I wish that headline wasn't true, but the ratings back me up; not enough people are watching ABC's Pushing Daisies. Bryan Fuller's secretly twisted yet romantic detective show may bring the dead back to life on a regular basis, but it also goes out of its way to prove Isaac Newton and Stan Lee right every week as well. Hilarious, more cynical than you might expect and with the best ensemble cast on television right now, we're giving you four reasons why it's time to put your preconceptions aside and get onboard the Pie Wagon before it's too late.Watch Between The Lines. One of the digs against the show is that it's too saccharine and sickly-sweet, but take a second look to see what the show's really about. Sure, those without a sweet tooth may have a problem with the romance between Piemaker Ned and his childhood sweetheart Chuck, but ignore the candy coating that sees characters sing "Birdhouse In Your Soul" during car rides (Yeah, even I'll admit that that may have been a cute too far- This season has cut back on the musical numbers so far), and you'll see a show full of characters that can't help but lie to and hurt the ones they love. It's not just that the show celebrates murder on a weekly basis by rejoicing in wonderful new ways to kill people, but even the regular cast may be the most screwed-up characters on television (Ned, in particular - but then, he is responsible for the death of his true love's father. And the second death of his mother). And yet, unlike other shows with neurotic leads, you find yourself liking everyone here... in part because of the sweetness that makes so many people nervous, but mostly because of the witty writing that recalls the best 1940 screwball comedies. (If, like me, you secretly adored Gilmore Girls and The OC because of the dialogue and you're not watching this show? You should make a date with ABC on Wednesday nights. And now I will never be able to hold my head up high again because of admitting my love for those shows.)
Welcome To Magical Realism That's Both Magical And Real. Unlike Heroes, Ned's superpower is unique... and grounded in a reality that isn't rewritten to fit the plot of the week. It's not just that there are very definite rules to what happens when Ned brings someone back to life - and with the show's backstory based around those rules, they're unlikely to change when someone decides that they'd like to keep the undead around for more than a minute - but also that we've been shown what happens when those rules are forgotten or ignored. Even outside of Ned's abilities, however, the show's reality is one that recalls Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, both in terms of wonder and awe and... well, cruel cynicism at how the world really works. We discover a company that rents friends to social outcasts, only to find out that it's been created by a former nerd who killed and stuffed his jock tormentor so that he wouldn't feel so alone, or corpses being disguised as crash test dummies in the laboratory of the factory of a car that runs entirely on Dandelions. The spirit of Roald Dahl is alive in this series, something that's weirdly accentuated by the use of Jim Dale as an ominpresent narrator with a penchant for explaining everything through the use of puns. And talking of the cast... Is that... Pee-Wee Herman? It's not that regulars Chi McBride, Lee Pace, Anna Friel and Kristin Chenowirth aren't good enough to keep your attention every week - they play off each other incredibly well, especially McBride and Chenowirth, who could easily carry the show by themselves - but that the use of guest-stars in the show is intelligent and surprising. After all, any show that has Paul Rubens, Stephen Root and Molly Shannon has taste - and the smarts to give them roles that are quirky and meaty enough to get the audience over the "Hey, I know them!" factor (I'm looking at you when I say that, 30 Rock; you're showing signs of becoming the new Will And Grace in terms of gratuitous stunt-casting and you should stop that right now). And, hey; where else are you going to see Little Shop Of Horrors' Ellen Greene these days, never mind on a regular basis as a former synchronized swimmer?
It's The Most Visually Distinctive Show On Network Television. In an era where a shaky camera and muted palette is what passes for visual aesthetic on most television shows, it's both a surprise and relief to see a show that pays so much attention to how it looks. Pushing Daisies' colorful style - show creator Bryan Fuller clearly working out his Star Trek retro-color fetish early - gives the show its own, Amelie-influenced, hightened reality that's timeless - look at the way the show tends to avoid contemporary props in favor of more classic vehicles and clothing - and smart; characters and themes are color-coded, and clues to that week's mystery are often hidden in what you can see from the start. And yet, despite all these things, the show is collapsing in the ratings - it's continually fourth in its timeslot, even this week, when the other three networks were all showing the same program (Admittedly, it was Obama's informercial, but still). It's not that surprising (How many great shows have disappeared too early because not enough people were watching?), but it is frustrating; Pushing Daisies is funny, confident and entirely individual in a landscape of shows trying too hard to be what they think their audience might want. Given the amount of love for the show in the comments sections of various posts here recently, I'm turning this over to you - What have I missed in trying to explain what makes this show so special... and how do we convince other people to watch? [Pushing Daisies]