So in the summer of 2007, I was going to the movies with my brother when, in the pre-show commercials, there was an ad for a new ABC show called Pushing Daisies. It had a fairly simple conceit at its center: it was about a man who could, with a touch, bring the dead back to life. Another touch would put them back to being dead. If he left the dead person alive longer than one minute, however, another person in proximity would die in their place. He worked with a private investigator to solve murders. The show had another element as well: the man used his power to bring his childhood sweetheart back to life, for good, which meant they could never touch or else she’d die again.
Needless to say, I was very struck by this ad, not least because it didn’t look like anything else I’d seen before. The colors were bright, the dialogue snappy, and there were elements of whimsy that just weren’t seen on TV back then (or even now). So I resolved to check it out when it came on.
I was not disappointed. What followed was a sharply written fantasy with delightful characters, twisty murder mysteries, and endless beautiful colors. I loved it. And then the writer’s strike happened, and ABC, to the show’s eventual doom, opted not to bring it back after the strike was over. Nevertheless, I loved what I’d seen, and took to the show with a great deal of enthusiasm, watching my taped (yes, taped on VHS) episodes over and over until the DVDs came out.
When the show came back in 2008, none of its glamour had faded it. It was brighter than ever, with brilliant costumes, silly storylines, and dialogue as sparkling as the first season. Unfortunately, the ratings were in the toilet, in large part, it seemed, because no one remembered the show from a year ago, or something like that. I can’t say I know for sure. I actually wrote letters to try and convince ABC to save the show, complete with enclosed origami flowers. The show was a happy place for me; I watched my taped episodes to cheer myself up after bad days, and remind myself of the beautiful things in life.
Unfortunately, the letters I and others sent did no good. The show was cancelled about seven or eight episodes into its 13 episode order. ABC aired the rest of the ten pre-Christmas episodes, then sat on the remaining three until May, much to everyone’s chagrin. The producers had to scramble to put together an appropriate ending, given the show ended on a cliffhanger (several cliffhangers, actually), and what they came up with didn’t please everybody, but was good enough for me.
I suppose now is where I talk about what the show meant to me and means to me still, having not watched it in a few years now. I suppose mostly it reminds me of a bright candle in a dark world. I was living with undiagnosed depression when it was airing, and I wouldn’t get a proper diagnosis for several years after it was off the air. It was there for me when I felt like nothing else was, and it reminded me how to be cheerful despite the demons I fought on an almost daily basis.
More than anything, it showed me how good television could be. It didn’t have to be gritty and awful all of the time; it could be bright and cheery, but with no less drama. Another show I watched at the time was NBC’s Heroes, but I gave up on it in 2008 because it was getting too convoluted and depressing for me to continue on with. It’s no coincidence that some of Heroes’ best episodes in Season 1 (particularly the pivotal “Company Man”) were written by Pushing Daisies’ creator Bryan Fuller. Fuller knows how to write drama very well, and some of his previous shows–namely Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls–show that he can incorporate comedy to great effect.
All in all, it was the little things that made me love Pushing Daisies. The chaste but passionate relationship between Ned and Chuck, the show’s romantic heroes. The hilariously suspicious coroner. Emerson the P.I.’s knitting habit. Olive Snook’s outbursts of song. Chuck’s highly eccentric aunts, Lily and Vivian. The increasingly wacky murders. Just… everything. I loved the show wholeheartedly, and I’m still sad that it’s gone, that it didn’t get six seasons and a movie and so on and so forth.
But I’m glad that it was here and that it brought, if only for a little while, a little brightness into a world that sometimes shuns it.