Thursday, October 11, 2007

Dandy cozy funny

Spoilers for, in order, "Pushing Daisies," "Private Practice," "Dirty Sexy Money" and "American's Next Top Model" coming up just as soon as I hold my breath until I turn blue...

Wow. If the "Pushing Daisies" pilot bordered on too twee, I'm not even sure what adjective can capture episode two, which featured Chi McBride knitting himself some gun cozies, Kristen Chenoweth rocking out to "Hopelessly Devoted To You" and, oh yeah, a car that runs on dandelions. I never fell for Bryan Fuller's previous shows because they always seemed too hopelessly devoted to their own selves. The first "Pushing Daisies" episode somehow avoided that trap, but this one was perilously close.

On the plus side, it still looked amazing, and I'd be tempted to tune in every week just for that... except that, according to those LA Times stories, this was the last episode made before Warner Bros. tightened the budget and banned Barry Sonnenfeld from directing. How many weeks before we get a bottle show where all the regulars are locked in the Pie Hole for an hour?

Also on the plus side, Jim Dale narrating Young Ned's misadventures in prep school. If JK Rowling isn't going to give us an eighth Harry Potter book for Dale to read aloud, this may be the closest we'll get.

I want to see what a regular episode of this show looks like before I decide whether the sugar shock factor is too high to bother with.

If I didn't know that ABC was showing the early "Private Practice" episodes out of order, and that Shonda had gone back and rewritten some of the scenes from the premiere to make Addison seem tougher, I'd be heading for the hills, because the Addison in this episode (originally planned as the second) was the same dishrag little girl that she was back in that heinous backdoor pilot. And since the other characters -- save Cooper and maybe Violet (if the writers can ever free her of stalking her ex) -- are complete personality vacuums, Addison's really the only reason I'm watching. Fix her in a hurry, or else. So far, all three regular episodes have been largely carried by the guest stars (the crazy lady on the floor and the store manager, the two moms and the Thirtysomething Virgin), and that's just not enough to sustain a following long-term.

"Dirty Sexy Money" continues to be a good low nutritional content treat, with a red carpet catfight (and Juliet foolishly letting the press in on the lame origin of her feud), many entrances by "Rebecca Colfax, Darling family publicist," much talk of a very special sexual position involving banking, the very funny montage of Nick interrogating the Darling kids, bad Australian accents and some intrigue involving the still-unseen Blair Underwood as Simon Elder. And yet, as is true of the entire Berlanti ouevre, the show is able to turn off the silly switch when needed and present some genuine emotion, in this case revealing how much Patrick loves Carmelita (who, unlike her counterpart on "Big Shots," doesn't seem to be a hooker) and vice versa. Easy joke in the pilot, kinda moving in episode three. Not bad.

Finally, a question for the more hardcore "America's Next Top Model" fans: did this show so blatantly telegraph its exits back in the days before the writers (or story editors, or whatever you want to call them) first started fighting with management over salary and unfair treatment? Because this is three weeks in a row, I think, where the first girl to give a talking head has gone home. Within the first two minutes, I knew the bottom two would include Victoria and Saleisha (though Jenah's meltdown during the photo shoot briefly had me doubting myself). My wife's on Team Heather, and was worried when they made her dress up like a weed (but not, sadly, a dandelion), but I told her, "Don't worry. She's had almost no screen time this episode. She's not going anywhere." "Amazing Race" and, when I still watch it, "Survivor," seem just as blatant in telling you who's about to lose. Have all the reality competition shows gotten worse at this, or have we all just watched so much that we can recognize all the old tricks?

What did everybody else think?

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was once hip enough to enjoy "Pushing Daisies," and part of me longs for the days when I was, but now I am not. Watching this show makes me feel like the father of two children who think their father is trying to use cool lingo to sound cool and with it. The female lead has a wonderful charm too her, but I think that this show is going to wear thin after several episodes. Essentially, it's a procedural with a hip and indie twist to it, but that's it. (Sorry, Alan, I can't bring myself to use the word "twee."). Without Sonnefeld, the beauty of its mise-en-scene will be gone, as you suggest. Basically, it's CSI meets the Wizard of Oz meets the White Stripes. Blah.

David J. Loehr said...

Well, the ratings for the premiere of Daisies make me think it'll be here long enough to see it devolve. I'm wondering how much of the overly precious stuff is Sonnenfeld, and how much of the sharpness of Wonderfalls might seep in as of next week. That's what's keeping me watching right now.

As for "the two moms and the Thirtysomething Virgin," that sounds like a fun show right there. Or a Hoyt Axton song. (Maybe Mac Davis.)

Toby said...

I could buy into just about everything this episode of 'Pushing Daisies' had to offer - Olive's musical number, the morgue's facade looking like an ice cream shoppe, the look of the cars, the fact that no humans died because of the frog stunt - but the concept of a car that runs on dandelions was too much. Why push it that far; why not just a car that runs on ethanol or electricity and be done with it?

Best dialogue exchange in the episode:
Olive: Do they touch much?
Emerson: Wish they would.

Chi McBride will go a long way in keeping the twee factor in check.

I also liked the June Taylor Dancers camera angle for Olive's spin with Digby. When is she going to realize Digby's the guy for her? (Sarah Silverman would have figured that out by now!)

memphish said...

I enjoyed Pushing Daisies last night though my eyebrows did raise when the Grease ballad started and I was worried by the time we had listened to the entire song. I liked the edginess Chuck started to display. Giving Chuck and Emerson more sarcastic exchanges would help cure the sweetness. Like all of the new shows I've watched this year PD looks as if it too will fall quickly into formula. This doesn't make me not want to watch it, but it doesn't make me feel the need to watch it when it airs vs. on DVR at my own convenience.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand everyone being put off by Pushing Daisies, because I am in love. I especially can't understand how one would be so quick to consider dropping it yet keep up with other trash--not that everyone isn't allowed/encouraged to have their mind candy. I didn't know that ABC tightened their budget after episode 2, so I am curious about how the rest of the show will turn out, but I think I loved the second episode even more than the pilot so I am in nowhere close to done with this show. I really hope they take advantage of Kristen Chenowith's Broadway chops some more, because "Hopelessly Devoted to You" stole the show for me. And as you stated, Alan, everything about the show is beautiful, the Pie Hole itself being one of my favorite aspects.

Anonymous said...

In regards to "Pushing Daisies," I'm pretty sure I understand what y'all mean by "twee" or "sugar overdose," but what does "overly precious" mean? I've seen it a few times, but it just occurred to me that I don't really get it. Thanks.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Among the definitions for precious: "Affectedly dainty or overrefined"

Toby said...

Right from when we first met him in the pilot for 'Dirty Sexy Money', Glenn Fitzgeral as Brian Darling was an easy character to hate. But his treatment of his own son really makes me wish him ill! That kid is going to be really messed up when he gets older if he's not rescued soon from that living situation.

Man, I get too caught up in these "lives"....

NIffer said...

Regarding ANTM:

I guess they've always done that, but I didn't start watching until later. I can't remember which cycle I started watching... But, because it is a fluff show, I don't really pay that much attention or try to predict which person is going home in each ep.

I guess that wasn't very helpful, was it? ;)

Susan said...

Alan, regarding ANTM - yup, they've always done that. The editing on this show is pretty awful that way. (It used to be that whatever girl was shown calling home first in the episode - usually crying - was the one who would go home.) In the first couple of seasons, I think it was a lot better, but in the last few, it's been terrible. At least in the last couple of seasons, you could guess the bottom two, but not know for sure who was going home. This time, I think I said about ten seconds into the episode, "Victoria's going home."

And it's also clear to me that if someone doesn't cry or freakout over their makeovers, then they push the issue until someone does. I'm not discounting the fact that Bianca's hair was a mess, but they pushed the bald thing for some drama.

Why do I watch this again?

As for Pushing Daisies, I'm still loving it... and yet feeling no real pull to watch it week after week. It's like a little treat I'll get to when I can, but I have none of that "can't wait to see more" feeling.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the pie-maker can resurrect Tony Almeida on 24 and explain why Carlos Bernard is in the next season?

J said...

I kept wanting to hate Daisies, but it's certainly true to its own world and finds enough pleasures there for me to stick around. For now. It's not "hip," it's affected. The musical number worked. The Dandelion showroom girl's weird crabwalk as she ate her pie was downright Lynchian. Still love Friel. The cute manages to offset the gruesome. Though I don't buy that the glove's there for holding hands.

The narration is killing me though. There are one or two good lines, but he talks and he talks and he talks and he talks and he talks and he talks and he talks and he talks and he talks. And then? HE TALKS AND HE TALKS AND HE TALKS AND HE TALKS. STFU ASAP kthxbye.

DirtySexyMoney is just too dumb. Wish it weren't. Love the cast.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the second episode of Pushing Daisies, but if we never get another musical number on the show it will be too soon. I hate musical interludes on shows as they're nothing but filler. Yes, Kristin Chenoweth is a talented singer, but I don't need to hear the full version of Hopelessly Devoted in order to realize that. When Ally McBeal began to take advantage of Jane Krakowski and Lisa Nicole Carson's singing ability the show became a half hour of dialogue and a half hour of singing/musical montages. That was pretty much the beginning of the end.

As for Dirty Sexy Money, I haven't watched last night's episode yet, but is anyone else as turned off by the murder mystery aspect of the show as I am? That sort of plot device was clever 3 or 4 years ago, but it's so overdone now that I really don't give a rat's ass who killed Nick's father. I wish they'd just be happy to make the show about the nutty Darling family. And since someone mentioned him--Glenn Fitzgerald may be the worst actor I've ever seen on a primetime series. Not only is the character completely despicable, but Fitzgerald completely chews the scenery at every opportunity. If he had a mustache he'd be twirling it non-stop. Plus, (and I say this as a gay guy) he comes off as way too flaming to be believable as being married with three kids. Sorry, Glenn.

R.A. Porter said...

I'm still concerned about the post-Sonnenfeld, budget-reduced episodes, but I liked the second episode of Pushing Daisies even more than the first. There was quite a bit of pipe in "Pie-lette", and they managed to rehash all that premise for the newcomers with Jim Dale's great narration of prep-school Ned's Fatal Frog Fiasco. That left plenty of time for the episode to breathe.

Last night I was struck by the feeling that Dale's narration feels like a more positive spin on Lemony Snicket's narration (the books, not the god-awful movie.) The interplay between the narration and the characters' dialog also shares some features with Daniel Handler's style. The other strong stylistic influence I'm noting is to '50s-era musicals.

This is a world in which it's completely reasonable for Kristin Chenoweth to have a duet with a reanimated (and apparently now immortal) dog. That's not a world for a lot of people, but certainly one I'm happy to live in for an hour a week.

I could find things to criticize in this show, but I'd have to push hard to do so. All I know is my face was sore from smiling through the whole episode.

Kristin said...

I loved the Pushing Daisies episode! To me, the mystery is just the side story. I don't care if it is easy to figure out...it's more about the crazy world that has been created and the relationships between all the odd, but loveable, characters.

Gun cozies?
Cars that look like they belong in a Dr. Seuss book?
The make up on the burn victim girlfriend's bandages?

Lord, I love it.

The musical number went on too long. I will blame that on editing. They didn't know when to cut or they needed to fill a few more seconds/minutes of programming.

Alanna said...

One thing in last night's episode summed up one of my biggest problems with Pushing Daisies thus far. The shot of Ned and Chuck kissing through the plastic was sweet. A few minutes later, we get them holding hands through gloves. One moment like that would've been quite charming, but the second time was overkill. Same thing in the pilot, where we got kissing monkey statutes THEN the behind-the-back imaginary handholding. I feel like PD is trying too hard to milk the cuteness, so they go overboard. Chuck and Ned only have so many options to be physical without physical contact. Budget them out. The same holds true for the overall show. Cut the twee in half, and they'd be doing much better.

Bix said...

Where in the original episode order was last night's Private Practice? Audra McDonald's makeover made me think it was later, but your comments lead me to believe that it was shot 2nd or 3rd.

PamelaJaye said...

can't read this yet, as I haven't gotten to PD (just PP) but have you seen this?

http://www.thefutoncritic.com/news.aspx?id=20071011tivo01

Tivo has finally figured out the ratings for premiere week. I would have posted it in your post on that topic, but I don't know - do you get emails when a comment is posted? I wasn't sure it wouldn't go unseen way down there (of course I could email, but...)

wonder if that url is going to break...

Pamela Jaye said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Undercover A man said...

Pushing Daisies is the only unique show of the new season, and worth watching if just for its trippy-ness aspects. Unless you also count a Bionic Woman who acts like a robot (but not because of her bionic implants, but because of her acting ability). But it is also funny, and that is enough for me. I do agree with "J" though, that glove in the car is placed awfully low and convenient reaches the driver's lap level for it to be just for 'holding hands'. Hilarious.

Anonymous said...

http://www.thefutoncritic.com/
news.aspx?id=20071011tivo01

one more time
Pam

dez said...

I also liked last nights PD better than the pilot, though the conceit of them not being able to touch is wearing a bit thin already. That, and I found myself watching for all the awkward ways they keep them from touching. OTOH, when they were tasered, I was worried they would touch accidentally when being moved by the killer (and wow, would that have been a short season).

I liked that Olive had a completely different hairstyle and no one seemed to notice and she didn't seem to care that they didn't since she's preoccupied with Chuck and Ned's relationship. And I loved Emerson's "Wish they would"!

PamelaJaye said...

one more off-topic thing -
Have you written or opined anything about the impending writers strike? I just focused on it today and it's bumming me out.

Kat Coble said...

Personally, I absolutely love Pushing Daisies.

It's goofy in an overthetop way. It includes all of my favourite real-life make-me-smile-at-the-end-of-a-bad-day things (cheese, pie, knitting, dogs).

It's one of those shows that's great for just washing over you and carrying you to an escapist place.

Kensington said...

I had some reservations after the Pushing Daisies premiere, but last night's episode was quite good, though I'm a little embarrassed that I missed that the car was running on dandelions. Somehow that little detail just flew right over my head, probably because I was so taken by Kristin Chenowith and Digby the Dog's musical number!

That was so weirdly delightful, especially after the long shot of Digby licking her face all over and the two of them then sharing a bed. Did anyone else notice Kristen licking him back at one point? That's family hour, folks!

It was such an interesting approach to a musical number, not just the Digby stuff but the embarrassment and the vulnerability in Kristin Chenowith's performance from being caught exposed over and over yet still needing to get it all out. I wasn't sure how I felt about Olive, but that scene really won me over.

As for the future and what will happen once the budget-tightened episodes hit the screen, there really wasn't all that much here that couldn't be done on a shoestring, too. The big sprawling fields of daisies can be done without, and how expensive is it to stage something as oddly compelling as Janine's pie-binging crabwalk?

In fact, one of the things that really stuck out for me was a teeny tiny detail: that Janine's toenails were painted green, matching both Olive's dress and the tile floor of the pie shop. I don't know what it means, but it was curiously compelling.

Still, I really want to know how the ratings held up after last week. It still seems likely that a show which not only includes subtle intimations of bestiality but also displays dead bodies strung up like marionettes during the family hour is not going to linger long.

Michael said...

Something I forgot to ask about Private Practice... I love Audra MacDonald, but anyone know why they re-cast the role? I'm a big fan of Merrin Dungey, and she was actually one of the reasons I was excited by the back-door pilot last year. I was surprised when I tuned into ABC's GA/PP promo this season and she was off the new show.

Bix said...

Merrin Dungey tested badly, though I don't know the specific complaints.

Anonymous said...

So glad everyone is feeling the Daisies love too! I absolutely freaking adore this show. And I am one of the few people who hated that movie Amelie, which is all about the twee. Pushing Daisies just works for me, and it's one of the few new shoes I eagerly look forward to watching. It reminds me so much of Edward Scissorhands in style and tone, and that's one of my favorite flicks ever.

LA said...

I'm still totally on board for PD and DSM, though I wish Juliet would stop using the Drew Barrymoresque affectation. If I were to lodge a complaint against DSM, it would be against the twins and their stories. It seems like their existance is gratuitous at best.

LA said...

p.s. I gave up on Private Practice last week. I'm in health care, and while I'm certainly able to suspend reality when I watch medical shows, Private Practice is asking me to suspend reality and taste. Sorry Shonda, the Velveeta on this show is just too stale.

Karen said...

Man, I still really love Pushing Daisies, but I didn't feel the visuals this week as much as last week (I'm a sucker for saturated color, and there wasn't nearly enough this week). I'm as nervous as the rest of us over next week's episode.

And I also am still loving Dirty Sexy Money, too. Watching Donald Sutherland is like taking a master class in acting.

manjula said...

I love Pushing Daisies, thought the 2nd ep was better than the first. Although I do fear too much preciousness, this episode actually made me laugh, out loud, several times. And that's pretty rare, for any show, self-consciously quirky or not.

I don't understand how anyone can watch Private Practice. The previews alone makes me wanna put my eyes out, and Addison was by far my favorite thing about Grey's. Not that I can stand watching that soap anymore, either.

Dirty Sexy Money: not very dirty or sexy, but a nice surprise. Fun. Great performances.