Guess who lived to die another day? Last week, I bemoaned the fact that new, unique shows like this one never get a chance when up against brain-melting populist fare like So You Think You’re Smarter Than a Ficus Plant or what have you. Then, lo! Not only did Daisies blossom in the ratings, but EW readers flooded our comments board with love for the “pielette.”
This week, we answer (or attempt to) the question of whether the show can not only survive its strenuously cute premise but thrive. Like before, it begins with another narrated flashback set in a Tim Burton-esque world of saturated colors and Seuss-ical dream-sequence set design, as our nine-year-old (and 88 days, 3 hours, blah blah blah minutes — enough with that one, Mr. Narrator) Ned, now tragically de-mothered, is dropped off at boarding school by his (literally) disappearing dad, who promises untruthfully to return for him. Cut to mopey Ned, a pariah to his peers, wreaking his emotional revenge by bringing back to life a classroom full of dissection frogs (Did anyone else think of that similar scene in ET: The Extra-Terrestrial? Young Ned, phone home!). As the happy little amphibians jumped and ribbitted their way to sweet freedom, no doubt you too were wondering whether the show would stay consistent: don’t once-dead, now-revived things that live more than a minute require the death of a nearby creature, à la Ned’s mom and Chuck’s dad? Thankfully, the writers comply, dropping a nearby bunch of hapless birds.
Anyway, on to the next: Ned and Chuck (Lee Pace and Anna Friel, pictured), ensconced in separate, Leave It to Beaver beds and then at the breakfast table, quip, flirt, and pontificate — anything but touching — while Olive, our poor, beleaguered pie waitress and unrequited admirer of Ned, spies from a precarious perch on her windowsill. Meanwhile, Ned’s partner in resuscitation, Det. Emerson Cod, awaits Ned’s return from the la-la land of his childhood crush, and is none too pleased to see Chuck, dressed like a slightly deranged Hitchcock heroine, show up for the pair’s next undead interrogation. This week’s victim? A curly-headed research scientist, now roadkill, whose one-minute awakening is hijacked by Chuck’s sunny questions; all they manage to learn is that he very much loved a girl named Janine, and was killed by a crash test dummy. Unhelpful.
But one must deal with the overly chatty hand one is dealt, so Chuck, Ned, and Emerson visit the murderee’s workplace, a futuristic car company with a superstar product: a vehicle that runs on dandelion fuel (really, apparently, just an excuse for the show’s costume designers to whip up some sublimely silly dandelion-topped promo outfits for its car-show girls). Janine, in full fluffer-head regalia, denies knowledge of her deceased love, but is easily swayed by free pie, and the three musketeers soon also find that the crash-test-dummy room is full of crash-test-deadies—that is, deceased folks who gave their bodies up for car research. So whither, then, the real dummies?
It seems we’ll have to wait, and watch Olive get Grease-yback at the pie shop, singing “Hopelessly Devoted” to Ned’s faithfulmutt and an oblivious floor cleaner named Manuel; it’s all devoted, ofcourse, to Ned — and to remind us, apparently, that Kristin Chenowethis a Tony-winning star. Okay, back to the goods: a Cliff’s Notesversion of Janine and Bernard’s blossoming love affair, culminating ina hot and sweaty session inside the Dandy Lion SX (SX, get it??), andJanine’s leading Ned, Chuck and the Detective to a secret spot — thoughnot before her own SX blows itself to dandelion dust, landing her intraction. Turns out that secret spot is a mass burial site for dummies,who, unlike the dead, actually have recording software inside them thattells of automobile trials gone wrong. Think you’re getting thepicture? Our trio does, and heads back to Dandy Lion headquarters, onlyto be greeted by maniacal president Mark Chase, promptly tazed (howtopical!), sealed inside person-sized sandwich bags, and shunted intoan SX — which, it turns out, at a speed of 70 mph, with the seatwarmers on low and the radio on, turns into a flaming vehicle of death.Poor, innocent Bernard had to die at Chase’s hand because he knew hisdirty floral secret, but our resourceful detective Emerson, he of thesecretly self-knit gun cozies and sweater vests, uses a needle of thetrade to free them all (though only after granting Chuck and Ned thechance to share one, prophylactic kiss), and send the deranged Mr.Chase to the Big House.
If there’s one quibble we have, it’s that the murder “mysteries” on this show won’t exactly leave the Law & Order or CSI crewsshaking in their primetime boots; then again, perhaps that’s not thepoint. What we do get, at show’s end, is a special car for Chuck andNed, equipped with a clear passenger-side panel, not unlike a giantSizzler sneeze-guard, to allow Chuck to ride shotgun without the dangerof accidentally bumping up against Ned and re-dying. And, of course, anattached rubber glove for hand-holding — though neither of the twoacknowledge its romantic purpose.
Now tell us, dear readers, did that moment make you squeal withdelight? Or gag? I’m more preoccupied with the anxiety of all the othertimes they stand in close proximity, waiting for a passerby or lightbreeze to bump them into one another and send Chuck — and the show’swhole hook — back to an early grave. Also, what happened to the pursuitof Chuck’s killer? Will it be drawn out over the season? Will wecontinue to care? I’m still nursing a major lady-crush on Friel,but I do need to see a little more than this hermetically sealed world.Do you agree?