Complex TV


Other dramas use their opening moments to establish their own unconventional intrinsic norms. Pushing Daisies opens with a shot of an exaggeratedly lush field of bright yellow daisies, with a young boy and his dog running in slow motion. A British man’s voice-over says, “At this very moment in the town of Coeur d’Coeurs, Young Ned was 9 years, 27 weeks, 6 days, and 3 minutes old. His dog Digby was 3 years, 2 weeks, 6 days, 5 hours and 9 minutes old. . . . And not a minute older.” At that moment, Digby is hit by a truck, marking a clear tonal blend of lush stylized beauty and stark presentation of death, as framed by a storybook-style narrative voice, juxtapositions that proved to be a hallmark for the series. The narrator is a key intrinsic norm, providing an authoritative voice from outside the storyworld to allow for swift and densely packed narrative momentum, while providing specific details (such as the precise age of characters), often prefaced with the phrase, “The facts were these.” The sequence goes on to explain the precise premise for the supernatural scenario, with Ned’s gift to reanimate the dead with a touch and the rule that another touch would kill the reanimated person or animal, while portraying the emotionally scarring moments from his youth when he learned about his power. Pushing Daisies’ “Pie-lette” faces the challenge of needing to convey a very elaborate fantasy premise, to establish an unconventional storytelling mode and visual style, and to create a compelling emotional hook to a series that could otherwise be dismissed as a whimsical novelty. It succeeds in all of these tasks, while also creating a core model of weekly mysteries layered with larger character and plot arcs, as well as distinguishing itself as a truly unique program within a medium that rarely sees such distinctiveness in style. The most successful pilots announce what they are, providing a template for both the producers and viewers to move forward within the ongoing series.

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