Almost a month into the season, I can now declare an official winner: Pushing Daisies.
I’d absolutely loved the first two episodes, with their bizarre hyper-techincolor acid trip set design, extremely strong acting, and cute (but without crossing the fine line into too cute) stories.
I was worried, however, because both episodes were directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, who directed Men in Black and The Addams Family, and whose excellent, ebullient visual storytelling leaned heavily on what turned out to be an absolutely obscene budget.
You saw every penny of the lavish spending on the screen, but in the world of television, that kind of outlay over 22 weeks becomes simply unsustainable.
So unsustainable, in fact, that ABC actually took the draconian step of banning Sonnenfeld from directing future episodes and slashing the budget to the bone. I worried that without the wild, inspired world they were able to paint with all that money, the whole house of cards would fall down.
I’m pleased to report that the writing of this week’s episode was inspired enough that I barely noticed the more drab and dimly lit surroundings.
Trying to explain what actually happens in the show is a bit of a mess. The basic premise is moderately understandable (though is annoyingly reiterated in every episode thus far): The main character touches a dead person once, they are resurrected. If he touches them again, they die, and stay dead.
If he does not touch them again to re-kill them in a minute, however, someone or something nearby will die in their place. He uses this power to help solve murders, and collect rewards. Oh, and he also revives dead fruit to make delicious pies at his awesomely named pie restaurant, the Pie Hole.
But trying to capture the texture of this show in words is totally impossible, other than to say it’s the most wildly inventive show I’ve seen in some time, and it’s clear that both the writers and the production designers have found themselves some truly excellent hallucinogens.
If you’re willing to read some spoilers, professional TV critic Alan Sepinwall sums up why this ridiculousness works a lot better than I can. Even he can’t capture the true level of weirdness, so if you haven’t seen any of the episodes yet, you should try and get the ABC.com streaming to work for you, and watch whatever episodes they have up.
Pushing Daisies‘ weird, wild house of cards could still all collapse in on itself. I’ll certainly admit to some misgivings about how long they can sustain the delicate balance they’ve struck. But until it does collapse, missing it would be a real shame.