Even before the networks unveiled their fall lineups in May, a lot of people were talking about the Barry Sonnenfeld–directed pilot for Pushing Daisies. It’s not hard to see why: The hypersaturated colors and cluttered sets make it look like nothing else on television—visually, Daisies evokes Sonnenfeld’s Addams Family movies and Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands, with flourishes that recall the illustrations of Maurice Sendak and Edward Gorey. Yet while the premise is equally unusual, the pilot suggests that creator Bryan Fuller and his collaborators will have to work very hard to keep the plots from growing repetitive.
Lee Pace stars as Ned, an earnest young man whose touch can resurrect the dead, albeit with many strings attached (if he touches a reanimated person or animal a second time, they die permanently; if they remain alive for more than 60 seconds, someone nearby dies randomly to even the cosmic balance). In childhood, Ned’s gift led to the deaths of his mother as well as the father of Chuck (Anna Friel), his first love, who resurfaces after Ned and his detective buddy Emerson (Chi McBride) embark on a get-rich-quick scheme utilizing Ned’s abilities.
Friel is as winning and energetic as Kristin Chenoweth (playing a neighbor infatuated with Ned) is shrill and annoying. Between them, the set design, and Ellen Greene and Swoosie Kurtz (as Chuck’s daffy maiden aunts), Pace doesn’t get to make much of an impression in the pilot, which is overstuffed with exposition (provided by Harry Potter audiobook reader Jim Dale, who narrates). Friel arrives just in time to stop everything from turning into cloying goo, and if the zero-contact romance between Chuck and Ned helps the series become a hit, it will all be thanks to her.