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rare female film critic | by maryann johanson

‘Pushing Daisies’ blogging: “The Legend of Merle McQuoddy”

(previous: Episode 8: “Comfort Food”)

Do you smell pie? I smell pie. Mmmmm, pie…

[spoilers after the jump!]
It’s been a crazy-busy week, what will so much movie stuff happening this awards season — which is always crazy-busy but seems even more so this year — so I just today had the chance to catch up with Wednesday night’s epsiode of Pushing Daisies. But on Thursday morning, I received an email from reader Drave, who said, in part:

Gah! WHY IS IT SO GOOD?!?!?! Every new episode is sweet, sweet torture, as we approach the end of my favorite show of the past decade. Who knew that the sweetest line of the entire series would be from Emerson to Olive.

I’m guessing the line Drave is referring to it Emerson’s “Itty Bitty, you made me love a rainy day again.” Cuz that really does sum up the appeal of this show… the philosophical appeal, at least. (There’s all sorts of other reasons to love it, of course, from its clever wordplay to its innovative design sense to its irresistibly charismatic cast to its genre-busting gusto.) It’s about dead people — all sorts of dead people, from Chuck who is actually dead to the aunts who had been dead, in a metaphoric sense, for a long time — who are trying to be alive again. It’s about two people in love who can never touch each other, and another person in love with someone who will never love her in return. It’s about a dog who can never touch his beloved master. It’s about — in an era when we’re supposed to see food as sinful at the same time that real food has been supplanted by chemical-laced, factory-manufacture frankenfood — handmade pie.

It’s about, in other words, learning how to love a rainy day.

So of course it’s cancelled. It’s not rah-rah enough. Pretending that things are just plain wonderful all the time is better than admitting that things kinda suck a lot of the time but that doesn’t mean life can’t be good anyway.

This is a problem too: the story of Pushing Daisies advances. It changes. It’s not treading water in an attempt to tease out at least 100 episodes so it can eventually go into syndication, where all the money is. So when the aunts bust into the room in Ned’s old house, and he has to hustle Chuck and Mr. Charles into the closet lest the aunts discover their undead relatives… well, there’s always the chance, during moments like this, that the aunts will actually make this discovery. It didn’t happen here, but there was some genuine suspense while we waited to learn if they would, because Pushing Daisies did not set up a crew of characters who must never change, and it did not set up a scenario that must never evolve. We’ve already seen both things happening: characters changing and situations evolving. That might work on cable — and clearly it does, which is why cable is where all the trendsetting and award-winning shows are at the moment, shows like Mad Men and Battlestar Galactica — but this has been anathema to network TV. It’s part of the reason why network TV is dying, of course, though network TV doesn’t seem to realize it.

Anyway… Rankin/Bass-style animation? Lovely. Ned and Chuck hugging through a garbage bag and kissing through Saran Wrap? So heartwrenching. But I have to wonder… that kiss through the Saran Wrap happened in full view of patrons of The Pie Hole — what would those folks think to see such a thing? That it’s just a kinky pieman fetish?

I love that Pushing Daisies skips right over the easy, obvious jokes — no riffs on lighthousekeeper, no references to the Bat signal here — and goes for the wildly unexpected. “This is so not the way The Secret is supposed to work,” says real estate agent — ooo, what a burn to that claptrap-ical nonsense! A new meaning for “tap that”? Nice. And I love the wordplay of “Deadly Nedly” — it sounds like something Edward Gorey would invent.

And is it just me, or does this episode lend a whole new subtext to Eddie Izzard’s “cake or death” routine?

What? No coming attractions? Does that mean no episode next week? I guess there’s no reason for ABC to care now whether PD gets an audience, but come on! Throw us loyal viewers a bone and let the few remaining episodes air in a timely manner.

Four episodes to go…

(Watch full episodes at ABC’s official site for the show.)

(next: Episode 10: “The Norwegians”)


viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
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