The daily beast
There’s finally a perfect pandemic TV show – but it’s 14 years old
ABCD This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter, The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by veteran entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To get the full newsletter in your inbox every week, sign up here. ‘Pushing Daisies’ is finally back From the Dead, we’re approaching the one-year anniversary of the last visit to an office. I remember making fun of the inconvenience but looking forward to working from home for a change. [whispers this part] I thought it might be an overreaction and I stocked up on frozen pizzas like I was crouching for a snowy day and it would all only take a couple of weeks. In those eleven months, I watched a lot of television. We all watched a lot of TV. So much. Watch TV. Some of it good. Some of it bad, but distracting enough. Some of it Emily in Paris. (Now a Golden Globe nominee, you should be wrong to believe that 2021 would cease to exist in the upside down and backward-looking surreality of last year.) Eventually, COVID stepped into the picture with series that either during or outright were designed in response to the pandemic or shows that decided to incorporate the new normal into their actions. As a rule, they were terrible. Really bad! This is an important context for the following revelation: I have found him. I discovered the perfect pandemic TV show, and starting this week, you can watch it too. It just so happens that this TV show is around 14 years old. Pushing Daisies debuted this week on HBO Max, where you can watch their two tragically short – but now happily bingable – seasons. The visionary series ran from 2007 to 2009 with the utmost critical acclaim. But it was one of the victims of the WGA strike shutdown that effectively killed the buzz and ratings for the show during the long span between the Emmy-nominated shortened first season and its eventual return after a year-long hiatus. (That was a very long time in the days before TV streaming.) Is there a pandemic in Pushing Daisies? God no, thank God. But that oddly makes it even more resonant. The series revolves around Ned, played by Lee Pace, a cake shop owner whose sideline is bringing people back from the dead – no more than 60 seconds – so he can ask them who killed them and then collect the reward money. (There’s a balance between the whimsical and the macabre that the show manages, and which allows you to have an almost unbearable crush on Ned despite that one biographical detail that would otherwise make him a sociopath.) You see, Ned has a gift, or a curse, depending on your perspective. As mentioned, he has the power to resuscitate the dead by touching the corpse. If he touches them again, they return to death. But if he keeps her alive for more than 60 seconds, another person will die in her place near her. When well managed, which Ned is meticulous about, it can be a useful tool in efforts such as solving avant-garde murder cases. But it also drives him into a life where he withdraws from intimate human touches and connections for fear that the worst might happen to a loved one and that he would be ethically compromised on what to do. That’s exactly what happens when his long-lost best friend and first childhood love die and he arrives to solve their murder. Only this time he cannot bring himself to let her return to death again. He keeps her alive. Now Ned and Chuck, played by Anna Friel, are in a difficult situation. She is in love with the gift he gave her: life again. He’s in love with her. But they cannot touch or she will die. How do you navigate a relationship when physical closeness is fatal? How does this manifest itself in extreme loneliness and how do you deal with this loneliness and try to create fleeting glimmers of happiness wherever you can despite impossible circumstances? Do I have to explain to you how it all is? So current for today? As I re-watched the first few episodes of this week, it struck me that the reason it appears so immediate today is because outside of the obvious parallels, it’s still fleeting. Creator Bryan Fuller envisioned a world of lush CGI landscapes, curious and comedic camera angles, Scooby Doo-esque Whodunnit distractions, fairy tale sets, and Kristin Chenoweth breaking into songs on occasion. (Chenoweth won an Emmy for her performance, and it’s still one of the most deserved Emmy wins in the last 20 years.) There’s something dark, dark, and melancholy about the show, but it’s also imaginative. eccentric and optically romantic. It allows you to access the feelings of fear, isolation, and longing that we all now grapple with, yet still retreat into a fantasy world where you weren’t suffocated. I remember watching the show when I was in college – like Doogie Howser, I was obviously in college by the age of six – and passed out about it: the cute relationship between Ned and Chuck, the playful aesthetic, the Chenoweth songs and Lee Pace’s 6’5 ”frame is a tight black shirt that is incredibly cute when baking cakes. I wish it would go on forever and be devastated when it was canceled. But I am grateful that it is available again and that people can visit again. It just gets the mood of today. A little lonely, a little wistful, a little confused and afraid and a lot of desire to be surrounded by copious – if possible endless – amounts of cake. Read more at The Daily Beast. Get our top stories to your inbox every day. Sign up now! Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside delves deeper into the stories that matter to you. Learn more.