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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2007-2008 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we still want to give you a heads up on what you should - and shouldn't - keep on your radar in the coming months.
And as an added bonus this year, each day we'll also take a look at one of the pilots that didn't make the cut. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
PUSHING DAISIES (ABC)
(Wednesdays at 8:00/7:00c this fall)
The network's description: "From Bryan Fuller ("Heroes") and Barry Sonnenfeld ("Men in Black") comes an unprecedented blend of romance, crime procedural and high-concept fantasy in a forensic fairytale about a young man with a very special gift. Once upon a time, a mild-mannered boy named Ned realized he could touch dead things and bring them back to life. Grown-up Ned puts his ability to good use, not only touching dead fruit and making it ripe with everlasting flavor, but working with an investigator to crack murder cases by asking the deceased to name their killers. But the tale gets complicated, as all tales do, when Ned brings his childhood sweetheart, Chuck, back from the dead and keeps her alive. Chuck encourages him to use his power to help others, instead of merely solving mysteries and collecting the rewards. Life would be perfect for Ned and Chuck, except for one cruel twist: If he ever touches her again, she'll go back to being dead, this time for good."
What did they leave out: The pilot episode is amusingly dubbed "Pie-lette." In addition, the show itself was originally conceived as a spin-off of Showtime's "Dead Like Me." Look for more details about this when we get the chance to transcribe our Comic-Con interview with creator Bryan Fuller.
The plot in a nutshell: In the whimsically-named town of Couer d' Couers, the narrator (Jim Dale) tells us the story of a boy named Ned (Field Cate) who has discovered he has an amazing ability - when his dog Digby is hit by a truck, his touch brings him back to life. But along with its amazingness comes its curse - should he ever touch his dog again, Digby would be gone forever. It's a fact he learns the hard way - after his mother has a brain aneurysm, he likewise saves her, only to have her die once again after she kisses him on the forehead. Said event also teaches Ned the other caveat to his powers - should someone be resurrected for longer than 60 seconds, another person (generally the closest in proximity) must die in his/her place. And so while his mother lived a few more hours, the girl next door - and the giver of Ned's first kiss - Charlotte "Chuck" Charles lost her father. The compounding of these events then has turned Ned (Lee Pace as an adult) into a pseudo-hermit as he spends his days making pies at the aptly named Pie Hole, where his life giving touch gives strawberries and its like a lively flavor. Since then he's also built a partnership with one Emerson Cod (the always great Chi McBride), a private investigator who's inadvertently discovered Ned's ability. And so, Ned raises murder victims to learn who killed them (without going over the 60 second barrier) and splits the reward money with Emerson. It's a routine that works, that is until their latest victim turns out to be Charlotte "Chuck" Charles (Anna Friel as an adult). She was suffocated to death with a plastic bag on a cruise ship and a $50,000 reward has been put out by her travel agency to find the culprit. Were it anyone else then Ned would have no trouble cutting off his/her's second life after 59 seconds, but in Chuck's case he can't - a decision which takes the life of a thieving funeral director. That fateful choice now made, Ned must now hide Chuck from the world - except she will have nothing of it. And with that, Chuck ingratiates herself into Ned and Emerson's partnership to help try and solve her own murder. Along the way, Chuck and Ned discover none of their childhood sparkage has dissipated making Chuck's curse all the more troublesome. It's a situation that Olive (Kristin Chenoweth), the Pie Hole's waitress, unknowingly exploits - she continuously throws herself at Ned only to have him recoil in fear. In the end, Chuck, Emerson and Ned - after a visit to her aunts/surrogate moms (Swoosie Kurtz, Kristin Chenoweth) - find who killed her, launching their new partnership in the process.
What works: A shining beacon of unadulterated whimsy in today's cynical TV landscape, "Daisies" is unlike anything else you will see on television this season, literally and figuratively. Very much the child of its pedigree - from the creator of "Dead Like Me" and the director of "Men in Black" and "The Addams Family" - the series has a storybook look and feel to it that's downright intoxicating. From its illustrious color palette to its camera wipes to its sugary narration, there's a genuine "pop" to the show that pushes the boundaries of what we've come to expect from primetime television. Leading the charge then are the adorable Pace and Friel who seem to embody the very concept of childhood sweethearts. Just as fun is McBride's Emerson Cod, who gives the show an amusing "you've got to be kidding me" counterpoint to Chuck and Ned's whimsy. There's also a cute undercurrent of how people need to come out of their shells - regardless of the consequences - that only emboldens its wonderful tale. All in all any show that has the narrator describe a character as coming "ready made from the Play-Doh fun factory of life" needs to be seen.
What doesn't: If anything the only strike against the show is the definite feeling that it's not for everybody and unfortunately the TV audience as a whole isn't that kind to shows that stick out and try something new.
The bottom line: "Pushing Daisies" is the hands down the most original show you'll see this season.