Life Lessons28 Sep, 2008 By: John Latchem
The genesis of “Pushing Daisies,” according to creator Bryan Fuller, flowed from an idea conceived for his earlier show “Dead Like Me.”
The offbeat Showtime series focused on a group of grim reapers, including a girl named George, who live among us and pluck the souls from those who are about to die.
“The idea was that George meets this guy who has the power to give back life,” Fuller said. “So we have this relationship between them in that she takes life and he gives it back. It was going to be this big story arc, but they went away from it.”
Instead, Fuller, a veteran writer for such shows as “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” “Star Trek: Voyager” and “Heroes,” tweaked the idea into the premise for his latest show, “Pushing Daisies,” which stars Lee Pace as Ned, who as a boy discovers that he can touch dead things to bring them back to life. However, a second touch will kill them permanently.
Ned, who runs a pie shop, strikes a deal with a detective (Chi McBride) to use his power to resurrect murder victims to solve the crime and collect the reward money. One victim is his childhood sweetheart, Chuck (Anna Friel), whom he brings back to life but can’t find it in him to return her to death. They strike up a tenuous romance, unable to touch for fear of losing her forever.
“It’s an impossible romance,” said Fuller, who also serves as executive producer. “We had talked a lot about Ladyhawke and Beauty and the Beast, which feature these romances that shouldn’t work, but you root for them to be together.”
The show became something of a critical darling and a sleeper hit for ABC. Warner Home Video recently released the nine episodes of the first season as a three-disc set at $29.98 on DVD, and $39.99 on Blu-ray Disc.
“I’m excited to see the Blu-ray version,” said Fuller, who also serves as executive producer. “The show is so colorful and crisp, my rods and cones can’t take it.”
Fuller said the show’s distinct visual style is designed to evoke the hyperreality of a fairy-tale.
“The storybook setting grew out of this notion that I wanted to do a prime-time fairy tale, which is something that was not being done,” Fuller said.
The show recently won three Emmys, including best musical score for a series, best editing for a comedy series, and best directing for a comedy series, the latter for the pilot episode by veteran film director Barry Sonnenfeld, whom Fuller credits with helping establish the fairy-tale look of the series.
“I just love the sumptuousness he brought to the visual style,” Fuller said. “It’s a nice massage for the eyeballs.”
If Fuller has any regrets about the home video version, it’s that it doesn’t include as many extras as it could have. Season one includes “Pie Time: Time for Pie,” a series of mini-documentaries about each episode.
“When the writers strike wrapped up, we were in a time crunch to make the release date,” Fuller said. “I thought they did a nice job given the time frame. But we’re already talking about how to cram more features into the season-two DVD.”
While the strike cut the first season short, Fuller found it a simple matter of adapting his story ideas for season two, which premieres Oct. 1.
“There are some big tentpole pieces we would have done in season one,” Fuller said. “Season two is much more fun. Now that we’ve established this world, I want to have fun expanding that universe. I have a plan for season two and an arc for season three. And during season three we’ll figure out what to do in season four.”
Fuller calls “Pushing Daisies” the third part of a “trilogy of life” that began with “Dead Like Me” in 2003 and continued with the short-lived “Wonderfalls” in 2004.
“In ‘Dead Like Me,’ George was really unaware of her life until she was forced to live out a life that was interrupted,” Fuller said. “On ‘Wonderfalls,’ Jaye is something of a curmudgeon who isn’t living her life until she’s forced to interact with others.”
“Pushing Daisies,” Fuller said, is about “re-embracing life, getting a second chance and not letting it slip through.”
The common thread, he said, is that “these are characters who are forced to find their role in the universe.”
Fuller has nothing to do with MGM’s upcoming direct-to-video “Dead Like Me” movie, but he said he wouldn’t mind returning to that universe.
“I would love to go back to tell another story there,” he said. “But not necessarily with the same characters.”