Clips from ABC's Pushing Daisies that were screened at the network's upfront presentation in May were so tantalizing that journalists and advertisers began buzzing about it on the spot. Several weeks later the Daisies pilot was widely regarded as the most promising of the fall season among attendees at the summer Television Critics Association tour. And it was a smash in late July at the San Diego Comic-Con, where more than 3000 fantasy fans attended an advance screening and gave it a thunderous standing ovation.
More recently, Daisies has appeared at the top of virtually every important television critic's list of the finest new programs of the fall. Now, this eagerly anticipated fantasy-drama -- the most charmingly disarming broadcast series to come along in years -- is finally poised to make its debut. It will premiere on Wednesday, October 3 at 8 p.m. ET.
Here's what you need to know about the show. Daisies isthe story of a struggling young pie-maker named Ned who has the magical ability to bring dead people back to life simply by touching them. (A second touch returns a revived dead person to the afterlife, and if Ned doesn't send that person back within 60 seconds, another person in the immediate vicinity dies instead.) Ned's fortunes improve when a private investigator offers to partner with him and split the fees he collects for solving murders. (All Ned has to do is touch the deceased, ask who killed him or her, and then touch that person once again. Case solved and closed.) But his life changes dramatically when he learns that his childhood friend Chuck, a girl he has always loved from afar, has been mysteriously murdered. After reviving her, Ned can't bring himself to send Chuck back. They fall in love, but they can never touch, or their love will be lost forever.
The creator and executive producer of Pushing Daisies is Bryan Fuller, who also created the short-lived, but much admired Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls. (He has also written for a number of series he did not create, including Heroes.) I recently visited Fuller on the Daisies set to discuss how the show came to be, his plans for its future and his thoughts about the enduring popularity of Dead Like Me, a series that ran for two low-rated seasons on Showtime and was cancelled three years ago but refuses to die.
An edited transcript of our conversation follows.
Me: What was the genesis of Pushing Daisies?
Bryan: It was originally going to be a spin off of Dead Like Me. The second season arc was going to play like this: George was going to find out that somebody was swiping her souls and she wasn't able to stop them. Then she would discover that there was a guy who was touching dead people and bringing them back to life, and she would have a kind of adversarial/romantic relationship with him. Then he would touch her and she would come back to life and she would actually go back to her family for an arc of episodes. Eventually George would realize that she had left her job and that she needed to go back and be responsible; that she needed to grow up and do what she was supposed to do. The guy would then touch her again and she would go back to being a grim reaper -- and he would go off and have his own show. That was the original concept.
When I left Dead Like Me to go do Wonderfalls I kept the concept in my back pocket. I tried to get it done as its own series a couple of times. I pitched it when I was at Twentieth Television and it didn't really spark anybody there. Then I went to Warner Bros. to pitch some ideas and the development executive hugged me after I told her [about it]. She loved the idea of "impossible love." That was the core of the pitch and the emotional center of the show. Everything that happens around Ned and Chuck is always informed by where they are in their relationship and their frustration with not being able to touch the person that they want to touch the most.
Me: So, it all came out of Dead Like Me.
Bryan: Yeah. In many ways it's the show that I wasn't able to do with Dead Like Me. It's one of those full circle things, where you do a project and you have to leave it for whatever reasons and then you get to come back and explore the same themes. There were so many themes and stories that I wanted to tell on Dead Like Me that I wasn't able to. Pushing Daisies actually affords me the opportunity to tell them.
Me: Are you making Pushing Daisies for the legions of fans that are pining for Dead Like Me?
Bryan: Selfishly speaking, I'm doing it for myself first and foremost, because when you have stories you want to tell inside you, you have to find some sort of vent. Otherwise they dissipate. I always like to write things that I would watch, so in a way that is true because I think I am the Dead Like Me audience member as much as I am the guy who created the show. I'm doing Pushing Daisies because I want to watch Pushing Daisies. I fall into the demographic that a lot of Dead Like Me fans do, in terms of the kind of television I like to watch. So the answer is yes, with a caveat!
Me: Some of your fans are worried that Pushing Daisies might suffer the same fate as Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls, since there are so many similarities between them.
Bryan: I'm hoping the third time is the charm! One of the things that will be helpful for Pushing Daisies is that a lot of road has been paved for the show between Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives. There is an elevated reality to those shows. They kind of bridge the gap between the reality of Pushing Daisies and standard television fare, so it doesn't seem like it's such a dramatic change of pace from shows like those. I'm hoping people will be a little more open to going on a fantasy ride and enjoying it as opposed to looking at it and saying it's not what they are used to or attracted to.
Tomorrow in Part Two: Fuller reveals detail about upcoming episodes of Pushing Daisies and the Dead Like Me direct-to-DVD movie.