Turn Off the Music on PUSHING DAISIES

I know Pushing Daisies is so sugary-sweet it can cause cavities; and that’s to say nothing of all the pie puns and silly names and the endless repetition of this week’s catchphrase (in the season premiere it was “Betty’s Bees” that got repeated about 300 times). But I like it. I have high tolerance for whimsy, as well as goofball private-eye shows where this week’s mystery somehow reflects back on the inner lives of the main characters. The show it most resembles is Moonlighting — goofy mysteries that allow the main characters to reflect on their personal problems; rapidly-delivered, pun-laden scripts; lavish production values. It hasn’t yet shown an ability to stretch into different kinds of episodes the way Moonlighting did with its Shakespeare and film noir parodies, and it would help if Pushing Daisies would similarly do some episodes that depart from the basic formula. (Yes, I am saying that Pushing Daisies needs more gimmicks. Paradoxical, isn’t it?) Also, this kind of show can burn out really quick. But for now, it’s fun. Even if the character I identify with the most is Emerson, the only person in the cast who operates according to real-world logic and is driven insane because he’s in a world where logic doesn’t apply.

But, and I know I mentioned this last season, they really need to turn down the music. Originally I thought the narrator was going to be the biggest flaw in the show, but they’ve figured out how to use the narrator without over-using him. (He is, essentially, there to talk about all the plot stuff that the show doesn’t really care about; might as well have the narrator tell us how the murder was done instead of having the characters make the speech.) Now it’s clear that the incessant, never-ending background music is the biggest irritant. A lot of shows over-use background music, as kind of an instant mood-setter, but Pushing Daisies‘ score never stops. It’s not a bad score; it’s actually quite good, but it just never stops, and it’s at a pretty high volume level too, sometimes in danger of drowning out the dialogue. We know why they’re doing this; they think it’s necessary to sustain the stylized, whimsical mood. But it was distracting when the show began, and it’s even more distracting now. If they think that a simple dialogue scene can’t work without a loud underscore telling us that this show is cute and sweet, then they may not have enough faith in the ability of the characters, acting and writing to sustain that mood.

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