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"Pushing Daisies" The Complete First Season DVD Review

Buy Pushing Daisies: The Complete First Season on DVD from Amazon.com Pushing Daisies: Season One (2007)
Show & DVD Details

Creator: Bryan Fuller / Directors: Barry Sonnenfeld, Allan Kroeker, Paul A. Edwards, Adam Kane, Peter O'Fallon, Lawrence Trilling, Brian Dannelly / : Bryan Fuller, Peter Ocko, Rina Mimoun, Katherine Lingenfelter, Chad Gomez Creasey, Dara Resnik Creasey, Scott Nimerfro, Abby Gewanter, Lisa Joy

Starring Cast: Lee Pace (Ned), Anna Friel (Charlotte "Chuck" Charles), Chi McBride (Emerson Cod), Jim Dale (Narrator), Ellen Greene (Vivian Charles), Swoosie Kurtz (Lily Charles), Kristin Chenoweth (Olive Snook)

Recurring Characters: Field Cate (Young Ned), Sy Richardson (Coroner), Sammi Hanratty (Young Chuck), Paul Reubens (Oscar Vibenius), Tina Gloss (Ned's Mother), Jon Eric Price (Ned's Father), Brad Grunberg (Louis and Lawrence Schatz), Raϊl Esparza (Alfredo Aldarisio)

Notable Guest Stars: Patrick Fabian (Mark Chase), Riki Lindhome (Jeanine), Jayma Mays (Elsa/Elsita), Dash Mihok (Lemuel "Lefty Lem" Weinger), Hamish Linklater (John Joseph Jacobs), Carlos Alazraqui (Gordon), Christopher Neiman (Lucas Shoemaker), Joel McHale (Harold Hundin), Jenny Wade (Hallie Hundin), Jessica Lundy (Hilary Hundin), Lydia Look (Heather Hundin), Christine Adams (Simone Hundin), Christopher Sieber (Napoleon LeNez), Sarah Jayne Jensen (Anita Gray), Molly Shannon (Dilly Balsam), Michael Cornacchia (Burly Bruce Carter), Audrey Wasilewski (Madeline McLean), Colby Paul (Abner Newsome), Julia Campbell (Emma Newsome)

Running Time: 379 Minutes (9 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated
1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French; Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
DVD Release Date: September 16, 2008; Suggested Retail Price: $29.98
Season 1 Airdates: October 3 - December 1, 2007
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s); Also available on Blu-Ray Disc
Clear Keepcase with Embossed Cardboard Slipcover

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By Kelvin Cedeno

Most hour-long TV dramas fall into one of three categories: medical, crime, or soap. There are notable exceptions, of course, but there's no denying that these are the three most prominent genres on serialized television. It's a breath of fresh air, then, that a series comes along that somehow manages to be both all and none of these things. That show is "Pushing Daisies", a quirky program that presents grim subject matter in a fantastical and optimistic way.

The series begins with a boy named Ned (Field Cate) who discovers he has the power to bring the dead (be they people, animals, or plants) back to life. Of course, there are two catches to this. The first is that the resurrected being will permanently die again if touched by Ned.
The second is that, should the person remain alive for more than 60 seconds, someone in close proximity will end meeting their own untimely end. This is unfortunately discovered by Ned when he resurrects his mother, inadvertently causes the father of sweetheart Charlotte to die, then kills his mother as she goes to kiss him that very night.

As Ned grows up (played by actor Lee Pace), he becomes a pie maker, running a shop appropriately called The Pie Hole. This, however, is mainly his day job, for he teams up with a private eye named Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) to make full use of his special gift. Ned awakens the victims of murder crimes for 60 seconds in order to find out who killed them. Then he and Emerson attempt to solve the mystery and collect the reward. All goes well enough for some time, until one of the victims so happens to be a now grown-up Charlotte (Anna Friel), known more affectionately to Ned as "Chuck." He can't resist leaving her alive, but this poses a problem as the two of them can never physically interact.

The opening title for "Pushing Daisies" is designed with -- what else? -- daisies. Young Ned (Field Cate) and Young Chuck (Sammi Hanratty) share their first and only kiss.

"Pushing Daisies" is extraordinary in several ways. The most obvious and instantly striking thing is its visual flair. This is easily the most colorful live-action series currently on the air, with the sets (and even costumes) exhibiting a fairy tale-like quality and providing lovely eye candy. It helps that actor Jim Dale is brought along to serve as a matter-of-fact narrator, which works perfectly for the tone of each episode. The humor is offbeat and witty, providing more laughs than most theatrical comedies of late. Despite the somewhat surreal nature, "Pushing Daisies" isn't as cold as its weekly guests may be. It retains some genuine heartfelt emotion, giving each character enough depth to sympathize with, but not too much to be either angst-ridden or syrupy.

The actors all around lend some weight to the already well-crafted scripts. Lee Pace and Anna Friel fire off witty banter akin to many 1940s films, and yet manage to infuse their characters with humanity as well. The same goes for Kristin Chenoweth, who walks the fine line between caricature and depth almost effortlessly. With so many upbeat and sincere characters, it's up to Chi McBride to bring some cynicism and sarcasm to the table, doing so in a manner that manages to be amusing and not exasperating. Chuck's two aunts, played by Ellen Greene and Swoosie Kurtz, are easily the two oddest (recurring) characters on the show. While such personalities could easily be off-putting, the two actresses make their characters truly sympathetic the way the rest of the cast does.

Vivian (Ellen Greene) and Lily (Swoosie Kurtz) reminisce over some good old-fashioned pie. Emerson (Chi McBride), Chuck (Anna Friel) and Ned (Lee Pace) are baffled to find an off-screen Olive in a town of CG windmills.

It's difficult to really pinpoint any flaws in the series as the cast and crew show real restraint. Whenever Jim Dale's narration verges on getting too expository, a deadpan delivery comes along. If the show starts to become too strange for its own good, a nice character moment comes to bring things down to earth. It's a testament to all involved that "Pushing Daisies" can blend quirkiness with heart without leaning too heavily in either direction. Add to that an often stunning visual palette and well-rounded performances, and one comes away with a show that is more alive than most primetime programming.

"Pushing Daisies" was one of the many shows affected by the 2007-08 Writers Guild of America strike. As such, only nine episodes were produced for Season 1. All of them appear on Warner's forthcoming The Complete First Season DVD. In a nice touch, there's the option of having the episode recaps on or off. Note that due to the serialized nature of the show, there may be spoilers in the episode summaries below.

Ned and Chuck use monkey statues as an outlet for their affections. In this show's world, a spokeswoman (Riki Lindhome) dressed as a dandelion isn't a very peculiar sight. As Ned times them in the background, Chuck allows the funeral director (Brad Grunberg) some last words before his own funeral.

Disc 1

1. Pie-lette (41:38) (Originally aired October 3, 2007)
Ned and his partner Emerson use Ned's ability to awaken the dead in order to solve crimes.
Complications arise when one of those dead victims happens to be Chuck, Ned's childhood sweetheart.

2. Dummy (41:45) (Originally aired October 10, 2007)
An employee of a new dandelion-fueled car manufacturer is seemingly murdered by a crash test dummy. Emerson has trouble warming up to Chuck's involvement in their work.

3. The Fun in the Funeral (42:31) (Originally aired October 17, 2007)
Ned is mortified to discover his next case involves the former director of the funeral home, the man who died as a consequence of Chuck living. Olive unknowingly delivers pies from Chuck to her aunts.

Chuck and Ned are slightly repulsed by the corpse they've uncovered in the moonlight. Ned and Olive (Kristin Chenoweth) share an awkward moment as Chuck walks in on them. The four none-too-pleased suspects (and wives of the victim, no less): Hallie (Jenny Wade), Hilary (Jessica Lundy), Heather (Lydia Look), and Simone (Christine Adams).

Disc 2

4. Pigeon (41:49) (Originally aired October 24, 2007)
A man whose apartment has been destroyed by a runaway crop duster grows affectionate with Chuck. When a one-winged carrier pigeon slams into the window of the Pie Hole, Olive takes him to Lily and Vivian.

5. Girth (43:02) (Originally aired October 31, 2007)
Ned is perturbed by the arrival of Halloween thanks to repressed childhood memories. Olive faces her past as several horse jockeys are trampled to death by a rider she once defeated in a race.

6. Bitches (41:08) (Originally aired November 14, 2007)
A dog breeder reveals that he was poisoned by his wife; the problem is that he was a polygamist. Ned struggles with guilt over having kissed Olive and experiencing a dream about her.

Emerson, Chuck, Olive, Ned, and Oscar (Paul Reubens) all examine the condition of "Smell of Success"' villain. Candy shop owners Eugene (Nicholas Khayyat) and Dilly (Molly Shannon) aren't quite as welcoming as Willy Wonka. As Olive's pajamas blend into her comforter and wallpaper, she tries to console Chuck regarding Ned.

Disc 3

7. Smell of Success (43:10) (Originally aired November 21, 2007)
The love-struck assistant of a smell connoisseur is killed by an exploding scratch-and-sniff book. The team finds itself stalked by a mysterious man who dwells in the sewers.

8. Bitter Sweets (42:07) (Originally aired November 28, 2007)
A competitive candy store opens by the Pie Hole, and the owners are determined to ruin Ned's business. A man's girlfriend is put in prison after he apparently dies of strangulation by a woman.

9. Corpsicle (42:35) (Originally aired December 1, 2007)
Life insurance agents are found dead on the lawn of a boy awaiting a heart transplant. Chuck debates whether or not to reveal her secret after she and Ned have a discord.

Feeling that a kiss would be too forward, Ned awakens Chuck with a touch on the cheek. Olive isn't terribly comfortable delivering a pie to a closed off house on the other side of town.


"Pushing Daisies" is presented in the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen ratio of its high-definition broadcasts. This is an ideal television series to use for demonstration purposes, as the show boasts a vivid and saturated color palette. Sharpness and details are consistent, and the image remains clean of any print or digital defects.
The episodes each come with a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Soundtrack that's surprisingly active. The high-speed dialogue is crisp, even occasionally given some directional usage. Music and effects are what most employ the surround channels, and these also sound as pristine as one would expect from a recent series.


From a glance at the package, it looks like there's just one lone bonus feature, but this isn't exactly the case. Located on the third disc, "Pie Time: Time for Pie" is an odd presentation of various short featurettes. The season's nine episodes are listed around spinning pie trays, and clicking any one leads to a static image containing more pies. Each pie is a behind-the-scenes clip pertaining to that particular episode. Most provide actor Lee Pace and creator Bryan Fuller discussing their favorite scenes from the given episode.

Lee Pace and creator Bryan Fuller talk about what Lee's waking-up-with-drool-acting as the scene plays in the corner. A scene from "Pigeon" is shown before the CG background is added in post-production. Ned and Chuck pose in front of a vast sea of daisies in all three main menus.

Pie-lette's pieces discuss cinematography and tone (3:21), the creation of the Pie Hole (1:45), and Pace and Fuller's favorite scenes (2:53). Dummy has a clip about the casting of Young Ned (1:41), and of Pace and Fuller discussing Kristin Chenoweth and Riki Lindhome (3:24).
For The Fun in the Funeral, the series' color palette is given attention (2:12), and Pace and Fuller return to comment on Ellen Greene and Swoosie Kurtz (2:29). The work done on the title character for Pigeon is explained (1:05) as well as the creation of the windmill town (2:40). On Girth, Pace and Fuller discuss Olive's horse racing backstory, and the sets' wallpaper is noted (0:55).

Bitches serves up another Pace and Fuller chat, this time regarding Hitchcock references and who's the better kisser between Anna Friel and Kristin Chenoweth (2:59); the casting of Chi McBride is also explained. For Smell of Success, Pace and Fuller talk about the potency of a swimming scene between the two aunts (1:58). The elaborate CG crane shot from Bitter Sweets is analyzed (1:42), the production design is detailed upon (2:32), and Pace and Fuller comment on the appearance of Molly Shannon, Raϊl Esparza, and Ned's revelation to Chuck (6:09). The season finale, Corpsicle contains a clip about the CG cheese crab featured (1:32).

The vignettes vary in quality. The Pace and Fuller clips lean mostly towards praise and can't replace full-length audio commentaries. The others toss out good notes from the crew (especially those focusing on design), but are too brief to wholly satisfy. The idea of having material specific to each episode seems like a good one at first, but the format leaves much to be desired. Each clip must be accessed one at a time, and none of the pies have labels on them. This means that unless one memorizes which pie correlates to what clip, process of elimination must be used to access a desired one. While this isn't a grand travesty since each episode never has more than three extras, it's still cumbersome. A more all-encompassing documentary would've been preferred, or at least a "Play All" option for what's here.

Disc One starts with an anti-piracy announcement using Casablanca clips that simultaneously amuses and horrifies. Disc Three opens with a promo for "Pushing Daisies" on ABC, but no clips of the second season are shown.

The menus, sadly, are all static except for the main "Time for Pie" one. The main menu on each disc features an image of Chuck and Ned standing in front of a field of daisies as the theme music plays. The episode and language menus are silent and feature other cast members in front of the same daisy background.

The three-disc set comes packaged in a clear Amaray case with a tray holding disc one and two on either side. Creativity is actually shown as the sleeve art and embossed cardboard slipcover differ for once. The slipcover shows Ned and Chuck on the front and the main cast on the back with the appropriately bright color scheme. The sleeve artwork, however, is designed to look like a countertop at the Pie Hole both inside outside and inside the clear case. An eight-sided insert containing episode summaries is likewise designed as a menu. The discs themselves all feature a different type of pie as art.

Chuck and Ned exchange one of their few sorrowful conversations on the subject of death. Emerson isn't very pleased at sitting in the backseat now that Ned and Chuck have a protective barrier in the front.


"Pushing Daisies" proudly stands on its own unique pedestal amongst the sea of one-hour dramas. Hilarious writing, multi-layered performances, and a unique visual flair all come together to form something truly unique and worthwhile. All nine episodes are presented on DVD with excellent picture/sound and a collection of solid featurettes marred only by a weary user interface. This set does more far more right than wrong and current fans of the series have no reason not to pick it up, especially at the reasonable retail price. Those with a love of fantasy and offbeat humor are also encouraged to pick up this memorable and lively show.

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Reviewed September 8, 2008.

Text copyright 2008 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2007 Jinks/Cohen Company, Living Dead Guy Productions, Warner Bros. Television and 2008 Warner Home Video.
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