Friday, November 21, 2008

No Less Sad For Being Expected

After many, many hints that this was coming, Pushing Daisies has been cancelled.  (So have Dirty Sexy Money and Eli Stone, but I don't watch those shows and therefore don't care.)

As so many others have said, the fact that this smart, unusual, gorgeous show has been cancelled while shows like Knight Rider (which I've never watched because every reaction I've seen has been wholly negative) and the new Life on Mars (whose unsubtle hectoring drove me away after two episodes) survive is a travesty, and something that ABC, and the television industry in general, should be ashamed of.  And no, the fact that Daisies creator Bryan Fuller might now be available to return to Heroes (where, in its first season, he wrote the standout episode "Company Man") is no consolation.  Heroes is a critically injured show which has done so much to squander my never-particularly-great affection for it that I doubt it could ever work its way back into my heart.  No show that sidelines what used to be its most earnest, heroic character by mentally regressing him to age ten, while simultaneously retconning a villain who ought to have been killed two seasons ago into goodness simply because the actor portraying him is hunky, deserves the second (or rather third, fourth, or nth) chances that Heroes has gotten.  Pushing Daisies, meanwhile, has been firing on all pistons lately, and this week's episode in particular was one of its cleverest and most moving yet, with great performances all around, most particularly a chance for Lee Pace (who had better find another place on my screen soon) to play Ned as a little more decisive and pro-active, and questions raised about Ned and Chuck's past which will now never be answered. 

I know that caring too much about television is asking to be hurt.  It's a medium designed to appeal to the broadest audience possible, and anything that's too different or too quirky to have more than a niche appeal is going to get cut down.  Still, this smarts.  In an increasingly barren television landscape, Pushing Daisies was a breath of fresh air.  It could always be counted on to surprise and delight me.  It never cut corners on any of its characters and never looked down on the emotions they were feeling.  It brightened my day, and I looked forward to it every week.  There aren't a lot of shows I still feel that way about, and the ones I do (Dexter and, to a much lesser extent, The Sarah Connor Chronicles) lean more towards the increasingly popular grim realism school of television writing.  Which certainly has its points, but not to the exclusion of all other styles.  Pushing Daisies was the show that proved that cute and charming isn't the same thing as brainless or emotionally inauthentic, an attitude that's far too uncommon in television nowadays.

The Middleman had better be safe, is all I'm saying.

6 comments:

Len said...

You know, Pushing Daisies is a lot of what I want TV to be.

And yet...

When I saw the first episode I thought to myself "This would have been a fantastic whimsical romantic movie." Two or three hours of these people, this world, this premise...I'd watch the movie and buy the DVD and be happy.

As a series, I was always dubious. The notion of these people who loved each other, and were deeply in each other's lives, not greatly separated by space or time, but always unable to touch...it made me cranky pretty much immediately. Going on adventures together featuring a great deal of rough and tumble, knowing the wrong bump or stumble could kill a human being, let alone the one you love? I just could never let it go. It was just too...twee. Too aggressively whimsical. I think I managed to consume 5 episodes before my stomach started seriously to ache.

Tim Burton, Barry Sonnenfeld, Spike Jonze and/or Charlie Kaufman... they're just not flavors that work week after week, not for me anyway.

So I wound up in the odd position of recommending Pushing Daisies to tons of people, and desperately hoping it would succeed...but not actually watching it myself. But yeah, I'm sad it's going.

Dirty Sexy Money was kind of interesting and the cast was fantastic, but ultimately it was just more soap opera. Never saw Eli Stone.

Um... I hate to tell you this, but Middleman...uh...cherish what they managed to get made thus far?

ianras said...

> So I wound up in the odd position of recommending Pushing Daisies to tons of people, and desperately hoping it would succeed...but not actually watching it myself. But yeah, I'm sad it's going.

That's me. I watched 'til mid-way through the season one finale, was disrupted and never returned to it. Maybe my not returning to it was for the best; I was afraid it would dance around its meatiest storylines for the sake of maintaining its tone and the romanticism kinda creeped me out ("I don't regret causing that guy's death to reanimate you, Chuck") but I would have loved for it hang in there.

Abigail Nussbaum said...

I'm a bit late getting back to this, but: I spent my first weeks as a Pushing Daisies fan convinced that the show was just on the brink of faltering and plunging headlong into a bottomless pit of twee from which there would be no return. As far as I'm concerned, it never did, and by this point its longevity has become part of its appeal. I wouldn't have gotten as much out of Chuck and Ned's relationship, for example, if PD were only a film, because one of the things the show has done fantastically well is make that relationship real, vibrant and changeable in spite of the stasis the show's premise seemed to dictate. And certainly the development of the secondary characters - Olive, Emerson, Lily and Vivian - is something that wouldn't have been possible in a shorter format, and one of the show's main draws.

Um... I hate to tell you this, but Middleman...uh...cherish what they managed to get made thus far?

I know, I know. But a girl can hope, can't she?

Dotan Dimet said...

When I read this, before watching the relevant episode, I thought that by "mentally regressing him to age ten" was meant metaphorically.
I'll note that Hiro is highly prone to be entangled in Idiot plots because he has both the power and the will to stop most seasons' big menaces dead in their tracks. So he always spends a lot of time dawdling before he can save the day.

The less said about Sylar's redemption through electrocution (and the hideous romantic aftermath) the better.

Anonymous said...

Do you ever watch Chuck? I've found that as Heroes has spiraled downward, Chuck has only improved; it's mostly light, fluffy fun (in a very good way), although I think there's some engaging depth to the relationships. And as you say, not everything should be as dark as Dexter.

Abigail Nussbaum said...

I've been enjoying Chuck since it started, but I get less and less invested in it every week. It seems determined to sink into formula: Chuck behaving in an embarrassingly immature manner and yet somehow saving the day while Casey glowers and Sarah simpers at him with suppressed, never to be consummated passion, while in the B plot his friends at the Buy More have wacky adventures. Plus, it just keeps getting more and more laddish, and for a series that started with the female lead parading around in her underwear you wouldn't think there'd be very far to go on that front. It's by no means a bad show, but I wouldn't be heartbroken never to see it again.

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