Pushing Daisies is an American comedy-drama television series created by Bryan Fuller that aired on ABC from October 3, 2007 to June 13, 2009. The series stars Lee Pace as Ned, a pie-maker with the ability to bring dead things back to life with his touch, an ability that comes with stipulations. The cast also includes Anna Friel, Chi McBride, Kristin Chenoweth, Ellen Greene and Swoosie Kurtz. The series is narrated by Jim Dale.
Touted as a “forensic fairy tale”, the series is known for its unique visual style, quirky characters, and fast-paced dialogue.
The series received critical acclaim including numerous awards. The series received 17 Emmy Award nominations, with seven wins; including Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series for Barry Sonnenfeld and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for Kristin Chenoweth.
Pushing Daisies centers on the life of Ned (Lee Pace), a pie-maker gifted with the mysterious ability to bring dead things back to life by touching them. There are some conditions to this talent. Ned quickly learns that if something is revived for more than exactly one minute, something of similar “life value” in the vicinity drops dead, as a form of balance. Additionally, if he touches the revived person or thing a second time, it falls dead again, this time permanently.
In the pilot episode, Ned discovers his gift as a child by resurrecting his Golden Retriever, Digby, after the dog is hit by a truck. He later brings back his mother when she dies of an aneurysm. However, in doing this, he accidentally causes the death of the father of his childhood sweetheart, Charlotte “Chuck” Charles (Anna Friel), as the “price” of keeping his mother alive. Even worse, Ned’s mother falls dead permanently when she gives him a good-night kiss (which is how he learns the effect of the second touch).
In their childhood, Ned and Chuck become separated after Chuck’s agoraphobic aunts, Vivian (Ellen Greene) and Lily (Swoosie Kurtz), move in to take the role of her parents, while Ned is shipped off by his father to a lonely boarding school.
Inheriting his mother’s baking talents, Ned becomes a pie-maker who owns a restaurant called “The Pie Hole”, which he runs with the help of waitress Olive Snook (Kristin Chenoweth). The restaurant is failing financially when private investigator Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) accidentally discovers Ned’s gift and offers him a proposal: Ned will temporarily bring murder victims back to life, allowing Emerson to inquire about the circumstances of their demise, quickly solve the case and split the reward money with him.
The scheme succeeds until they learn that Chuck, whom Ned has not seen since childhood, was murdered while on a cruise ship. When her body is shipped back home, Ned revives her, but can’t bring himself to allow her to stay dead by touching her a second time. Against his better judgment, Ned allows her to live and the larcenous funeral home director falls dead in her place. Ned and Chuck fall in love again and he brings her home to live with him under the unique circumstances of their never being able to touch each other, with the exception of the occasional kiss through the protective barrier of a sheet of plastic wrap. Chuck, extraordinarily grateful for her second chance at life, starts to appreciate life as a truly precious resource; and Ned, witnessing his vivacious beauty’s happiness, begins to break out of his lonely shell. Chuck joins Ned and Emerson in investigating deaths for reward money, starting with tracking down her own killer. Emerson initially dislikes Chuck, whom he calls Deadgirl, but often allows her to take part in detecting.
Other storylines include Emerson’s search for his missing daughter, after she was taken away by her mother, a con woman. After meeting a publisher of pop-up books, Emerson is inspired to create his own pop-up book, Li’l Gumshoe, hoping that it will be published and that his daughter will read the book and find her way back to him. Olive Snook pines away for Ned. Chuck’s aunts slowly learn to accept the death of their only niece, and become friends with Olive, who brings them pie laced with homeopathic mood enhancers baked by Chuck to uplift their spirits. As the series goes on, we find out Chuck is actually Lily’s daughter from an infidelity with Chuck’s father who was also Vivian’s fiancé. We also learn that Ned’s father, after abandoning him in boarding school, became the father of twins Maurice and Ralston, aspiring magicians. Ned revives Chuck’s father to ask him some questions, and Chuck fakes her father’s second death (having him put on a glove so Ned doesn’t touch him again) so she can have her father back in her life.
An epilogue at the end of the series reveals that Emerson’s daughter returns to him, Chuck is able to reveal that she is alive to her mother Lily and aunt Vivian, and Olive has fallen in love with Ned’s friend Randy Mann and opens her own restaurant dedicated to macaroni and cheese called “The Intrepid Cow”.
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