Saturday, June 6, 2009

Pushing Daisies: Did It Lack Sustainability?

So this may be an unpopular post, but it needs to be said: Pushing Daisies kind of had it coming.

I've seen and delighted in every single one of this show's episodes. I fell head over heels for the Piemaker, sympathized with Chuck's confusion and frustration over her new lease on life, and thrilled whenever Kristin Chenoweth opened her mouth in song.

But the fate it suffered is not entirely undeserved.

Pushing Daisies would have made a better movie than a television show. I have to say, it peaked in the "Pie-Lette." It had nowhere to go from there. It's never worked as a procedural; whereas Bones still frames itself around cases for the most part, Pushing Daisies has always been about the main characters. The cases are merely a distraction--and almost always the B-story.

The model is cute; the model is not sustainable.

The crux of the story has always been that Ned brought Chuck back to life. Except after it happened, there's really nowhere to go. They...can't touch each other. The show could only be headed in a couple of directions when it came to the ultimate story. Option One is tragic: Chuck and Ned touch. The most fitting conclusion would have been Ned mortally wounded and Chuck watching, powerless to help him. In his last moments, she would kiss him, and they would both die together. MORBID. Option Two is lame: Loophole. There’s some rule of dead-waking that Ned doesn’t know, like that after five years or something, the curse is lifted and you can touch.

And while in the meantime, the show has never strayed from being cute-cutesy, I’d have to admit that the plotlines have been rather iffy. Olive in the nunnery? Ned bringing Chuck’s dad back from the dead? Come on.

Watching last week’s episode was a perfect example. It was cute, it had Olive singing (Lionel Richie’s “Hello”), and it involved Chuck and Ned putting winter attire to good use (and thus being adorable). But it ultimately did very little to advance the plot. Olive’s over Ned now? Haven’t we already done this? A couple of times?

So, yes, Pushing Daisies would have made a much better film. The drama and whimsy of this show would have worked much better contained to a finite timeframe. Imagine all the goodness of this show--with none of the filler. And seriously, it has a LOT of filler.

While we’re on the subject, there are several shows that would’ve made better movies.

Mae says Heroes would’ve made a better movie. The main conflict of the series was solved by the first season finale, and she argues that the subsequent plotline didn’t compare. (I’ve heard it’s had a resurrection as of late, but I’ve never been a viewer, so I can’t really say.)

My greatest example of “would’ve made a better movie” is Jack and Bobby. I just rewatched the pilot on and cried my freaking eyes out. But while this is easily one of the best pilots I’ve ever seen, it gives away the biggest secret of the series--and the only one that really matters. That pilot is so moving and touching; the characters are so nicely developed and beautifully pivot about each other, but there’s just really nowhere to go when the only thing you’re really pushing toward is the death of your lead character.

A good television serial drama has to have a model that exists beyond the pilot. What separates a good pilot from a good film is the notion of sustainability--that you can spend years with these people and still have more to learn, and that their status quo will have changed. You have to be working toward something. And Pushing Daisies, lovely at is is/was, just never had that.

One response to “Pushing Daisies: Did It Lack Sustainability?”


Relatedly: does anyone else feel that Chuck's murder was never really solved?