Spoilers for the third episode of "Pushing Daisies" coming up just as soon as I adjust my boobs while running...
So episode three -- the first one produced after Warner Bros. banned Barry Sonnenfeld from directing and insisted on a tighter budget -- was supposed to be the one where things fell apart, right? No visual razzle-dazzle, no show, right? So why was this one far and away my favorite of the three -- and maybe my favorite hour of network TV so far in this young season?
"The Fun In Funeral" didn't have the saturated color schemes, and the one special effects sequence (the homeopathic drug salesman's explosive decompression nightmare) was both brief and kinda cheesey looking. But whatever was lacking in visual splendor was more than made up for in genuine emotion and dark comedy.
The first two episodes, focused as they were on setting up this strange little universe, didn't really have time for any kind of emotional displays beyond the arch fairy tale kind. But Emerson forcing Chuck and Ned to confront the ramifications of her return from the dead in turn forced the show to confront them, in a way that seemed honest but not angst-ridden. Chuck's guilt over how she had come back to life made her feel more like a person than a twinkly ball of cute wrapped in a pastel dress with matching hat.
It helped that, for the most part, narrator Jim Dale wasn't asked to underline every single feeling one of the actors was trying to display (save the scene where Chuck baked the pie for her aunts). The narrator's great for exposition and dry humor, but whenever he starts explaining stuff we can plainly see on the faces of Lee Pace, Anna Friel and company, it has the opposite effect from what was intended -- it makes those moments less affecting, rather than more.
This episode also felt much funnier than the first two, with more opportunity for Emerson to be blunt and hostile towards Chuck (I particularly liked him forcing her out of the Pie Hole booth) and vice versa ("Kick, Pooh!"), the completely casual reactions of both the funeral director brothers when they came back to life ("Oh, hey Emerson"), throwaway gags like the old man corpse complaining about DNRs, bigger gags like the origin of Wilford Woodruff and his ancestor's Civil War legacy and -- in a moment that I wish could have been made a bit bigger (maybe by placing it at the climax of the sword fight) -- Ned's "I wanted to be a Jedi" line, which simultaneously reminded me of Inigo and Westley switching hands in "The Princess Bride" while making Ned seem like something more than the central cog in this machine of whimsy.
"Daisies" could still easily go off the rails, but if it does, it's not going to be because the "Men in Black" guy wasn't around to do his fancy palette thing.
What did everybody else think?