates that there's a hole in the world - a void in television that everyone is desperately trying to fill - writers, show creators, and viewers alike - ever since new Joss TV disappeared.
Oh, Saje...

Sure it's bleak, part of what makes it funny and poignant for me is its lightness in the face of the darkest aspect of being human i.e. knowing what we have in store for us, whether it's tomorrow or in a hundred years - we're the only creatures on this planet, maybe the entire universe, that can laugh in the face of certain death and that, IMO, makes us mighty.

It's deceptively light, for sure. But to me, it doesn't celebrate life at all. The show actually depressed me. The light stuff, the whimsey - it was all a lie. Not one part of it rang true. Not one part of the pilot made me feel anything but depressed - for these people and for me, having to endure this story.

The voice-over didn't help. I know people argue that this is a fairy-tale, but *damn* did it have to be so heavy-handed? Did it have to tell me what I was watching?

But the basic premise disrespects life. Apparently it's up to the main character who gets to live and die. Keeping Chuck alive meant someone died - and he just shrugged his shoulders, figuring someone who stole from the dead deserved to die. He killed Chuck's father and somehow I'm supposed to be sympathetic? (Yes, I know it wasn't his fault, but how do I get past that? How can Chuck?)

And we're supposed to think the main guy and Chuck are in love? WTF? Because they kissed once? No, just no. Sure, I suppose she's grateful for him resurrecting her, but *damn*... now they have to endure a life of never touching? Seriously - that's just too painful for me to endure.

The comparison to Tim Burton is apt because it reminds me of "Edward Scissorhands" - he couldn't hold the girl who fell in love with him either. It's one of my favourite films ever. But I wouldn't watch it every week.

I think it's an insult to compare it to Joss, whose series all celebrate life. And respect death. And have witty dialogue. And characters I can empathise with. For me, "Pushing Daisies" had none of that.
This Bryan Fuller guy has been at it a while... anyone who has watched Wonderfalls and the first season of Dead Like Me can attest to this.

These were also sweet shows with a darkness.

Has he not earned the right to have his own shows referred to as "Fuller-esque"?

Pushing Daisies is my favorite new show of the season. I hope the writers and producers can maintain or exceed the high level of quality they have already achieved. Well done, everyone!
Ah well, each to their own crossoverman, seems like it touched all the wrong buttons for you, needless to say (cos i've already said it ;) I don't see it in that light.

Though the events can certainly be read that way, you have to completely ignore the tone to get that from it IMO.

(friend of mine used to break classics down by strictly literal interpretations - for a joke in her case ;) - so "It's a Wonderful Life" would be something like "Small town loser decides to kill himself then, after becoming delusional, gets bribed to stay by all the people that'd have to get off their own arse and work if he left" ;)
Did the murder victim in tonight's episode remind anyone else of Joss? Just me?
I'm finding the show odd, amusing, witty, charming and sweet, which might be taken as a putdown in some circles, except I mean it very sincerely and fondly. It feels completely unique on TV (a miracle in and of itself), and I'm shocked ABC took the risk of putting it on. Although they are owned by Disney, aren't they? I guess that makes sense, given the fairy-tale comparisons.

It's got an edge to it that isn't remotely Disneyesque, though. Today a friend told me it reminds her of Lemony Snicket's 'A Series of Unfortuate Events' in tone, which I haven't seen, so I can't judge. Simply, she loves it. And I love Lee Pace and Kristin Chenowith (which, who knew she could sing like a bird?). It's well made, inventive, and it's got amazingly strange plot ideas. We're both happy. :)
Me, I knew. :> She's been doing musicals on Broadway for over a decade, she created the role of Glinda in the musical Wicked, and her performance as Cunegonde in the New York Philharmonic's semi-staged rendition of Bernstein's Candide made me like that show all over again.

Yeah, Wiseblood, I thought of the Lemony Snickett movie, too, but I wanted that movie to be so much better than it was I was sortof suppressing it - but there's definitely a something similar in tone that I do like - sortof Edward Gorey-esque - as well as the look of Toys, as Saje mentioned above.
Only 'Fear' I have is that they'll put too much emphasis on quantity rather than quality. I kinda hope they do a short run and leave it only at 13 episodes a season, like the BBC seems to do. That way they can put the time in to truly CRAFT compelling, magic, weird, dark stories (with heart) rather than just gun for 100 episodes and Syndication.
I found the dialogue to be sort of Joss esque. Well atleast to me it seemed alot of the characters talked like Anya.

However. I can't draw too much comparisions to buffy and angel and firefly except that I love this show too.

Fuller is amazing.

That guy did remind me alot of joss lol! They look vaguely similiar.
Ever since I saw that Julie Brown TV show Strip Mall I've thought that guy should play Joss in a movie.
Last night's episode was confirmation for me that the pielette was not a fluke. The musical number alone was worth the (lack of) price of admission. And Chi McBride is wonderful on the show it's really great to see him in something where he gets to use his funny skills cause he's got a lot of them.
And was I the only one who noticed they got to point a gun directly at the camera, I thought that was TV's biggest no no.
saje when I prefaced my "I detest whimsy" statement with "I know this may be a matter of semantics", I was thinking of you. I knew you would be the one to challenge my interpretation, whether or not you liked the show :) But I stick to that interpretation, I know BtS and AtS upside down and backwards and I wouldn't classify any of either Glory or Angelus's dialog as whimsical. I'd classify it as "Jossian" because IMO it doesn't fall into any existing category.
Tim Burton is whimsical, but not Joss, whom I still maintain could write something better than this in his sleep. He would never do something so self-consciously precious and nauseatingly "cutesy". And the narration is right out of Desperate Housewives, but with a British accent, WTF is that about?
I did give it another go tonight, lasted about half way through before the diabetic coma threatened to set in. The "darkness" is a ruse, it's all cotton candy. And the lead's acting style reminds me of Pee Wee Herman. And so say all of us who are me. :)
Heh, saw me coming a mile off Shey ;).

1. an odd or fanciful or capricious idea; "the theatrical notion of disguise is associated with disaster in his stories"; "he had a whimsy about flying to the moon"; "whimsy can be humorous to someone with time to enjoy it" [syn: notion]
2. the trait of acting unpredictably and more from whim or caprice than from reason or judgment; "I despair at the flightiness and whimsicality of my memory" [syn: flightiness]

Now, surely Glory and (IMO) also Angelus engaged in whimsy[2] and i'd say the (occasionally extremely) fanciful wanderings of e.g. Willow and Xander qualify as whimsy[1]. I've also seen it defined as excessive playfulness (let's call that [3]) and I think quite a few of Joss' characters engaged in that too - usually to defuse a tense situation or as a pomposity pricker (I might put the fabulous "She is too a whizz" ... "If ever a wiz there was" in [3] and Glory deciding whether to off someone in [2]).

Maybe a wee variation on the "no true Scotsman" fallacy Shey ? I.e. you don't like whimsy so, if you like it, it can't be whimsy, right ? ;-)

Think we may have to agree to differ on this one (which I almost prefer to agreeing to agree ;).

(totally with you re: too cutesy or cloyingly sentimental BTW - I can't sit through e.g. "AI" because of exactly that - I just see "Pushing Daisies" as irreverent enough in its approach to offset that, rather than cutesy i'd just call it a consciously heightened and fantastical reality. And to pop back to something crossoverman said above, why should we respect death ? Nick his scythe then pull his cloak up and kick him in the nads I say, bugger's had it in for me since I was born ;)
I am enjoying the heck out of this show. But I have adored Lee Pace since Wonderfalls - he's great in everything that he's been in. It is highly stylistic but I happen to like that. It's a nice change from 'ookey - let's look deeper into a dismembered corpse' that is much of the fare on tv now. (I'm looking at YOU CSI!)
Watched the pilot, won't watch again.

Desperately quirky, with an irritating premise.

Impossible to maintain suspension of disbelief, as it's physically impossible to live with a dog for ~20 years without touching it. Add to that the casualness the two main characters take with close contact (ie. when they broke the monkeys at the end, if they didn't touch hands they only missed by millimeters). Add how easily the eminintly forgettable woman was (I've already forgotten the character's name) able to handle the fact that she had died and been resurrected. And then how she then allowed herself to nearly get buried alive. Etc, Etc.

Sorry. I'd rather watch Family Fued re-runs. Even worse, if I had to choose between them I'd rather watch Survivor (which I have never watched BTW).
I adore Pushing Daisies.

It isn't supposed to be real. If anything, it's the anti-reality show, which is so refreshing in an era of gravely realistic procedural dramas and *bleh* reality programmng.

Pushing Daisies is a charming, edgy fairy tale, beautifully crafted, and does what I love ~ it surprises.

It's definitely a specialty show, with a unique quirkiness. For those that don't care for that, there's plenty of other types of programs out there to watch... and a lot of them copy each other. Part of Pushing Daisies amazing quality is that it made it to a major network. It's so different! I haven't watched the major networks in years... literally. Chuck, Heroes, Bionic Woman and Pushing Daisies all got me watching again. Frankly, I'm stunned at such an array of great shows. I truly hope the widespread TV watching audience will embrace these series, we need creative, scripted shows.

Best of all? None of them are on FOX.
I am enjoying it so much. And I do adore Lee Pace.

I don't think the problem, for those who don't like it, is either non-realism/suspension of disbelief, or a question of quality. It is, truly, a question of taste. (Unlike a lot of things folks say are a question of taste-when really they just don't want to discuss something.)

Because there is no question but that this show is mannered, a little arch- even the colors are heightened and shimmery, and that is just not the sort of thing everyone likes-regardless of how well done. Whether you call it "whimsy" or not.

Sure, you can't live with a dog for 20 years without touching it, but it is also true that there are no monsters and people can't leap tall buildings in a single bound. Doesn't mean there's no emotional realism when those things are going on. But some people are just allergic to some styles. I'd just say though, that it might be worth a little more sampling-lots of great stuff I now admire put me off at first .

This show has its own conventions-different ones, which are developing, and hopefully will continue to develop. They are, thus far, non-standard, so they stick out a little more , starting outt. I'm hoping it lives up to its early promise-it's not much like anything else...and is that ever rare for tv.

[ edited by toast on 2007-10-12 11:09 ]
Guy totally looked like Joss. I actually paused the old TiFaux and went to see who had played that guy... was checking to see if Joss has a younger brother (sorry, Joss, honey, but he looked like you... a few years back ;-).
"Sure, you can't live with a dog for 20 years without touching it, but it is also true that there are no monsters and people can't leap tall buildings in a single bound. Doesn't mean there's no emotional realism when those things are going on."

But that's the thing, this show doesn't have any "emotional realism" (as you so aptly put it) either. THAT is my primary problem.

"I was murdered and then resurrected? OK!"

"They are about to bury me alive? I guess I'll just quietly wait here in my coffin. Maybe someone will show up and rescue me."

And then people here are comparing the writing to Joss's!!!

Imagining Buffy season 1 finale by the Pushing Daisies writer:

"You're telling me I'm fated to get killed by the Master? Oh well. I guess it was fun while it lasted."
... and people can't leap tall buildings in a single bound

I can but unfortunately only in the down direction (so far). It's a bit of a solution looking for a problem really ;).

Well put toast. When some people like something for the exact reasons other people don't then it surely just boils down to taste. Even the matter-of-factness (what some see as flatness) of the dialogue and delivery appeals to me, it's funny precisely because it's so out of place amongst all the weirdness.

(i'm quite tickled by the "realism" criticism though rkayn. Vampires, werewolves and FTL communications are all super-fine but keeping a dog for 20 years without touching it is totally unbelievable ?!? And more importantly, it kinda feels like "realism" may not be what Fuller et al are aiming for, y'know ? ;)
Oh dear, Saje, you are supposed to leap over the buildings in a single bound, not off the top of them! You might want to curtail practicing this sport- it has been known to cause some serious damage to participants.

I too find the matter-of-fact/detached tone amusing and the odd sometime strange passivity of the characters a plus for the funny. They seem almost dazed- which in light of the constant, unignorable proximaty (sp?) of death is really pretty appropriate. But they are all always trying to connect, even the dog. I think it's cool.

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