Watching this week’s Pushing Daisies, it occurred to me that some elements of this show’s formula are surprisingly similar to Arrested Development, even though the shows are very different in tone. Both shows have deliberately absurd, outlandish plots and over-the-top eccentric characters. Both shows have an omniscient, detatched third-person narrator who constantly tells us what the characters are thinking and what they’ve done in the past, as well as filling in large plot gaps with his calm storytelling. (And both shows were accused, with some justice, of over-using the narrator.) Both shows try to end every episode by having at least one of the characters realize that the crazy events of this week’s story have some kind of parallel to their own personal problems, and learn some kind of lesson from that. Almost every episode of Arrested Development had a moment near the end where the narrator would tell us something along the lines of: “That’s when Michael realized that what [his father/Tobias/wacky eccentric guest character] was doing was exactly the same as what he was doing to his son.” And Pushing Daisies usually has a similar moment where Ned realizes that the mistakes made by one of this week’s guest characters are the same mistakes he’s making in his own life, and the narrator informs us that Ned has learned his lesson about letting people go, learning to live with being different, etc.
As I said, the shows are not remotely the same; PD is soft and sweet, while AD was 19 minutes of hard-edged material followed by one minute of lesson-learning. And it’s not remotely the only show where the protagonist learns some kind of lesson about himself by drawing a parallel with what other characters are doing. Nor is it the only show where a narrator (or Doogie Howser in his diary or whatever) will explain the lesson of the week. But I do find that PD and AD have a similar feel at times. Such a comparison may not bode well for PD, but since it’s still getting beaten by KITT, my comparisons really can’t do much to hurt it at this point.
Looking for more?
Get the best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.