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A fairy tale in bloom

With its sweet love story and quirky cast of characters, 'Pushing Daisies' is a crime show of a different color.

January 09, 2008|Maria Elena Fernandez | Times Staff Writer

IF "Pushing Daisies" deserves its Golden Globe nominations, it might just be because in the land of TV crime dramas, this ABC comedy stands out.

Fans might shudder to think of Bryan Fuller's candy-colored romantic fairy tale as a mere procedural, but that's actually how the creator pitched his idea. But is it a fairy tale with a procedural bent or a procedural with a fairy tale twist?

No matter. The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., which in past years discovered fresh cable fare such as "The Shield," "Nip/Tuck" and "Big Love" before the Emmys noticed them, bestowed three important Golden Globe nominations for "Pushing Daisies."

The series was the only new show that received a nomination alongside its lead actors, Lee Pace and Anna Friel.

"We all knew it was something special when we got involved with the project but we didn't realize other people would recognize it so quickly and so surely," Friel said. "I think it confirms our belief that it's inventive and something very special on TV that people haven't seen before."

That is exactly right. Where else on television do you find a lonely pie maker like Ned (Pace) who can bring things back to life with his touch and who is in love with a dead woman named Chuck (Friel) whom he revived but can never touch again or she will die permanently? Or a pair of aunts (Swoosie Kurtz and Ellen Greene) who were once synchronized swimmers and now seem to be synchronized at life. Or a pie parlor with a pie crust for a roof and an enchanting waitress (Kristin Chenoweth) who wants the pie maker to love her? Or a private detective (Chi McBride) with a rather imposing stature who relieves his stress by knitting?

"Part of the pitch was that Ned collects reward money by touching dead people and finding out who killed them," Fuller said. "I realize that it was a bit of a devil's bargain because I love writing character dynamics. The challenge for us is to have as much fun with the procedural stuff as we are having with the character stuff. Our procedural stories are not 'CSI' stories."

To be sure, these are no ordinary crime stories. Ned and Emerson Cod (McBride) -- and now tagalong Chuck -- have encountered deaths by crash test dummies in dandelion-fueled cars, scratch-and-sniff books that combust, and a murderer who hides his bodies in snowmen.

"It's a great adventure," said Pace, who also starred in Fuller's short-lived Fox series, "Wonderfalls." "It's so much fun to play as it gets more complicated. Bryan and the writers are making this world so rich. And I am so appreciative of working with someone like Anna. She works so hard and is not one of those actresses who is happy to just look pretty in front of the camera."

For her part, Friel says Pace has become such a dear friend and she would have hated being nominated by herself.

"We're both perfectionists and we work very hard," said the British-born Friel who keeps her American accent all day on set to make it easier on herself. "We concentrate very hard because the dialogue is so poetic and it's so fast and rhythmic. If you let your concentration slip for 10 minutes, the scene is ruined."

Both actors say they thoroughly enjoy playing lovebirds who cannot touch because of the acting challenges it presents. Most of the time, Ned and Chuck can only express their love with longing glances. But in one episode, they wrapped themselves in plastic wrap so they could steal a kiss.

Ned and Chuck's impossible and deep love story is resonating with viewers. Averaging 10 million viewers, "Pushing Daisies" is the top-rated show on Wednesdays at 8 p.m., both in total viewers and in the key 18-to-49-year-old demographic.

Though not considered a breakout hit, the show was picked up for a full season and could get a boost from its nominations.

"I think the true sense of romance in this series is particularly special and goes back to all those '30s or '40s movies where all you're waiting for is one kiss at the end," Friel said. "I think people love that. And I also think it makes them laugh."


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