In the US: Wednesdays, 8/7c, ABC. Starts in the Fall
In the UK: ITV1/ITV2
The French have a lot to answer for. The Napoleonic Wars, Michelin, the croque-monsieur: all are listed in their various crimes against humanity. Also on the list is the concept of the auteur, first proposed in Cahiers du cinéma back in the 50s. In short, it’s the idea that a film should be a reflection of a director’s personal vision.
Zut alors! Between the DoP, editor, visual effects team, producer, actors, production staff and the assembled multitudes for any movie, how can the director be entirely responsible for its look and style?
Nevertheless, there are some auteurs out there: Michael Mann, Darren Aronofsky, et al – all give films a particular, recognisable style.
There are television auteurs, too. Bryan Fuller is one. Responsible (among others) for Dead Like Me, Heroes and Wonderfalls, he’s now come up with another modern fairytale called Pushing Daisies, in which a man is blessed/cursed with the power to bring people back from the dead.
Don’t believe me? Okay, how many heroes of modern TV shows can you name who are pie-makers? Hmm. Okay, you’ve got a point with Richard Griffiths in Pie in the Sky. And that can bring the dead back to life? Ha. Got you there.
Ned (Lee Pace) is but a young boy when he discovers that he can bring the dead back to life by touching them. Unfortunately, if they live, another must die, so he ensures that those he returns to life die within a minute thanks to a second touch. A private detective (Chi McBride) discovers his ability and they soon come to a lucrative arrangement in which Ned raises murder victims from the dead, asks them who killed them and then sends them on their way.
But when one murder victim turns out to be his childhood love, Chuck (Anna Friel), Ned restores her to life permanently.
Is it any good?
How much do you like fairy tales? Because Pushing Daisies is an out and out fairy tale. Complete with British narrator (Alan Dale – you know, him off the Carry On movies), this is a primary-coloured (mainly thanks to director and former DoP Barry Sonnenfeld – he of the Addams Family films) little tale of childhood sweethearts, chaste love, eccentric little people living ordinary lives and whimsical situations.
Me? I’m mushy hearted in the extreme, but even I thought it a little too coy and arch. These aren’t adults – they’re children in adults’ bodies. Ned can never touch Chuck because that will kill her, so they will be eternally writing their names on tree trunks rather than having an adult relationship. This could be a plot point and a major area for character development, but here it’s just a piece of fairy-tale writing that only prevents hugs, nothing else.
Still, it’s touching, Chi McBride shows what a great character actor he is, Friel manages to hide her British accent well and be a relatively enchanting female lead, and it looks really, really good. Plus Lee Pace is currently frontrunner in 2007 “Young Arye Gross Lookalike” awards, so it’s worth looking in for that.
If you’re really in touch with your inner child, this will appeal, but if your tolerance for saccharine is low, you’ll bail by episode two at the latest. I’m holding out for talking animals.
Here’s a great big YouTube trailer for you.