And the plot? Well, the plot revolves around Ned, a man who when he was a boy discovered, in a most tragic way, that he could bring the dead back to life with a touch. The drawbacks include the fact that if he touches the revived ever again they die again forever. And if the revived are returned to the arms of death within 60 seconds then somebody else in random proximity will keel over dead (one presumes to keep some kind of cosmic balance.) Lee Pace plays Ned, a pie-maker who owns operates “The Pie Hole”, with a wistful, but not self-pitying, melancholy. He keeps a distance…emotional and physical…from those around him due to his power (he cannot even pet his beloved dog, Digby, because of having brought the animal back to life after Digby was hit by a truck when Ned was a boy.)
Ned’s insulated life…he mostly interacted with Olive, an employee at the Pie Hole, a slightly daffy blonde with an unrequited crush on him (played with verve by the always delightful Kristen Chenoweth)…when two people entered (or in one case, re-entered) his ordered life.
He teams up with Emerson, a private detective (playfully brought to life by a very droll Chi McBride), to solve murders by having Ned bring the victims back to life long enough to tell them who committed the crime and then returning the victims to death within the allotted minute after which Ned and Emerson collect the reward. You get the feeling that Ned enjoys having something new, and somewhat adventurous, in his life.
More poignant is Ned’s reunion with “Chuck” (Charlotte Charles, played with impish acceptance of her odd situation by Anna Friel), his childhood sweetheart with whom he had shared his first kiss when they were children and whom he hadn’t seen since the deaths of their parents (Ned’s power being an unwitting catalyst for those happenings) had separated them. Chuck is killed after unknowingly stumbled into a smuggling scheme and Ned brings her back to life and, having pined for her since his youth, found that he was unable to return her to death (another person, a larcenous funeral director, takes her place in the afterlife after Ned lets the time limit go by without touching Chuck again.) Ned is therefore reunited with the girl of his dreams…Chuck becomes a partner with Ned and Chuck, joining with them to solve her own murder…but he is unable to give her even the slightest touch or kiss.
Rounding out the regular cast are Swoosie Kurtz and Ellen Greene (both wonderfully weird and sweetly affecting) as Chuck’s eccentric, socially isolated aunts who live in a gothic house with forbidding wrought iron gates. They do not…and cannot…know that Chuck has returned from the dead.
I have no idea if something as quirky and smart as Pushing Daisies…created by Bryan Fuller, who created the equally innovative and off-center Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls (the latter of which also co-starred Lee Pace)…has a long term future on network television. I hope that it does but either way I’ll willingly suspend disbelief and enjoy it for however long it lingers.