A couple of weeks ago, ABC canceled Pushing Daisies, a show about which I could never figure out if it was crazily quirky or quirkily crazy. Either way, it was a show that I never really thought about all that hard about after it was over.
It was good, dark fun, but it wasn’t a show that I missed during the writer’s strike, either. For whatever reason, it never crossed the threshold into greatness.
So while I’m sad to see it go, I won’t be rushing out to buy the DVDs. Some people will, of course, and they are the people behind the inevitable “Save Pushing Daisies” campaigns, where no doubt 100,000 people all thought it was their original idea to send daisies to the “head of ABC.” Which, in the show’s iconography, would be the floating, disembodied head of Walt Disney.
Of course, you can send ’em dead flowers by the U.S. mail, and it ain’t going to help.
What will help? Two words: Time Machine.
Here’s the idea: guest star Crispin Glover invents a Time Machine — disguised as an easter egg in an iPhone App called “Easter Egg” — that allows Emerson, Olive, Chuck and the Piemaker to go around in history and solve the mysterious or controversial deaths of famous people: JFK, Kurt Cobain, Howard Hughes, Harry Houdini. There will be a whole episode where they follow the original King Tut exhibit around the country, trying to break in and talk to the boy king. Look for the Steve Martin cameo!
Naturally, you’ll have to rename the show. I suggest either Chuck and Ned’s Excellent Adventure or — even better — Piemaker Who.
Now some people might think that this messes too much with the premise of the show. To which I say “what premise, exactly?” Was it a straight-up mixed-up lovers romance? CSI: Fantasyland? An absurdist comedy? An extended philosophical look at the nature of death? The answers to all of those questions was “yes.” That you couldn’t quite figure the premise out was part of the charm, but also what eventually doomed it with the mass audience.
However, a guy who can raise the dead and his wacky friends time-traveling via hotwired iPhone solving the mysteries behind famous deaths? That’s a premise!
In order to do this, of course, you’ll need to slightly bend another one of the cardinal rules of the show: that if something that the Piemaker revives stays alive for longer than a minute, something else that’s like that original thing dies. But that’s actually easy: it turns out that one of the unintended consequences of bending the space-time continuum is that the 1-minute rule is changed to about 53 minutes or so.
So they have to solve the mystery in what is essentially real time, just like “24.” Only much more realistic!
And naturally, every show will have some touchstones: Emerson always say “HELLLL, NO!” at some point; Olive & Chuck will go back to the cleavagelicious costumes from the first season; the Piemaker will make some melancholy comment on the nature of life. Oh, and Olive will sing a song every episode. Just because.
Naturally, the famous dead celebrities will be a big part of each episode. For example, in a very special sweeps episode for the entire family, they travel all the way back to 1994 to revive Kurt Cobain before his body is found by the authorities. Emerson — wearing the smiley face Nirvana T-shirt — keeps asking: “was it Courtney, Kurt? Was it Courtney?”
However, Kurt is still too strung out on smack to tell them anything coherent. All he can do is sing what happened to him, but it comes out non-linear, like his lyrics. In order to get him to focus, they get him to sing a duet of “I’ve Got You Babe” with Olive. However, when Kurt and Olive sing it, everybody is so entranced that they forget the time limit, and as a consequence, Billy Corgan drops dead. Everybody wins!
Seriously, who wouldn’t watch that? Piemaker Who, coming next fall to ABC!
Next week, my plan to save Friday Night Lights by turning it into a variety show!