DAISIES Gets Plucked from Prime TimeBy Michael Karol Posted: Jun 18, 2009
Let us now praise and say a fond farewell to PUSHING DAISIES, a show I loved that is now pushing up daisies itself, in TV heaven. Twenty-two episodes spread over three years turned out to be more whimsy than most viewers wanted. Interrupted by the 2007-'08 writers' strike, the show lost its momentum and never got it back.
DAISIES was a rare nighttime soap that actually rocked its supernatural underpinnings without getting all dark and morbid. That was no mean feat, since its premise involved bringing the dead back to life (albeit in gruesomely humorous ways): Leading man and pie maker extraordinaire, Ned (Lee Pace), could awaken the dead with a touch — but if the corpse stayed alive more than a minute, someone else would be taken in its place. Ned made an exception for the love of his life, Charlotte, a.k.a. Chuck (Anna Friel) in the premiere, but as a result they had a "no-touching clause" in their relationship — the kiss of, er, death, for two people trying to get close.
ABC ran off the last three episodes on Saturday nights beginning last month, and the series finale was one of the show's best. Charlotte's aunts, sisters Vivian and Lily (the pitch-perfect Ellen Greene and Swoosie Kurtz), took center stage. The former Darling Mermaid Darlings, a synchronized swimming aquacade sensation, were persuaded to come out of retirement when one-half of their chief rivals, the Aquadolls, was murdered during a performance.
As usual, the murder mystery was incidental to reveals of the lead characters' back stories and the superb guest casting. Topping the list were bitchy Wendie Malick (Judith, DREAM ON; Gayle, BAYWATCH HAWAII) and smug Nora Dunn (Norma, SISTERS) as Coral and Blanche Ramora, the Darlings' adversaries, and Wilson Cruz (Victor, PARTY OF FIVE; Ricky, MY SO-CALLED LIFE) as the saucy, egomaniacal Sid Tango, who may have dunnit. If there was a more sublime moment than Dunn's Blanche, blissfully unaware, diving headlong into the mouth of the aquacade's resident shark (released by the killer), it had to have been Ned, Chuck and gumshoe Emerson (Chi McBride) cutting open the shark's belly in the morgue and pulling out Blanche's face when Ned reanimated her to find out who might've wanted her dead.
A major carp: with the series cancelled, narrator Jim Dale had only a brief minute at the end to wrap things up, so the big reveal, for Vivian (that Chuck was not only alive, but Lily's daughter via an affair with Vivian's fiancé — how soapy is that?!), could not help being a disappointment to loyal fans. Questions were raised that will never be answered: Would Vivian forgive Lily? Could Ned and Chuck ever find a way to have physical contact? Would Olive (Broadway's Kristin Chenoweth), who crushed majorly on Ned throughout the series, be happy with her consolation prize, nice-guy Randy Mann (David Arquette)?
But minus the wrap-up, and taken as a stand-alone episode, DAISIES remained true to its quirky pedigree, and reminded me what I'd miss: the show's bright colors, fantastic sets, brilliant cast (someone get Chenoweth her own series, stat!) and a sunny center that, despite the murder mystery each week, was really about the need for true love in all our lives. That's much more than a viewer gets from most longer-running series. Adios, DAISIES.
(If you need me, I'm at the deli polishing off a slice of lemon meringue. It'll be bittersweet, but delicious.)