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Crash Test Dummies: The Gang Investigates a Hit and Run on "Pushing Daisies"

It's Thursday morning, so naturally, I'm already itching to talk about last night's installment of the whimsical "forensic fairy tale" Pushing Daisies, which aired its first episode after the brutally brilliant pilot. (You can read my advance review of the pilot here.)

While most new series would have seriously toned down the quirkiness in the second episode, Pushing Daisies did just the opposite, keeping the energy, quirk, and flagrant originality of the pilot, well, alive in the second episode ("Dummy"). And under the pen of Pete Ocko--creator of CBS' short-lived medical drama 3 Lbs. and a writer on Bryan Fuller's Dead Like Me--our characters truly came to life, with a zany plot (crash test dummies and a car that runs on dandelions), some unrequited love, a heartfelt song, and a loony villain who just happened to look like that balmy criminology professor on Veronica Mars (Patrick Fabian). The effect? Pure magic.

Ned. I absolutely loved the flashback in the beginning of Young Ned being left by his uncaring father (who finally appeared on screen) at the boarding school, where he puts his resurrection abilities to some wicked use in the science lab, reviving a number of frogs intended for dissection. Sadly, you can literally see Young Ned wither away inside and withdraw into the fragile man he becomes later in life, unable to let anyone get close to his emotionally. In the present day, he's still wrestling with guilt over the fact that he killed Young Chuck's father when he brought his mother back to life. Ned, my friend, don't unburden yourself and tell Chuck what you did; considering your abilities, it could lead to some... unpleasant things.

Still, I think Ned feels he balanced the scales of karma by giving Chuck her life back. But in doing so, he's regained his childhood sweetheart but is still just as emotionally (and physically) distant as ever. I loved the scene of them in bed together, chatting away, only to have the camera pull back to reveal that they're in separate little twin beds. (Adorable.) As it is, I love the composition of our lovable troika as id, ego, and superego personified.

Chuck. I'm hopelessly smitten with Anna Friel (I was so completely tongue-tied when I interviewed her and haven't managed to get her pert beauty out of my mind) and Chuck is already a favorite character of mine: at once perky, charming, and hopelessly loopy. Just take a look at the bittersweet--and hysterical--scene where she and Ned attempt to share their first kiss as adults... through the plastic of some translucent body bags. (Ah, young love.) Love the bit where she calls the refrigerator the "cheese box." And Anna's prediction to me that she would get to speak a number of languages--seven, in fact?--did come true. (Kudos to Friel for pulling that off with absolute panache.) What other hidden talents does Chuck have, after a lifetime of babysitting a pair of shut-ins? That remains to be seen, but I have a feeling that this girl is going to impress.

Emerson Cod. I absolutely love, love, love that Fuller and Co. have decided to give Emerson a secret life, one in which he's an absolute marvel at crocheting sweaters and little "handgun cozies," and one which paid off within the episode's plot when he was able to use a concealed knitting needle to free himself from his plastic, er, grave. I have a feeling that we are merely scratching the surface of Emerson as he's still mostly an enigma to us. A burly, knitting-prone enigma with a penchant for underhanded business opportunities. Fingers crossed that we get an Emerson-focused episode soon.

Olive Snook. Poor, poor Olive. She's been pining away for the Pie Maker for years now and suddenly this mysterious childhood sweetheart waltzes in and charms her way back into Ned's life. I loved the scene with her perched high atop their apartment building using a hand-held mirror to spy on our lovebirds... only to do a face-plant right into the wall. And who could forget that heartbreaking song--a duet with Digby, really--when no one was listening? Plaintive and rather amusing at the same time, especially with the floor cleaner running and the constant interruptions. I am sure that several Cheno fans had a field day with her little number, but let's not have this turn into a musical every week, okay?

Guest Star Watch. The poor grieving bulimic, a.k.a. Jeanine from Promotions, was played by the adorable Riki Lindhome, who appeared as Alice Tinker in The Minister of Divine, the pilot for the US version of the Vicar of Dibley. She also played Logan's friend Juliet on the fifth season of Gilmore Girls. Just in case you were wondering. I loved the way Jeanine inhaled pies (granted, it was part of her bulimia) and the way she kept crouching and shifting as she ate... while the turntable with the Dandy Lion prototype kept on turning. Her murdered beau, Bernard Slaybaugh (Jonathan Mangum), appeared on The Drew Carey Show. As mentioned before, Veronica Mars' Patrick Fabian played insane CEO Mark Chase. And one of the dead women was played by none other than E!'s Kristin Veitch.

Personally, I loved the zaniness of the plot and the fact that each of our leads has their own motivation to use Ned's "gift" for their own ends, whether that be retribution, sympathy, or plain old greed. And, if along the way, they just happen to help a few murdered people and solve some crimes (collecting the reward money, natch), more the better. Me, I can't wait to see what next week brings.

Next week on Pushing Daisies ("The Fun in Funeral"), Ned investigates a mysterious death at the Shatz Funeral Home, while Chuck launches a devious plan to invigorate the lives of her aunts, the former Darling Mermaid Darlings, Lily and Vivian.


The CineManiac said…
Loved it!
I loved that Olive sings when she's broken hearted, which i assumes means more singing in the future, but like you said hopefully not every week.
Chuck and Ned's kiss was amazing, and his refit of his car so Chuck could sit up front, was brilliant.
Can't wait to see what they come up with next.
Any idea if Sonnenfeld will continue to direct?
Anonymous said…
I was so relieved (not that I had much doubt) that the second episode was so wonderful. We all know how much work goes into a pilot and how sometimes the 2nd ep can feel like a letdown. Not this time!

I was so sad when the episode was over and anxiously await next week's.

As for this: "I am sure that several Cheno fans had a field day with her little number, but let's not have this turn into a musical every week, okay?"

I am a huge Cheno fan, and I think I might have actually shrieked when she started singing that song, but...I also agree with you. :)
Like Ally, I was so happy to see that this week's episode was just as stunning, funny, and original as the pilot. I had high expectations and, happily, they were met!

I think I'm going to have to call the fridge the "cheese box" from now on.
Anonymous said…
Veitch will be on next week.
Unknown said…
I enjoyed this ep, too, but I fear for the show's future if it pushes that "quirky" envelope too far. Remember how long Wonderfalls lasted...
Anonymous said…
Just me then. What a huge disappointment. Sorry, but the quirkiness spilled over into irritating as I feared it might after the pilot. Then I said I hoped there would be less Wisteria Lane-esque narration but there it was being shovelled on.

The quirkiness needs reining in to save it. I will stick with it because Anna Friel is the best thing there is, has ever been, and probably ever will be on tv, so she will keep me coming back for me. It is a great shame because it nearly works so well, there are so many great touches, the characters are all really good, but the second episode lacked the charm of the pilot. I know I'm a lone voice here - but I really hope they fix it, coz it's broke already.

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