TV on Blu-ray: Pushing Daisies -- The Complete Second Season (2008-2009)

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When the second and final disc had been spun in the Blu-ray collection of Pushing Daisies Season 2, I became determined to analyze the curious case and tragically transient existence of Bryan Fuller's Warner Brothers produced series on ABC.

And in my quest, I therefore assumed that-- much like Ned "The Pie-Maker" (Lee Pace), "Dead Girl" Chuck (Anna Friel), Kristin Chenoweth's smiling waitress Olive Snook who specializes in "counter-intelligence via pie-delivery," and Private Investigator Emerson Cod-- I would find myself gobsmacked.

However, unlike those characters, I knew I wouldn't be presented with dead people but I assumed I'd be blown away by so many figurative pies in the face of why such a unique and award-winning series disappeared from the airwaves far too soon.

Yet unfortunately, I wasn't flooded with reasons or a creamy center of whipped cream, fudge or berries that I could really even justify quoting the series' unnamed narrator voiced by Jim Dale who prepares us with "the facts were these" before routinely walking viewers through convoluted Agatha Christie like works of intricate eccentricity.

No, sadly, and rather ironically, it seems at least that-- from my modest sleuthing-- the show that was as vibrant both on the page as it was visually was ultimately brought down by the pen which proved far mightier than any CGI sword. And sadly despite my intense admiration for the insanely rich dialogue that you could listen to again and again before you realize you'd rather hear the nonsense than "the facts were these" any day of the week-- like several other shows that dangled on the edge of the cliff following the writers' strike, Pushing Daisies never managed to find a second life.

Where was Ned when we needed him? I'm not sure but all that remains are those lingering facts that Daisies couldn't bounce back after its triumphant debut in the 2007 Fall season. Although the show received a full order by its home network of ABC, perhaps because of their exquisite beauty and intelligence which finds Fuller's love of "heightened dialogue" and ability to jam his screwball-paced scripts with enough rhythm, beats, and melodies for Chenoweth to consider them musical-- the former acclaimed Star Trek and Heroes scribe and his staff only finished nine episodes before the WGA hit the streets.

Instead of picking up in the narrative where he'd left off, Fuller took advantage of the strike and show's absence to change the ending of the ninth episode in order to lead it into a cliffhanger that would segue directly into the next season instead of continuing the momentum in its original twenty-two episode first season ordered run.

Adding further irony-- when the second season eventually rolled around and the final three episodes ultimately aired here in the United States rather quietly-- when the number of episodes of the seasons are added together, they only total the mere twenty-two that Fuller had originally been promised and aspired to make for its debut season.

Despite its shaky life on the air, the series about Ned-- a young boy who discovers he has a bizarre gift to wake the dead for sixty seconds with a touch of the finger before the second touch puts them back to eternal slumber-- earned not just a cult following of fans but a dozen Emmy nominations last year and three awards. The significance of the awards cannot be overstated since the three given to Daisies especially point to its cinematic nature.

With executive producer Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black, Get Shorty) earning a deserved award for his inspired direction, another statue for the flawless editing and Jim Dooley's "wall-to-wall" music score which as Fuller notes in one of the four special features in this two disc set hearkens back to the show's '40s romantic comedy inspiration-- it's easy to imagine that we haven't seen the last of these characters.

Often described as a living storybook or fairytale by both the critics and those who work in the areas of the production design and cinematography-- citing Amelie and the filmography of director Tim Burton as examples-- per the advice of CGI veteran Sonnenfeld the color blue was specifically avoided throughout for digital purposes and to add to the cheery nature.

Circular patterns including pies also abound. However, these are perhaps metaphors for the circular nature of life of the characters who live and work in and around The Pie-Hole including our unconventional couple Ned and his beloved Chuck (Anna Friel) whom he can't touch since he'd brought her back to life and one more even accidental contact could be fatal. Yet more than just visually, it's the stories that will have your head spinning in circles.

Including all thirteen episodes contained in the second season-- while immediately it's the jaw-dropping clarity of the most gorgeous and crisp (zero artifacting, excellent sound balance) Warner Brothers Blu-ray release I've seen so far that first captivated and prompting me to watch the helpful lengthy season one refresher three times-- soon, the visual design just serves to augment the increasingly complicated storylines.

While some of the episodes seem slightly padded and fire in a few directions that don't feel quite right such as Chuck's eventually cured agoraphobic aunts who take part in "The Darling Mermaid Darlings" that bogs down a majority of the rest of the emotionally satisfying finale-- special attention must be paid to the introduction of some truly inspired subplots.

In one of the best, the series finally goes deeper into the backstory of Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) and the vintage '40s noir like tale of an ex who had left him seven years earlier with his daughter in tow which leads to a great Grifters meets Chinatown "Daisyfied" confection to borrow a Dooley phrase.

Although past family secrets and lies unravel like yarn on a scratchy old sweater where Chuck, Ned, and others are concerned throughout the entire second season. Romantic complications are always front and center as well. For, sensing a wedge growing in their already unconventional relationship when Chuck gets her first job (after faking her first resume) and moving into her own apartment, Ned questions how much emphasis he's placed on his own happiness over the woman he loves when he insists he keeps the secret she's alive all to himself. While meanwhile Olive (the ever-delightful Chenoweth) shines in one of the brightest episodes as the group solves an impossibly complex crime at a nunnery.

Filled with bursts of unexpected humor, warmth, and heart which is the way that Pushing Daisies managed to shockingly enchant viewers with what could've otherwise been such a bleak concept-- ultimately I couldn't help feeling at times as though it was still moving much too quickly. Similar to that twinge of regret you feel when you realize you hardly had a chance to know someone like when you scribble empty promises to keep in touch in a high school yearbook, fortunately Fuller has never ruled out a film adaptation to wrap up loose ends and has also gone as far as to announce that Warner Brothers' comic division DC Comics will publish a twelve issue long "fresh take" for the show's "third season."

Of course, keeping the Daisies in bloom will definitely be of great news to those who've been with it from the start. However, I'm writing as someone who loves getting lost in the finished product and the pitch perfect marriage of the candy store like visuals of vintage cars, clothing, and items from seven different decades in any given show.

And therefore I'll miss the way Chenoweth would suddenly burst into song, Ned and Chuck would have to once again reevaluate their relationship in a hyper-real, overly analytical yet adorable way, and the way Jim Dale managed to tie it all up by announcing that in the end, the facts had been "these."

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