Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Is Pushing Daisies Too Good?

Last week, my wife and I were catching up on Pushing Daisies (having gotten home after it's 8pm start time). She looked at me and said, "It's too good."

I know just what she means.

From time to time, a show will come along that is charming, witty and well-cast. That show often doesn't survive more than a few episodes. Why? Let's look at a few:

  • Profit (1996)- a brilliant, darkly humorous show in the rapacious '90s, featuring a young and rather wolfish Adrian Pasdar in the title role. It was way ahead of its time, with themes and elements that are almost standards now--a psychopathic-but-sympathetic lead character, vicious backstabbing under hearty camaraderie, and a driving "who's going to stop this guy?" question hanging over the whole thing. What killed it off? It was AHEAD OF ITS TIME. Maybe the viewing public wasn't ready for a prime-time character that dark--but it paved the way for a lot of what HBO and Showtime have done in the last decade.
  • Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974)- the show that blazed trails for an awful lot of others (including The X-Files), Night Stalker was largely "monster of the week" TV viewing but the show carried off what might have been trite or conventional with flair. Darren McGavin was Karl Kolchak, a shabby and fallen-from-grace reporter in an old suit, straw boater hat and sneakers, whose disreputable publication only ensures his incredible adventures are dismissed. Kolchak is no fighter; however, he is heroic in his single-minded pursuit of the truth, wherever it leads. What killed it off? McGavin claims credit, saying he was tired of doing the same kind of story over and over again, but it's equally possible that the "thrill of the new" had worn off in the show's first season. Without anything larger--shows have figured out how to do "meta-plotting" in the decades since--perhaps people felt Kolchak's adventures added up to not very much. Still... I defy anyone to watch those old episodes and not feel a shiver or two.

Okay, that's the two that struck me. Do you have any examples? Post your thoughts in the comments below.

In the meantime... do I expect "Daisies" to go off the air? No, not really. It's a terrific show, lots of fun and (most importantly) has a time slot that isn't the kiss of death. Put up against the heavyweights of the TV schedule and it might wither beyond even Ned's power to revive it, but as it is--I think the Pie Hole will be open for business for some time to come.

UPDATE- Yay! ABC has given a full-season order to Pushing Daisies, from 13 to 22 episodes. Read about it here.


Paul Skeen said...

The one show that immediatley comes to mind is Nothing Sacred from around 1997. You can't even see this in repeats. Maybe if it came out now and was on FX or some other cable channel it may have survived. Well acted, well written and very topical. Having said that, I have to go watch Dancing with the Stars.

Drew said...

Hey buddy!
Seems like that happens a lot. Shows that are too cool, too smart, too slick. Some of them don't last because they can't sustain what was a great premise; others just don't find their audience.
I hope Pushing Daisies lasts, though!