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A Slice of Life With 'Pushing Daisies' at Paley Festival

March 17, 2008 7:29 PM

Pushing Daisies

The Paley Center’s annual television festival got under way Friday in Hollywood and continues with a series of screenings and panel discussion with the casts and creators of some of the hottest shows on TV, including “Friday Night Lights,” “Chuck” and “Gossip Girl.”

On Saturday night, the cast and creators of ABC’s freshman series “Pushing Daisies” took the stage at Hollywood's Cinerama Dome in an hour of cast love and laughs, thanks largely to Chi McBride, who plays private eye Emerson Cod on the show.

Also in attendance were actors Lee Pace, Anna Friel, Kristin Chenoweth and Ellen Greene, along with creator and executive producer Bryan Fuller and executive producers Bruce Cohen, Dan Jinks and Peter Ocko. Noticeably absent was Swoosie Kurtz, who was out of town with her sick mother.

“Pushing Daisies” tells the story of a pie maker, Ned (Pace), who discovers at a young age that he has the ability to touch dead beings and bring them back to life. If he touches them again, they go back to being dead forever. And if he brings one back to life for more than a minute, someone (or something) else dies.

It's all about the karma, "Pushing Daisies." Keeping balance in the universe, making up for what you give and take from the world. This show is deep!

As philosophical as the premise could be, there’s also the monetization of Ned’s gift. He teams up with Emerson to solve crimes and collect reward money. Of course, they cheat by having Ned bring back the deceased and asking who killed them.

Things become complicated for Ned when one of the people he brings back to life is Chuck, his childhood sweetheart who lived across the street from him. She was strangled on a cruise, but after Ned brought her back to life, he couldn’t bear to send her back. She stuck around, and the two fell in love, though they can never touch. Imaginary handholding and kissing through plastic wrap ensued, and millions of viewers’ hearts warmed.

And who can blame them? An hour with the cast really does show the chemistry that the actors and producers have on the set and the kind of energy they bring to the program.

Early in the discussion, moderated by E!’s Kristin Dos Santos, the cast shared stories of how they came to be a part of the show. For most, it was a beautiful script that landed in front of them at a time in their lives when they were not looking to be in TV but couldn’t pass it up. McBride was quick to call them out on those statements, sticking to the age-old truth that actors look for “anything that will pay the bills.” His previous work includes roles in “Boston Public” and, more recently, the short-lived “The Nine,” which McBride said was the first show named after its audience. He also did a series called “Killer Instinct,” which he said should have been called “Kill It. It Stinks.”

Sitting next to the large and imposing McBride was the small and infectiously cheerful Chenoweth, loved by fans for bringing her Broadway experience and voice to the show. (She won a Tony for her role as Sally in "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”)

Already, her repertoire of characters has quite a camp factor, in the very best way possible, but it’s scenes like this, where she laments being rebuffed by Ned and channels Olivia Newton-John, that Olive really stakes a claim as the unsung hero of the series.

At McBride’s request she gave the audience a taste of her singing voice, warbling ever so nicely ... about McBride’s noise hairs. Greene laughed. Like a donkey.

The show’s first season ended just after nine episodes due to the Writers Guild strike, which the creators said was a blessing for the show’s direction. Fuller and the other executive producers said because of the prolonged break, they were able to step away from the show and look back on the things that worked and what didn’t and plan the story arcs for the characters. The first season established itself as soft and romantic, and Fuller said he hopes season two will be harder.

What exactly is in store for the characters in season two, due back this fall?

The first five episodes have been approved, and Fuller is currently writing the first episode. He said Chuck will find out who her mother is, and Ned will try to help her “control her trajectory.” Olive’s love interest, Alfredo (played by another Broadway veteran, Raul Esparza), will return for some episodes, and he and Olive may sing together on camera. The series also is expected to explore Emerson’s decision to become a private detective after his daughter went missing.

Some of the show’s fans were able to ask questions about things only fans ever really think about. For example, we learn that Ned is in fact a vegetarian on the show, since anything that’s dead would only come back to life after touching him. In terms of the show’s distant future, the idea of Ned and Chuck having a child is up in the air, with concerns that Ned’s sperm would kill Chuck’s egg as soon as they touched. Chuck will also learn that, in being brought back from the death, she will not age.

As for the show’s near future, shooting for season two is expected to begin in June and premiere in September. The first season is slated for a June release on DVD in the U.K. and a September release in the U.S. A show soundtrack album also could be in the works, Fuller said.

— Sergio Ibarra

Updated: Ms. Chenoweth's Tony win. June 5, 12:55 p.m.

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Comments (2)

patricia:

Kristin Chenoweth didn't win a Tony for "Wicked." Idina Mendel did. Chenoweth won a best supporting actress Tony for "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." She played Sally.

Sergio:

Updated. Thanks, patricia.

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