If I had a nickel every time I began watching a Bryan Fuller show that was cancelled before it could reach its true conclusion and a high commitment to aesthetics, that just happened to star a brown-haired man who spends a lot of time snooping around crime scenes with his black criminal-investigations based superior and his lover, with an intense focus on food, I’d have two nickels.
Which isn’t a lot, but it’s weird that it’s happened twice, right?
Bryan Fuller nowadays is best known for his creation of Hannibal, a gothic retelling of the events pre-Silence of the Lambs where a distressed FBI consultant known as Will Graham gets thrown into the crosshairs of the renowned therapist Hannibal Lecter, as they investigate crime scenes… at least some of which Hannibal Lecter himself was once part of.
However, before Hannibal, Bryan Fuller created a different show that cements Hannibal as not just a one-off fluke, but a demonstration of his unique film and storytelling style that’s known for its defined colours, complicated relationship with love, and murder.
However, I believe that this specific piece of work deserves more attention and more love than it really got. Pushing Daisies.
Pushing Daisies is a “forensic fairy tale” that ran from 2007 to 2008, with a brief stint of episodes in 2009.
It starred Ned the Piemaker, a man with a knack for baking and the ability to raise the dead with a single touch — but only for sixty seconds at a time, and if they touch again, the person returns to being dead — which private investigator Emerson Cod uses to his advantage as he and Ned solve crimes together.
However, their lives change as Ned encounters Charlotte “Chuck” Charles, his childhood sweetheart, in a casket, and decides to keep her alive past the one-minute mark.
From there on out, they go on misadventures in love, murder, and baking together.
Pushing Daisies is full of whimsy, colour, splendour and murder
Pushing Daisies is coloured like an early 2000s Katy Perry music video.
Everything is so filled with whimsy and splendour as the show dances through the lives of professional mermaids and windmill owners and beekeepers as cartoonish murders spring up here and there, and get solved by the brilliant detective tactics of talking to at least one corpse and causing a ruckus. It’s divine.
However, as delightful as the mysteries can be, the real heart of the show is the romance between Ned and Chuck.
It’s really the core of the story as we deal with their ups and their downs and the occasional dramatic slant sideways.
It isn’t a “will-they, won’t-they” kind of up and down, but the real and realistic problems a potential relationship like this may have.
Ned and Chuck can never touch, not just never hug or kiss or have sex or hold hands, but nothing. Ever.
They find ways around it here and there, but there’s this eternal element of yearning in their relationship for something they don’t have and can’t really get from anyone else.
Because Ned doesn’t want to hold another girl and pretend it’s Charlotte, the same way Chuck doesn’t want to hold hands with another man and pretend it’s Ned.
It’s tragic, but they get by. And that’s the important thing.
“And although the Pie-Maker and the girl named Chuck couldn’t hug each other, for a moment it didn’t matter. The mere sight of each other left them feeling exactly like they wanted to feel. Safe and warm and loved.”
As a writer, I could personally talk about the show for hours, and all the little choices made within it.
It’s a very upbeat show which happens to include murders
Even the way Ned stands can tell you something about his character, the way that despite towering over most of the cast, you can tell that he’s almost trying to make himself smaller by crossing his arms and standing with a slight slouch.
He’s aware of how his powers affect those around him, but he’s also yearning for contact and comfort he can never have.
Just the fact that I can write so much about such a subtle acting choice is amazing in of itself, and that’s just the beginning of the detail and effort that went into the series.
The show is above all else: upbeat. Bad things happen every day, people are often left unsatisfied with their lot in life and how things are, but they get by. And that’s the important thing.
As the show, Pushing Daisies, says, “I think it’s brave to try to be happy.”
Frankly, I think we could need something a little bright and kind and happy right now.
It only has 26 episodes, with the last three airing in 2009.
There were originally two seasons ordered, with 13 episodes each.
However, the Writers Guild of America strike interrupted work between episode 9 and 10 of the second season.
Although the show was far from finished, the plug was pulled due to low ratings.
Bryan Fuller would love to have another stab at Pushing Daisies
However, the show was revered by critics and nominated for 57 awards — winning 18 of them — and has a small niche fanbase to this day.
Even Bryan Fuller himself said he’d drop everything for a chance to take another stab at it, if given the chance.
If nothing else, it proves that the show wasn’t just beloved, but could be loved again.
If you’re interested in pursuing the series, it’s available for free with ads on the website and app, CW Seed.
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