Monday, April 14, 2008

Pushing Daisies

It's been a long time since ITV ran an American import in primetime. Media Guardian have tentatively suggested that the last one was The Practice way back in 1999, and while I couldn't swear to that, it certainly sounds plausible.

Pushing Daisies is an odd choice to be the first show, particularly airing in a high-profile 9pm slot on Saturday. Traditionally, ITV weekend line-ups are, shall we say, a bit safe. It's the domain of talent shows, major films and the occasional football match. And Pushing Daisies is just plain odd. Not only does it have a bizarre premise about a man who can bring the dead back subject to certain conditions, but the style of the show is verging on magical realism.

They aired the first episode on Saturday night. I've seen good reviews for it, and I gather it did well in America. I can certainly see the appeal. It's unquestionably different, just as Twin Peaks was, but in a much happier, technicolor way. The creators apparently cite Amelie as an influence, and it shows. It's beautifully designed, and it creates its own fairy tale world. It's rare to see a comedy-drama with a visual style quite so distinctive, and which sets a tone so confidently and clearly. All this allows the show to get away with elements that might otherwise seem grotesque.

But I wasn't quite sure about it. I think mainly it's the pacing. Maybe future episodes slow down a bit, but the first one rattles through everything at breakneck speed. It all felt a little bit too hectic for the tone they were after, and it came across at times as a meticulous explanation of a complicated premise, leaving the characters little room to move. Perhaps that's why I ended up deciding that I rather admired the show, and yet didn't much care what happened to the characters. The whole thing is built on the idea of a romance between two people who can't touch, and the emotional connection wasn't really there for me.

I'll give it another chance, though. Perhaps it relaxes a bit once the heavy lifting of setting up the premise is out of the way.

Incidentally, did the original American version feature abrupt, sudden cuts to ad breaks, or is this just an unwelcome addition from ITV, who haven't aired an American show in so long that they've forgotten how to do it? It does the show no favours, whoever's fault it was.