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*He is not a secret agent. Not at all.



As has been said many times by many individuals, the show visually evokes memories of Tim Burton's lighter fare, as does the narration by Jim Dale (he of the Harry Potter audiobooks). It also has the off-kilter weirdness that might appeal to those still in mourning over Wonderfalls (also Bryan Fuller) and even going back as far as, say, Northern Exposure.

The short of it, Ned the pie-man (Lee Pace) can bring people back from the dead, but there's catches. Longer than a minute, then someone else dies. If and when he touches a resurrectee, they die again. For good. So in the pilot, he brings back Charlotte "Chuck" Charles (Anna Friel), his childhood girlfriend with whom he finds himself immediately resmitten. He doesn't unresurrect her before the minute's up, so now she's alive and...he can't touch her. It's also why he can't pet his own formerly dead dog.

Ned and a P.I. named Emerson Cod (Chi McBride (tell me that's not a Burtonesque name (Cod, not Chi))) have a deal. They collect rewards catching murders by asking murdered people who killed them. That's how they got to Chuck (and, yeah, what is with that fucking name now?), except she doesn't know who pushed her off a cruise ship to get little monkey figures (shades of Wonderfalls).

You know, I didn't think I was going to like this going in. Well, that's not right. I thought I would regard this as I did Wonderfalls. I saw that show as a great example of solid writing and it showed just the sort of out-of-the-box creativity that TV needs and can really go to town with and that more of the masses who don't let their brains wrap around anything beyond the easy or familiar need to let their brains wrap around and that simply doesn't excite me that much. I watched Wonderfalls. I liked Wonderfalls. Just not as much as some other people, you know. I was more outraged by its cancellation in principle than it actually being a fan.

I like Pushing Daisies better than Wonderfalls, which I felt occasionally did some of the things that I saw in shows that tried to ape Northern Exposure back in the day with just random oddness for oddness's sake. I recall a show about the L.A. coroner's department called Leaving L.A. that was riddled with that and rightly died a quick death. Never mind my problems with shows set in L.A., I think it gets more problematic when you're trying to be weird in a show in town where nothing is considered weird.

Nearly the whole first act is solid exposition, but it works because it's a beauty to look at and it's told like a story by Dale's tones. It was possibly my favorite part of the show.

Now, there's totally arc-yness going on here, with regard to Chuck and the monkeys and stuff and the bulk of the pilot sets that up, but the story engine here promises (to me, anyway) that the show will be episodic with the arc relegated to B-stories (or left out) except for the likely sweeps episode where they do something big with it. As it should be. If it goes the other way, then I'll likely lose interest in the show.

Also, this shows feels supremely spec-able. The show got a lot of heat during pilot season and if the viewing public at large picks up on this the same way (and there's just no telling) then this could be the Ugly Betty of the year in that everybody will be jumping on this show to spec (it also lets you hit drama and comedy at once) and most of them will be telling the same four or five stories. I've resisted spec'ing Ugly Betty for this and a variety of other reasons, but I think I'd do this one just because it seems like it'd be fun. We'll see what happens, but I've got a couple of log lines ready to roll on this one.

Also, while in San Diego, I grabbed the preview comic and I read it before I saw the pilot (which I've watched at home, not at the con). It has two not-stories by Fuller with art on one by Cameron Stewart and on the other by Zach Howard and also with two covers, one by Howard and one by Tim Sale (of Heroes). In and of itself, it's extremely unsatisfying and is little more than a teaser for the arc in the pilot and another story involving a head. And prior to seeing the pilot, it was nearly incomprehensible. It's just some P.R. for the con crowd and nothing special, so if you wanted one and didn't get it, you're not missing much. It also generally fails to capture the tone of the show (at least as far as the pilot).

So, I'm coming down on this favorably. And Fuller's got the cred (Voyager not withstanding). guy comes off of Heroes just now, and did The Amazing Screw-On Head. He gets things that most people don't. That's maybe the problem, but it's a good problem to have. Maybe this will be the one that grabs the masses.
©2024 Michael Patrick Sullivan
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