Please watch Pushing Daisies

02Oct07

As I repeatedly remind my students, television is neither a democracy nor a free market. The vast majority of viewers cannot vote for the programs they wish to see, and we cannot exercise our tastes with our dollars (at least until a show lasts a season to reach the DVD market). The best that we can hope for is that if there’s a show that you like, create buzz that hopefully impacts a few of the thousands of households that stand in for 110 million television households according to Nielsen.

So if any of those Nielsen families happen to read this blog, do me a favor: watch Pushing Daisies. I caught the pilot tonight on Canadian TV (yes, living in Vermont we get CBC in both English and French, but we don’t get BET, as French Canadians are a more prominent minority than African-Americans).  And it’s really great TV. Unlike almost anything else out there, the show is festooned with quirk and whimsy, offering a storybook tale of magical realism and romance. It looks more stylish than anything else I’ve seen recently, and the cast is utterly charming, with extra praise for Anna Friel, who completely owns the screen whenever she’s on.

Probably the show I’ve seen that comes closest in tone is Wonderfalls, another Bryan Fuller creation starring Lee Pace. Alas, Wonderfalls was short-lived and mistreated by its network, impatient with its inability to become an instant hit. ABC seems more patient with its programming than Fox, but Pushing Daisies has a lot of reasons to not get network support. It’s an expensive show, with director/producer Barry Sonnenfeld getting into reported budget squabbles with studio Warner Bros. It’s not produced by Disney, thus giving ABC no incentive to build an audience for DVDs or syndication. It feels like a niche show, belonging on cable for a small cultish following, but it needs to get the ratings of a mass hit to sustain itself on ABC.

So I’m skeptical about its chances in the non-free market of network television – but give it a shot on ABC at 8 pm on Wed. And if you know any Nielsen families, please encourage them to watch to help avoid Bryan Fuller racking up another item in the Brilliant but Cancelled file.



12 Responses to “Please watch Pushing Daisies”

  1. Let me first echo Jason in asking for people to watch it. It’s very fun, and a nice tonal shift for television. Very funny too

    Like you, though, Jason, I worry a bit about its chances. On one hand, its ads are really crap. I’ve seen endless subway cars filled with overhead ads that just show the two leads lying on the grass, a bee, and a flower. Colorful, yes, but they give no sense of what the thing’s about, don’t really allude to any notable intertexts, and give little sense of the show’s genre or genre mix. Before I went and saw the pilot at the Paley Center, I thought the show looked like crap, largely because of the ads. Now I just wince every time I see them. Even the tv previews don’t adequately give a taste of the show. They’re a textbook lesson in how marketers can’t seem to cope with genre mix, and thus spike genre mixes from the outset.

    On the other hand, ABC has so many new shows that I worry how dedicated they’ll be to any one of them succeeding, or, rather, how quickly they’ll kill it to allow their other, more homegrown shows a chance to live at PD’s expense. So I worry about it

  2. I think that you’re right on the money on the show itself, but I think that its ratings problems have been determined too early. The timeslot remains fairly open: Kid Nation is no watercooler sensation, Deal or No Deal is waning, FOX’s comedies didn’t break out, and America’s Next Top Model skews much younger. There is no other drama in the category, especially not one of this quality, and the advertising has at least been present: that’s more than we can say about Wonderfalls, a show I fell in love with just this last summer.

    As for ABC canceling it in favour of a homegrown series, I would argue that ABC would be shooting themselves in the foot with that. Critics would absolutely savage whatever show is put into its place: unless the ratings are so abysmal that there won’t be a fanbase to anger, this show might just skirt by on its preseason good will alone.

  3. Miles, I hope you’re right, but I don’t place too much hope in critics’ savagery being able to do much. Emmys and TCA love rarely seems to amount to much. That said, because I like it and find it original, I guess I’m doing what England soccer fans often do before each World Cup — I’m turning on the ultra-pessimism in order to steel myself for the worst🙂

  4. 4 Media Maven

    I loved the pilot, but where can the show go from here? How much whismy and cutsiness can we take before we want to vomit? How many crimes are Ned and Chuck going to solve before we get bored of the routine? Where are the serialzed narrative arcs?

    I think there’s a reason no one in the industry has seen any episodes other than the pilot, and I’m guessing next weeks episode will take a big drop in quality from the pilot.

    If Wonderfalls is any indication, nothing interesting is going to happen on this show for 6-7 episodes and by then, it will be too late to keep it on the air…

  5. One thing that Jonathan is really right on the money about is how evidently confused they are about the market for the show, as demonstrated by the ad selection during it. What a weird, inconsistent mix of ads–kind of halfway between the geriatrics of the nightly news and the 18-34 cross-gender ads in reality shows. It was sort of like the ad selection you’d see reading Vanity Fair, with a bit of Good Housekeeping sprinkled in.

  6. 6 tvondvdcritic

    Great site! Any chance I can put you in my link section and you could do the same for me?

    http://tvondvdcritic.wordpress.com/

  7. Thanks to all for watching (and commenting) – it won its timeslot last night, and my cancellation anxiety is lowered. Let’s hope for good retention for week 2!

  8. I’m conflicted in my feelings about the show. Yay for scripted shows that try something a little different. But I was emotionally exhausted by the constant tracking in and out on the characters. It’s like reading a letter with exclamation marks at the end of each sentence.

  9. 9 Clint Bell

    I have to agree with Media Maven that after watching the premiere episode, I wondered how they could match it. And after watching the second episode, I felt that they had not. But then I watched the following week and was pleasantly surprised that the show had lift-off and was branching out and growing. In an age of cookie cutter television, it is nice to see art on the small screen once again. I am addicted to the lush imagery and the wonderful dialogue of Pushing Daisies. I am enthralled by the absolutely talented and delightful cast. I will be sickened once again by the boring and unappreciative sloths sitting on their couches refusing to watch quality television if they sit back tuning into crap and allow money-driven network executives to flush this one down the tube.

  10. 10 Nathan

    I have to say, I haven’t even seen the first three episodes (which is how I stumbled across this site, running a google search in hopes of remedying that) but I love this series already. Even without seeing the pilot, which I am kicking myself for missing but homework sadly comes first, I have high hopes for Pushing Daisies and am already encouraging everyone I know to watch it just for the simple fact that it is a great show. I just hope it doesn’t end up like Firefly….but fortunately there doesn’t seem to be any new signs that it will be canceled with the show’s popularity increasing.


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