Bright and Quirky, 'Pushing Daisies' Stands Out

Media Reviews for Media People

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- With the fall season upon us, Ad Age TV Editor Brian Steinberg casts a critical eye on some of TV's new and continuing series to help marketers determine which may prove to be the best showcases for their ads and products. Tonight ABC kicks off one of the oddest programs ever to launch on network TV, "Pushing Daisies."

"Pushing Daisies"

Where/When you'll see it: ABC, Wednesdays at 8 p.m..
'Pushing Daisies': Ned does a bit more than see dead people.
'Pushing Daisies': Ned does a bit more than see dead people. Credit: ABC

What you'll see: Told with fairy-tale narration amidst Day-Glo colors, "Pushing Daisies" is one of the oddest programs ever to launch on network TV. And that's why it just might be worth your while.

Surreal by any stretch of the imagination, "Daisies" centers on young Ned, who learns early in life that he has the power to bring people back from the dead -- with a few important caveats. For one, if a person he revives stays alive for more than a minute, someone else close by will pass away instead. For another, if Ned touches the once-dead person a second time, the person dies anew, and nothing Ned does can rectify it.

That's why Ned (Lee Pace) tends to lead a pretty solitary life. He can't pet his faithful pooch, because he saved its life when he was much younger. And he continues to resist the advances of Olive Snook (Kristin Chenoweth), the sole waitress at the pie shop he operates (when you can turn pieces of dead fruit into juicy treats, life is full of opportunities).

But Ned finds purpose. Private investigator Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) finds out about Ned's talent and enlists his aid to query revived murdered dead folks about who killed them, then put them back to death and reap any reward money that might exist for bringing their killers to justice.

This all sounds pretty bizarre, and we're not even done yet. Ned discovers his childhood sweetheart, Chuck (a woman, played by Anna Friel), has been murdered. But instead of killing her off as he is supposed to, he keeps her alive -- even though he'll never be able to touch her to express his love for her. Meanwhile, there are plenty more murders to solve.

"Pushing Daisies" brings to mind many films by Tim Burton or Wes Anderson. Movies such as "Edward Scissorhands" or "The Royal Tennenbaums" are so precious, so detailed in their characterizations, cinematography and stage setting, that they are almost too much to take. There's a fine line between clever and twee. "Daisies" walks that line, but because its vision is so unique -- from its bright yellows and reds to its oddball characters to its bemused narration -- it could provide a marketer a venue that stands apart from the rest of the cop shows and medical dramas that typically populate the network airwaves.

What's at stake: "Daisies" is one of the most buzzed-about programs of the new fall season. As such, it risks getting buried by its own hype. It also stands as the lead in on a night chock full of new ABC programs. "Private Practice," the "Grey's Anatomy" spinoff, may not need much help, but ABC would no doubt love to have a few more hits on hits hands as "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" start to age. Wednesday is also an extremely competitive night, with "America's Next Top Model," "Back to You" and "Deal or No Deal" showing up in its time period.

Your ad here?: The unique setting and plot make product placement in "Daisies" a challenge -- does putting a product in the show detract from its intricate scenes and infuriate the viewer? Ned's pie shop would seem to be a place where something smart could be done. Meanwhile, the program's arch tone and fairy-tale setting could make it an intriguing experiment for family-oriented advertisers. This is, after all, an 8 p.m. program, and could make a good roost for consumer-packaged goods companies and products aimed at kids.

Media buyer's verdict: In a sea of cookie-cutter network-TV programs, buyers believe "Daisies" could benefit from its quirkiness. "'Pushing Daisies' has a chance to get decent viewer sampling because it's the only drama in a relatively weak hour," said Steve Sternberg, exec VP-audience analysis, at Interpublic Group's Magna Global. Still, as hype starts to fade, its success will depend on whether viewers still have an appetite for new programming.

"'Kid Nation' and 'Back to You' have been on a couple of weeks," said Brad Adgate, senior VP-research at Horizon.
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