Tuned In: A touching tale
A visit to the set of ABC's "Pushing Daisies" (8 p.m. Wednesday) is akin to what I imagine it would be like to get inside Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. In place of chocolate, there's a diner with a pie crust-shaped roof that sits in the middle of a soundstage.
Inside The Pie Hole eatery, cherry-shaped lamps hang over tables. Fresh pies listed on the menu board include strawberry rhubarb, dutch apple, four berry and three plum. Window boxes full of daisies decorate the kitchen.
Up close, the set is as colorful and detailed as it appears to be on TV. The set also conveys the same sense of magic as the series itself, which returns for its second season this week.
It's been more than nine months since the previous original "Daisies" aired, so producers wisely use the opening scenes of this week's episode to remind viewers of the show's plot. It also serves as an introduction for new viewers unfamiliar with the story of pie maker Ned (Lee Pace), who has the ability to bring the dead back to life. He revived his lady love, Chuck (Anna Friel), but if he ever touches her again, she'll die.
Starring: Lee Pace, Anna Friel.
The first season ended with Chuck learning that Ned was responsible for her father's death. And Pie Hole waitress Olive (Kristin Chenoweth) discovered that Chuck's Aunt Lily (Swoosie Kurtz), who doesn't know Chuck is alive, is actually Chuck's mother. In Wednesday's episode Olive is bursting at the seams with this information.
"At any moment, truth buckshot could come spewing out of my muzzle!" she exclaims.
"Pushing Daisies" continues to charm, as it whips together bizarre eccentricities -- the murder case Ned and Chuck pursue with investigator Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) revolves around a bee-themed company housed in a honeycomb-shaped building -- with the sweet innocence of the show's romantic theme.
But "Daisies" is not goopy or trite. There's often an undercurrent of smart, subversive commentary, such as when the bee company chieftain explains why the face of the company had to be replaced with someone younger: "She's 38, which rounds up to 40, which rounds up to 50, which rounds up to old."
This first episode back sets a lot of goals for itself: Remind viewers of the backstory, advance the plot from the cliffhanger, and introduce and resolve the murder-of-the-week. "Daisies" succeeds in accomplishing these tasks and even finds time for a "Sound of Music" shout-out as Olive pulls a Maria von Trapp en route to a nunnery.
During a July visit to Stage 19 of the Warner Bros. lot, "Daisies" executive producer Bryan Fuller said ABC's goal for the second season is to reach as broad an audience as possible.
"Looking at the episodes we're doing, there isn't a big change tonally [from season one]," he said. "Their concern is getting an audience, but they gave us a lot of trust and leeway to accomplish that. There's a lot of crazy [stuff] happening."
Fuller said the strike that shortened the show's first season gave producers -- including incoming co-executive producer Gretchen Berg, a native of Franklin Park -- time to regroup. He said this year the show will expand its world while still adhering to the distinctive "Daisies" look that mixes contemporary and retro elements.
"When you see cars on the street [on our show], there's one from the '60s, '70s, '40s and a Prius," noted costume designer Robert Blackman. "We just assume it's set now because how could you have a Prius if you were living in them '40s?"
Fuller said "Daisies" will give Chuck some space -- she moves into Olive's apartment this week -- but will maintain the show's heart: "We want to look at it as Chuck and Ned against the world rather than Chuck and Ned against each other."