There once was a piemaker who could raise the dead with a touch — but only for sixty seconds, or else someone else would have to die to take their place. If he touched the resurrected person again, they died permanently. One day, the piemaker was given the opportunity to raise Chuck, his childhood sweetheart... So he did. This act brought the two much closer, but tragically kept them apart; one more touch would mean Chuck would be dead forever. Along with his undead dog, a grumpy private eye, Chuck's eccentric aunts and a singing waitress, they solved murders, asking the dead who their murderers were in those sixty seconds and then collecting the often substantial reward for finding the killers.
That could be the premise of Pushing Daisies if it weren't a laughably inadequate description.
Created by Wonderfalls and Dead Like Me creator Bryan Fuller, and set in a world lavishly decorated in Fifties styles, the show effortlessly makes its faintly ridiculous plots believable, as it deftly traces the line between earnestness and irony. Its fast-paced and witty dialogue, quirky characters, and great acting really bring out what can only be called the heart of the show: showing how people connect — or don't connect — with their fellow humans.
Unfortunately, it ended up doomed to live up to its name. The first season was truncated by the 2007 TV Strikes, and the second season didn't have much of a head of steam under it. The writing team was given 3 episodes to wrap up the series, and the last episode was aired on June 13, 2009 - one year, eight months, one week and three days after the first. The two seasons together make up a normal full-sized season.
The Tropes Are These:
- Aborted Arc: When the first season was cut short due to the Writer's Strike, most of the plot threads set up during the first half received abrupt Ass Pull resolutions. When the second season suffered a similar fate upon the show's cancellation, most lingering threads were simply left hanging, though a choice few received mention in a Ass Pull epilogue. Sadly, the two half seasons do not equal a whole in terms of story.
- Absurdly-Spacious Sewer: "The Smell of Success"
- Accidental Kidnapping: Olive Snook as a child.
- Added Alliterative Appeal: The writers seem very fond of this. See also Repetitive Name, below.
- Recurring character Dwight Dixon
- Merle McQuoddy, his boat the Knockout Nora, and Typhoon Tyrone, which sunk her.
- Main character Charlotte "Chuck" Charles and her father Charles Charles.
- Episode 11 of season 2 is full of alliteration.
- All Germans Are Nazis: Invoked and subverted twice. In "Bad Habits", a threatening guy with an accent, thought to be an 'Angry German' by Emerson Cod, was actually Swiss (and non-threatening). In "Comfort Food" was the Waffle Nazi, who appeared with full Lederhosen get-up, Gratuitous German, speech patterns, and threatening personality - only for it to be revealed as fake: he is neither German nor actually speaks the language, but is putting on a show.
- Almost Kiss: "Pie-lette"
- Always Save the Girl: Ned saves Chuck fully knowing someone else will die for it.
- Ambiguously Gay
- Leo Burns, the coordinator in Comfort Food. Hilarious in Hindsight as he's played by Eric Stonestreet. Oh, and he's the murderer of the week.
- Virtually all the males involved with the aqua dance show in Kerplunk.
- Willy Gherkin, the new real estate agent/former personal trainer in "The Legend of Merle McQuoddy"
- And Starring: With Swoozie Kurtz (Aunt Lily) And Kristin Chenowith (Olive)
- And the Adventure Continues: Due to the sudden cancelling of the show, numerous plot threads were either abruptly tied or left hanging. By its finalé, Series 2 ends with: Vivian discovering what occurred between Charles and Lily, Chuck revealing herself to Lily and Vivian, Ned and Chuck still continuing their relationship, Emerson getting "Lil Gumshoe" published and presumably finding Penny, and Olive staying with Randy Mann and going on to start her own novelty restaurant.
- Animal Reaction Shot: Digby, in "Bitches"
- Appeal to Obscurity: in "Circus Circus":Emerson: Have you seen the special lockup they keep for cocky young acrobats? Because I haven't.
- Arc Villain: Dwight Dixon for half of the second season.
- Arbitrary Skepticism: despite having magical necromancy powers, Ned finds the notion of ghosts risible.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
Simone: Shrimpboy's the gangster in charge of the table and paying off the manager. Anson Chen did eight years in the state pen for armed robbery. Jin Quin is a thug for hire who'll do anything for a few dollars. Louie Lu strangled his mother-in-law, got off on a technicality. Jim is a plumber.
- In "Dim Sum Lose Sum", when discussing the gambling regulars:
Olive: He flew into rages! Roamed the beaches at midnight! Shunned indoor plumbing!
- Also, when Olive tells the legend of Merle Mcquoddy:
- Ashes to Crashes: In the episode "Girth", in this case they aren't human ashes.
- Asshole Victim:
- Lawrence Schatz, the grave-robbing funeral director who dies after Chuck is brought back for more than 60 seconds.
- Pinky McCoy, who fixed horse races resulting in a near-death injury at the Jock-Off 2000.
- Dwight Dixon, a grave robber who was only moments away from shooting Ned and Chuck when Charles Charles's 60 seconds ran out.
- Back from the Dead: Chuck, most obviously; but also, briefly, the week's murder victim(s).
- And now, it would seem, Charles Charles.
- Badass Bystander: Lily, who blasts Chuck's assassin with a shotgun, complete with a nice Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "I can hold my breath for a long time."
- Balancing Death's Books: There's a grace period of a minute, but if Ned doesn't re-touch the re-animated, something else of approximately equal "life" value will die in exchange. And even after said grace period, Ned can't touch the re-animated person/creature/whatever, or they'll be dead again.
- Banana in the Tailpipe: A potato variety appears in "Corpsicle"
- Bandaged Face: Chuck's dad. He even has a smiley face drawn on it.
- Bedsheet Ghost: Happens twice in "Girth": Young Ned has this as a Halloween costume, and Chuck wears this as a trick-or-treater to her aunts.
- Bindle Stick: Young Ned, in "Circus Circus"
- Bitter Almonds: Almond-flavored coffee creamer in "Bitches".
- Bilingual Bonus: In "Dim Sum Lose Sum", the spoken Chinese is all real. except for adding details about the speakeasy, Chuck's translation is nearly verbatim.
- The sign in Emerson's window, supposedly for his PI business, is actually for a restaurant across from the firm that specializes in pork ribs. Because it is a sign from another business visible in Emerson's office, it is readable from inside the office instead of backwards as a sign for the PI firm would be from inside the building.
- Black Humour: All the time, from the word go:Digby was three years, two weeks, six days, five hours and nine minutes old... and not a minute older. *splat*
- Blatant Lies: Any lie Ned ever tells.
- Boarding School of Loneliness, Grayness, and Crushing Depression: The Longborough School For Boys
- "Blind Idiot" Translation: The S2 episode "Robbing Hood" erroneously claims that the Latin phrase "orbis pro vox" translates as "ring for rights" (as in, "ring bells for rights"), when it can at best be translated as "a voice for the deprived".note
- Body Horror: Many of the murder victims, who retain their injuries after Ned brings them back to life. Among them a man with a chunk of his face torn out by a Rottweiler and a woman whose face melted as a result of being pressed up against a lamp.
- Brick Joke: Emerson's confusion of "narcoleptic" and "necrophiliac" — set up in "Pie-lette" for a payoff in "Pigeon".
- Brainy Brunette: Chuck is book smart on everything.
- Bullet Time: "Dim Sum Lose Sum" has a humorous example with a steam explosion.
- Came Back Wrong: All of the bodies of the people Ned brings back to life remain as they were when he touched them. This is not always pleasant to watch. Interestingly, this doesn't seem to apply to the fruits Ned resurrects. One explanation or rationalization could be that Ned's powers can reverse/heal the effects of time or death by "natural" causes but can't reverse physical trauma.
- Canine Companion: Digby (though of course, Ned can't touch him, as Digby was the first thing Ned had ever brought back to life).
- Combine this with Just for Pun and you get Olive's pig companion, Pigby.
- Can't Have Sex, Ever: Ned and Chuck, though deconstructed in that they've apparently found ways around the "no touching" problem.Ned: It's hard enough being in a relationship where we can't touch. But… we improvise, figured out ways around that. I've even built contraptions.
- Cassandra Truth: Charlotte tells Olive the truth in the ninth episode, but Olive understandably believes it’s a Sarcastic Confession:Ned: How much does Olive know?Chuck: Don't worry about what Olive knows. Even if I told her the truth she wouldn't believe me.Ned: You don't know that.Chuck: Yes I do, because I told her and she wouldn't believe me.
- The narrator has "At this very moment" and "The facts were these..."
- Played with in "Robbing Hood":Rob Wright: I know how it must sound, but the facts were these...Chuck: Huh?Rob Wright: These were the facts...
- Played with once by the Narrator himself when describing a scene faked to look like a natural death:Narrator: The facts were not these...
- Played with in "Robbing Hood":
- Emerson's is "Aw, hell no!"
- Which has been stolen by the Narrator once and by Olive on more than one occasion.
- The narrator has "At this very moment" and "The facts were these..."
- Caught with Your Pants Down: Alluded to in "Bzzzzzzzzz!".
- Chekhov's Gun: "Circus Circus" has Chekhov's Cannon. A dwarf with a cannon happens to pass by when Ned and Emerson are at the ringmaster's trailer... then, later in the episode, the human cannonball gets fired at them.
Emerson: It's about time I get to do the gun pointing around here.
- Charles Charles' pocket watch also applies. It was shown in the very first episode, and cropped up again when Lawrence Schatz stole it note , and then became relevant again come Season 2.
- Emerson Cod's revolver also applies; throughout the show it is used only to wave around, but it finally gets fired in "S02E07: Robbing Hood" when he destroys an escape rope. It's even noted by Cod:
- Childhood Friend Romance: Ned and Chuck... more or less.
- Chinese Laborer: Wilfred Woodruff's ancestor, in "The Fun In Funeral".
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Alfredo Aldarisio. Initially a love interest for Olive, he eventually fixes the espresso machine for her and attempts to catch her eye to no avail. Later on in the series, he then simply disappears with minimal explanation and the Alfredo/Olive subplot is dropped, only returning when Olive is quickly paired with Randy Mann when the show suddenly ended.
- Justified, in that Alfredo's last appearance is in an episode where he is Put on a Bus, and Olive realizes she loved him too late.
- City with No Name: The city where the main action takes place is never named, though we do know that it's in (fictitious) Papen County, 131 miles due north of Coeur d'Coeurs (Ned and Chuck's equally fictitious hometown). Information on placing Papen County in a US state or region is internally inconsistent.
- Ned's apartment building, though, is "played" by the famous Bradbury Building in Los Angeles.
- Clear My Name: Ned is jailed for the murder of Billy Balsam in "Bitter Sweets".Emerson: I mean, it's a broad generalization, but my guess is an attractive man who makes pies for a living shouldn't spend even a short amount of time in prison.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Olive Snook, who bordered on Stalker with a Crush early on.
- Clown Car: A number of clowns were driving away from the circus when they were forced off the road and into the lake. When their car is dragged up and the police start pulling the bodies out, it starts out with only one clown...and then another one is pulled out and another one and another one (including a clown wearing stilts), and they just keep coming.
- The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: Even without Ned's aid Emerson Cod is a capable investigator. But he still can't find his daughter.
- Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The interiors of many buildings. The Pie Hole and the morgue are green, Betty's Bees is yellow, the convent (and the nuns' habits) are aqua, and the Chinese restaurant (plus Emerson's office upstairs) are red.
- Comic Role Play: Olive on Aunt Lily— who tells her to pretend she's Chuck, her daughter, and to tell her what she'd say if Chuck were alive. Chuck is listening in.
- Confessional: Ned, in "Bad Habits".
- Continuity Nod: After nabbing a criminal with a fake arm in "Pigeon" (Ned: "Is this the hand you were holding?"), Ned keeps the arm. In later episodes, he uses it to pet Digby and fish things out of a vat of taffy.
- The bee brooch used as a bug in "Bzzzzzz!" is also used for the aforementioned Comic Role Play in "Oh Oh Oh—It's Magic"
- Cool Old Lady: Both of Chuck's aunts are cool old ladies, but especially Aunt Lily, who shot Chuck's murderer. After nearly being killed herself. With zero depth perception. In the very first episode.
- The Coroner: Mmm-hmmm.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: "Dummy", "Bzzzzzzzzz!", "Frescorts"
- The Corpse Stops Here: "Bitter Sweets"
- Cosmic Deadline: The last couple of episodes are a very obvious rush job that fail to resolve most of the lingering plot threads.
- Costume Porn: Everyone dresses very nicely, but it's Lily and Vivian who pull out the bejewelled eyepatches and qipaos.
- Curse Cut Short: in "Circus Circus", a dead clown mentions that the clowns had made up a limerick about an audience member named Bryce von Deenis. Chuck and Ned speculate on the contents of the limerick:Chuck: There was a young man named von DeenisNed: Who they said had a very big— (act break)
- The show also uses Sound-Effect Bleep—see below.
- Cursed with Awesome: Ned can revive the dead with a touch, and has used that power to revive his dog and later his childhood sweetheart, make lots of money investigating murders, and open a thriving bakery by using old, rotted fruit in his pies (since it becomes fresh-off-the-vine as soon as he touches it). And as a result, he can't touch the woman he loves lest she drop dead instantly, ditto his beloved pet, and if he ever eats any of his pies the fruit will wither and rot in his mouth.
- Although, if he ever wanted to make a pie for himself, he could get around the whole rotting-in-his-mouth problem by actually using fresh ingredients, which he does later in the series.
- His second revival was his mother whose lingering caused the death of Chuck's father and then she promptly died when she kissed him good night.
- Cutesy Name Town: Coeur d' Coeurs. You can't really get more cutesy than that. For the non-Francophones in the room, it means "Heart of Hearts"
- Cut Short: The finale is a mad rush to try to tie up several of the loose ends, and misses a few in the process. Stupid network.
- We never did find out what happened to Charles Charles or meet Ned's dad beyond a five second shot at the end of one episode. He was going to be played by George Hamilton. Stupid network.
- Cymbal-Banging Monkey: "Circus Circus"
- Daydream Surprise:
- Olive, as she realizes (too late) how Alfredo feels about her.
- In "Comfort Food", Lily imagines a conversation with Dwight while she waits for him.
- Deadpan Snarker: Emerson Cod, Aunt Lily
- Lampshaded in "Dim Sum Lose Sum", where a sudden lack of snarkage clues Ned and Chuck into Emerson's absence.
- Dead Person Impersonation: "Pigeon"
- Death Amnesia: Though the newly-revived are generally aware that they have died, they do not remember any sort of an afterlife.
- The only one who ever actually recalled the period between death and being alive again Charles Charles just described it as "gliding."
- Death by Childbirth: Chuck's mom. This is later subverted when it is revealed that Aunt Lily is really her mother. She lied because Vivian was engaged to Charles.
- Delicious Distraction: Ned's pies, especially those Chuck bakes with cheese on the crust for her aunts.
- Department of Redundancy Department: everywhere, as well as all over the place. (See also Repetitive Name, below.) Chuck's aunts used to be the Darling Mermaid Darlings. There's a life insurance firm called Uber-Life Life Insurance. The travel agency Chuck frequented was Boutique Travel Travel Boutique. It was run by... Dee Dee.
- Dice Roll Death: A caveat of Ned's resurrection power is that if he brings someone back for more than one minute, another life must be exchanged for the one brought back. This only affects the immediate area and appears to be completely random.
- Digging to China: Young Olive in "Bad Habits"
- Discriminate and Switch: A bartender refuses to serve Emerson in "Girth"—not because he's black, but because he's too tall (the bar, as it turns out, is specifically for horse jockeys).
- Double Entendre: Hur Hur, Bee-Girls. It's a pun on B-Girl, a euphemism for prostitute.
- Driving a Desk: Olive Snook on horseback in "Girth" and Dilly Balsam in a motorboat in "Bittersweets".
- Equivalent Exchange: Giving someone life costs another's: a human's for a human's, an animal's for an animal's, a plant's for a plant's.
- Erotic Dream: Ned, in "Bitches".
- Establishing Series Moment: The very first scene of the show is of young Ned and Digby running playfully through a gorgeous field of flowers until Digby abruptly gets run over by a truck and Ned resurrects him. This instantly establishes both the premise of the series and its signature mix of storybook whimsy and morbid humor.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Specifically, Jim Dale always refers to "Young Ned" in the flashbacks, but adult Ned is always "The Piemaker."
- Messy Pig: Pigby who accidentally killed someone in "Bad Habits".
- Evil Gloating: Dilly in "Bitter Sweets"... until the Pie Hole gang proved they had nothing to do with her brother's murder.
- Family Relationship Switcheroo: Chuck is the daughter of the woman she always believed to be her aunt. See also Parental Abandonment, below.
- Fairy Tale: Essentially. It mixes what is something of a fairy tale romance with some of the darker themes present in the older fairy stories.
- Faking the Dead: Chuck, sort of. Olive thinks Chuck's faking her death.
- Used a fair bit, especially with Olive's outfits — the costuming department really got the most out of using Kristin Chenoweth, that's for sure. The ultra-low-cut mermaid costume with the one-leg so she had to hop up and down to move is probably the shining example.
- They also got a fair bit of use out of Lee Pace as well. Perhaps the best example for him is the two minutes or so he's standing in nothing but a pair of boxers in the season 2 opener.
- Film Noir: The show's aesthetic draws pretty heavily on the Film Noir, particularly Emerson's office, the clipped, rapid-fire dialogue, and a good portion of "Dim-Sum Lose Some". Also, several film noir classics can be seen playing in the background in a few scenes of "Corpsicle".
- First-Episode Resurrection: Chuck dies and is revived in "Pie-lette".
- 555: 555-0155 is Emerson Cod's phone number.
- Flash Back:
- As mentioned above, each episode begins with a segment indicating something about young Ned's past.
- Usually the Victim of the Week recounts something about their murder, or the Narrator sums up the clues Emerson and company have found to solve the Mystery of the Week.
- Flirty Step Siblings / Not Blood Siblings: How they explain Vivian and Lily having the same last name as Charles and Vivian thinking Chuck is hers and Lily’s niece if Charles is Vivian’s ex-fiancé and Chuck being Lily’s secret daughter.
- In "The Smell of Success" Aunt Lily mentions a sweater that belonged to Charlotte's mother. The narrator mentions that this made her go to "her dark place." The moment is framed such that it appears Chuck's aunt simply misses her niece. But a later episode reveals that Aunt Lily is Chuck's mother.
- In the first episode, Lily mentions that Chuck used to threaten to bake anti-depressants into their food in order to cheer them up. Come episode two...
- Four-Philosophy Ensemble:
- Friendless Background: Ned very explicitly had no friends as of the start of the series. Emerson and Olive start as more business associate and oblivious crusher than anything.
- Friendly Local Chinatown: As part of the Emerson's PI status, as well as the pervasive noirish milieu, his office is located in the local Chinatown, directly above a dim-sum restaurant.
- Genki Girl: Chuck, determined to make the most of her second chance at life.
- Genre Savvy: Chuck is aware of and afraid of CHUDs (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers).
- Chuck's father is aware of and afraid of becoming a flesh-eating Zombie.
- G-Rated Drug: Chuck spikes her aunts' pies with homeopathic remedies, and Aunt Lily accidentally get an overdose in "Corpsicle". A Mushroom Samba results, and Hilarity Ensues.
- Halloween Episode: "Girth".
- Homage: Exactly how much this show owes to the classic French film Amélie varies from "it's the writer's favourite film, there's bound to be some similarities" to "attempted shot-for-shot remake".
- Also see the homage to Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds in "Bitter Sweets".
- As well as the Hitchcock references in "Bitches", culminating with Emerson's dream homage to Vertigo.
- In some episodes Chuck's fashion style is a clear tribute to Audrey Hepburn.
- A lot of scenes are shot in style of a Film Noir with the window shades casting shadows over the characters' faces, most notably in "Girth", "Bitches", and "Bad Habits" when Olive goes to hire Emerson.
- Hero of Another Story: Emerson Cod, who runs the B-Plot in almost every episode; as numerous episodes are Ned/Chuck/Olive central for the A-Plot, Emerson always takes care of the murder case alongside it when other plots are explored elsewhere.
- Hormone-Addled Teenager: The 14-15 year old son of the dead lighthouse keeper in "Legend of Merle McQuoddy" is genuinely upset, but when Olive offers him a hug he buries his face in her cleavage.Olive: There-there... [pushes him away]Elliot: [moves to do the same to Chuck]Chuck: Not here-here. [also pushes him away]
- Horrible Judge of Character: Aunt Vivian seems to have really bad taste in men.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Casting Lee Pace and Chi McBride (6'3" and 6'4", respectively) opposite Anna Friel and Kristin Chenoweth (5'2" and 4'11", respectively) guaranteed lots of this.
- Human Shield: The villain in "Oh Oh Oh—It's Magic" does this to Olive, and is mocked for his choice of hostage by Emerson.Emerson: You need a bigger human shield or something. You're hanging out all shorts of places I can shoot!
- Humiliation Conga: Buddy suffered one in his Flash Back in "Frescorts."
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: All of them are whimsical, from "Pie-lette" to "Dim Sum Lose Sum".
- Idiosyncratic Wipes: Often an Iris Out. These were once extremely common, especially in cinema, but they look old-fashioned or even slightly cheesy to modern eyes, which are used to more unobtrusive scene wipes. (Therefore, perfectly suited to the show's theme of retro charm.).
- In "Oh Oh Oh—It's Magic", some of the scene transitions are curtains opening and closing.
- "Robbing Hood" uses an animated bell for some of its scene transitions.
- "Window Dressed To Kill" uses slide-close doors.
- "Kerplunk" used shark jaws.
- Ignored Enamored Underling: Olive to Ned, who eventually hashes it out with her.
- Impairment Shot: In "Oh Oh Oh—It's Magic", we see what the dead person sees when Ned touches them a second time.
- Impossibly Awesome Magic Trick: A few examples in the episode "Oh oh oh it's Magic." While several tricks of the episode are explained throughout the course of the episode, a couple are patently impossible (including the twins elevating a Lovely Assistant with bolts of electricity).
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Ned, in "Circus Circus"; Emerson, in "Robbing Hood".
- Indirect Kiss: Ned and Chuck, by necessity, in increasingly creative ways.
- Insistent Terminology: In "Pie-lette":Ned: I asked you not to use the word "zombie". It's disrespectful. Stumbling around squawking for brains? That's not how they do. And "undead"? Nobody wants to be "un"-anything. Why begin a statement with a negative? It's like saying, "I don't disagree." Just say you agree.Emerson: Are you comfortable with "living dead"?Ned: You're either living or you're dead. When you're living, you're alive. When you're dead, that's what you are. But when you're dead and then you're not, you're alive again. Can't we say "alive again"? Didn't that sound nice?
- Institutional Apparel: Ned wore a bright orange jumpsuit when he was Mistaken for Murderer in "Bitter Sweets".
- Intercontinuity Crossover:
- In "Comfort Food"; Mary Anne Marie Beattle, from the Wonderfalls episode "Muffin Buffalo", appears.
- Happy Time Temp Agency from Dead Like Me is mentioned in the first episode of season 2
- Interrogating the Dead: At least Once an Episode
- I Taste Delicious: Said almost word for word by the Colonel when Ned brings him back in the episode Comfort Food.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Olive expresses this sentiment at the end of "Bitches" but struggles to actually stay true to it.
- Jaw Drop: Ned, when he's shocked."If I could breathe I would vomit."
- Just Between You and Me: Subverted. The murderer in "Dummy" explains his entire plan... without realizing that the heroes, who are trapped inside a car, can't even hear him.
- Lampshade Hanging: "What the hell happened to people shooting each other with guns?"
- Last Request: Chuck appends asking for this to Ned's usual "who murdered you?" once she enters the picture.
- The love theme, which is somewhat the theme of the entire series.
- Emerson Cod's theme, which is a noir-esque jazz piece with vibraphone and finger snapping.
- Olive Snook's Sexophone theme.
- In the season two opener, "Bzzzzzzz!" a cheerfully tango-ized variation of "Flight of the Bumblebee" threads under and through the rest of the background music.
- Arrangements of "Ave Maria" appear in convent scenes fairly often.
- Lighthouse Point: One episode featured the murder of a lighthouse keeper.
- Lip-Lock Sun-Block: Ned and Chuck's first kiss as children
- Literal Cliffhanger / Take My Hand!: towards the end of "The Norwegians".
- Literal Metaphor: Emerson Cod is fond of these.
- In "The Smell of Success":Emerson: Your book was a bomb.Napoleon: Who are you to criticize my life's work?!Emerson: [deadpan] Your book. Was a bomb. It exploded.
- And this from "Bad Habits":Emerson: That's bat crap.Olive: It's a frickin' convent. Show some respect.Emerson: [pointing at the white-streaked wall of the bell tower] I'm showing you bat crap.
- In "The Smell of Success":
- Littlest Cancer Patient: Subverted, in "Corpsicle", by heart patient Abner Newsome, the least likable kid-with-a-terminal-disease in the history of the trope.
- It's because he's heartless. (See also Stealth Pun.)
- Locked Out of the Loop: Olive doesn't know about Ned's strange touch-related gift, other than that he can't/won't/doesn't touch Chuck or Digby and has a locked room full of rotten fruit. Chuck actually told Olive the truth, with predictable results.
- Chuck's aunts don't know that Chuck has been brought back to life.
- At least, not until the last few seconds of the series finale.
- Chuck's aunts don't know that Chuck has been brought back to life.
- Lonely Rich Kid: Olive grew up this way.
- Long Lost Sibling: Ned has twin half-brothers from his father's second marriage. Ned's father abandoned them, too
- Lost Her In A Card Game: how Mei got engaged, in "Dim Sum Lose Sum".
- Ludicrous Precision: The narrator when explaining how long ago something happened.
- MacGuffin: Charles Charles' pocket watch, apparently.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: Emerson suggests this to Ned, about Chuck's alive-agained father, Charles Charles.
- Meaningful Name: Many of them, including
- Harold Hundin ("Hundin" is German for "female dog") in "Bitches"
- Buddy Amicus ("amicus" is Latin for "friend") in "Frescorts"
- Bao Ting ("bao" is Cantonese for "bun") in "Dim Sum Lose Sum"
- Napoleon LeNez ("Le Nez" is French for "the nose") in "Smell of Success"
- Coeur d'Coeurs (French for "Heart of Hearts", symbolizing Ned's suppressed emotions and past).
- Arguably, Ned's name - an anagram of "end", symbolizing his connection to death.
- Men Don't Cry: in "Bzzzzzzz!", the Season 2 opener, Emerson is quite outspoken about this. Even Ned agrees.
- Mood Motif:
- There's music intended to bring to mind wind in the episode "The Smell of Success".
- Motor Mouth: Ned tends to babble rapidly when he's nervous, and he's nervous quite frequently.
- Arguably Chuck as well. The two of them together have a lot of whiplash-inducing back-and-forth conversations together.
- Mundane Utility: Ned's pies are great because the fruit he uses is extremely fresh; all the fruit he touches is brought back to life, so it tastes like it's not more than a few minutes off the plant when it hits the oven.
- Mr. Vice Guy: Emerson Cod and Greed.
- Navel-Deep Neckline: Olive rocks some while wearing the Darling Mermaid Darling outfit.
- Never Say "Die": Ned is reluctant to ever refer to someone as dying or having been killed if it's due to his touch.
- Never Say That Again: Averted.Emerson: And don't you say "ginormous", 'cause that ain't a word.
- Never Trust a Trailer: the episode "Bitches" was advertised in a way that implied Ned and Olive would hook up.
- The Nicknamer: Emerson has a nickname for every character, every episode.
- Especially so when you consider he calls even calls pre-nicknamed characters by his own terms; despite Charlotte Charles understandably being called "Chuck", Emerson instead opts for "Dead Girl".
- No Full Name Given: If Ned has a last name, we haven't yet learned it. The narrator, who often refers to characters by their full names, calls him "young Ned" in the flashbacks and "the pie maker" in the present. Doubles as a meaningful name, given that it is an anagram for 'End' and 'NDE', the acronym for 'Near Death Experience'.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: in "Bitter Sweets". Ned goes to clean up a vermin infestation planted by Olive and Chuck (a task made even more difficult for him because he can't directly touch the dead rodents) in a rival's store—only to find a corpse and get Mistaken for Murderer.
- Not Using the Zed Word: Ned, in "Pie-lette"; he thinks it's disrespectful.
- Obfuscating Disability: In a season 2 episode we see a brief flashback to Emerson Cod's childhood. His mother faked putting him in danger to expose a man who had made fraudulent insurance claims. She pushed a stroller with a baby doll in it down a flight of stairs- the allegedly wheelchair-bound man with a neckbrace and a broken arm ran from his wheelchair to catch the baby with both hands.
- Of Corpse He's Alive: Used to flush out the victim's murderer. Of course, done with the advantage that, for one minute, he is alive...
- Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?: Subverted, as is usual for this trope: Olive asks Ned if that isn't really a rolling pin under his apron; Ned silently produces the rolling pin, to Olive's dismay.
- Overly-Long Gag: All the clowns being taken away on stretchers in Circus Circus. It doesn't help that one of them is still on stilts.
- Parental Abandonment / Parental Neglect: Ned and Chuck both ended up orphaned and eventually grew up in the care of others.
- Missing Mom: Ned's mother died suddenly when he was nine. Chuck grew up believing that her mother had died in childbirth, but later discovers that her mother is her "Aunt" Lily.
- Disappeared Dad: Chuck's father died when she was eight, as an unfortunate side effect of Ned bringing back his mother. Ned's father just abandoned him. Emerson Cod is himself a Disappeared Dad...but not through any fault of his own.
- The Pollyanna: Chuck. Despite losing her father, being unable to speak to her aunts, and completely unable to make contact with the man she loves, she still keeps her optimism for the majority of the series.
- Post-Kiss Catatonia: Ned sort of dangles in the air with his eyes closed and his lips puckered even after Chuck has stopped kissing him. It happens every time she kisses him, along with the theme music swelling with violins.
- Power Incontinence: Ned is forced to use an extendable arm with a fake hand on the end to pet his dog, and to come up with multiple creative ways to touch Chuck, because his power is always on.
- Power Trio: Ned/Chuck/Emerson as Ego/Superego/Id, respectively.
- Also: Thin/Short/Big (respectively) and ¡Three Amigos!.
- Previously on…: The Narrator mentions Ned's ability and its rules Once an Episode so new viewers are not lost.
- Private Detective: Emerson Cod
- Punny Name: Randy Mann.
- Raising the Steaks: Ned's touch can revive anything dead, including bear skin rugs and rotten fruit.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Aunt Lily and Aunt Vivian.
- Repetitive Name: Charlotte "Chuck" Charles and her father, Charles Charles
- Which is why the recurring fan favorite choice for Ned's last name is Edwards.
- The Mother Superior of the nunnery is named Mary Mary.
- The Resolution Will Not Be Televised: Although a rather rushed epilogue of sorts was stuck on the end of the final episode, a "third season" of comics is due to be published by DC in 2011. It will apparently involve a "fresh take on the Zombie Apocalypse"
- Retro Universe: From Chuck's Hepburn-esque wardrobe to Ned's and Emerson's beautiful old cars, the world is like a more colorful version of the past... or the past as it should have been (although the idealized past apparently includes the Reagan administration as seen in "The Smell of Success").
- Ridiculously Alive Undead: While Ned doesn't think "undead" is the best descriptor, those brought back by his power do fall under this trope. Any being Ned brings back to life appears to be no different from the way they were before they died, unless they sustained a gruesome injury or have significantly rotted. They can eat, drink, get hurt, etc. They don't appear to age, and to the trained nose they smell of death, but that's about it.
- The Runaway: in "Circus Circus". (Kids still run away to join the circus in this world.)
- Running Gag: Emerson has trouble keeping track of the difference between "narcoleptic" and "necrophiliac."
- Sadistic Choice: In "The Legend of Merle McQuoddy", Charles Charles, the father Chuck always longed for, offers to take his daughter on a life of adventure—far, far away from the man she loves.
- Sarcasm Mode: Emerson, all the time: "Oh, look at that, a dumb idea just found a friend!" And very occasionally, Ned: "'Come to our show, Frère Pie-Maker! It's a magic show."
- Scooby Stack: Chuck, Emerson, and Ned peeping out from a curtain in "Dim Sum Lose Sum".
- Secret Chaser: Oscar Vibenius
- Secret-Keeper: Though most of the main characters are keeping secrets, Olive seems to be an especially popular secret repository.
- Except, of course, the biggest secret of all...
- Serious Business: Very nearly everything, from honey to pop-up books to scratch-and-sniffs to synchronized swimming to department store window dressings.
- Sesquipedalian Smith Emerson Cod
- Sexy Backless Outfit: The Dandy Lion model costumes in "Dummy". At the same time, the front leaves everything to the imagination.
- Shaped Like What It Sells: The Pie Hole is shaped like a giant pie.
- Sherlock Scan: Oddly enough, it's not Private Detective Emerson Cod who does this, but smell experts Napoleon Le Nez and Oscar Vibenius.
- "Follow the yellow thick hose!"
- Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds
- Emerson describes a character as going Blood Simple.
- The Godfather Part II: "I knew it was you, Fredo."
- Happy Time Temp Agency
- The Sound of Music
- Father Dowling Mysteries
- Hamlet: "What got thee to a nunnery?"
- Sister Christian
- "The Legend of Merle McQuoddy" is larded with shout outs to the 1977 Disney movie Pete's Dragon (1977). The movie had starred Pushing Daisies' narrator Jim Dale.
- Superman The MovieOlive: You've got me? Who's got you?!
- Vertigo: in "Bitches"
- "You want to walk down together?" "That'd be swell, Harvey."
- They Might Be Giants : Olive makes a metaphor about "a birdcage in your soul" and sings Birdhouse In Your Soul not long after in the same episode.
- 'I'm channeling fear into anger.' 'Anger leads to hate.' 'And hate leads to stress baking.'
- "Magicians?" "Illusionists!"
- Emerson describes Chuck as happy-Golightly.
- A 'blink-and-you'll-miss-it' example appears in episode 3, when Alfredo Aldarisio is imagining the atmosphere leaving the earth and sucking him out into space while destroying the earth, you can see a yellow bulldozer driving by outside.
- Another 'blink-and-you'll-miss-it' example appears in "The Norwegians" — the charcoal sketch of Dwight Dixon Vivian gives to Emerson has Dwight posed like Rose in Titanic (1997) (complete with his pocket watch around his neck like Rose's sapphire necklace).
- Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: "I grew up" is the reason Ned gives for disliking Halloween, even though it is really because that's when he found out his father had a second family.
- Similar Squad - the Norwegians though judging from some viewer reactions, they weren't similar enough
- Single-Target Sexuality: Ned doesn't want anyone but Chuck.
- He's claimed to have had girlfriends before Chuck, albeit not very believably. It may be a case of First Girl Wins.
- Aside from various emotional issues he has with getting too close to people, stuff like the little story about the bear skin rug explains a lot.
- He's claimed to have had girlfriends before Chuck, albeit not very believably. It may be a case of First Girl Wins.
- Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty: Very, very shiny.
- Smoking Gun Control: The newly-revived generally have incomplete or imperfect information regarding their deaths.
- Smells of Death: One episode introduces a man obsessed with scents and odors, and he instantly takes an interest in Chuck and Digby, Ned's girlfriend and dog respectively that he brought back to life with his magic touch. He can smell that there's something off about them and wants to know what, as there's not much that he can't normally suss out through smell.
- Averted in Bitter Sweets. The murder plot is handled in the first 12 minutes. Well, the first one anyway.
- Sound-Effect Bleep:
- in "Circus Circus", Ned repeats the secretary's description of the head clown as a "real low-down, dirty _____________" just as a circus performer walks by breathing fire, the flames both drowning Ned out and preventing viewers from reading his lips. When the flames clear, Emerson says "I've never heard you say those words."
- in "Bad Habits", a revived nun swears a blue streak, conveniently drowned out by a church bell.
- Stage Magician: Ned's twin half-brothers and their mentor, the Great Hermann.
- Stealth Pun: Usually Subverted, in that the narrator does not spare himself the joy of actually making the pun. For example, in "The Smell of Success" Ned dredges up a sock from the sink in the kitchen of the Pie Hole. By the reactions of Chuck, Olive, and Emerson, its smell is most unpleasant.The Narrator: The message was clear. Someone wanted to make a stink.
- Stigmatic Pregnancy Euphemism: Lily spent time at a convent when pregnant with Chuck.
- Stupid Sexy Flanders: Emerson can't stop looking at the highly effeminate male aqua dancer in the series finale. And he's not happy about it.
- Sugar Bowl: The Pushing Daisies world is brightly coloured, full of pies, tender sweet moments, coy glances, happy honeybees, whimsy, and little charming gestures. This offsets the bizarre murders, morbid humor, and unflinching examinations of personal responsibility and morality.
- The Summation: The narrator does this, sometimes several times an episode, and always starting with the phrase "the facts were these..."
- Sure, Let's Go with That: As to why Chuck is alive, the simplest answer is that she faked her death. See also Cassandra Truth.
- With Improbable Fencing Powers justified by the page quote of Sword Fight.
- Synchronized Swarming: While following a case where a woman says she was attacked by a "terrifying bee man", Ned speculates about being chased by a human-shaped swarm of bees. Turns out it was actually a person covered in bees.
- Taxidermy Is Creepy: the reason Randy Mann doesn't have many friends.
- Taxidermy Terror: Ned is terrified of preserved animals, but not for the usual reasons. He's afraid of accidentally resurrecting them.
- That Reminds Me of a Song: With Broadway actresses Kristin Chenoweth and Ellen Greene in the cast, it was inevitable.
- Unfortunately, Olive was provided a missed love connection in the person of one Broadway veteran Raul Esparza, who... well, would a duet been too much to ask for?
- File his song-less appearances on the show along with that of Christopher Seiber.
- Unfortunately, Olive was provided a missed love connection in the person of one Broadway veteran Raul Esparza, who... well, would a duet been too much to ask for?
- Theme Naming: Ned's three closest human associates all have food-related names: Olive Snook, Emerson Cod, Charlotte Charles. (A charlotte is a French dessert: a "crust" made of ladyfinger cookies enclosing a mousse of some sort. Her nickname, "Chuck", can also refer to a cut of beef.)
- Also, both Snook and Cod are types of fish.
- They Called Me Mad!: The scent scientists—both Napoleon Le Nez and Oscar Vibenius.
- Mark Chase during his Motive Rant about the invention of the Dandy-Lion SX.
- They Would Cut You Up: Ned's greatest fear.Ned: Ever since I was a kid, I'd have this dream where somebody would find out what I could do. It starts off with lots of ice cream and balloons and ends in a small white room where little bits are cut out of me until there's nothing left to cut.
- This Is No Time for Knitting: Literally—Emerson Cod's knitting needles turn out to be instrumental in saving himself, Ned and Chuck from the bad guy.
- Throwing Your Sword Always Works: "The Fun in Funeral" has a slight variant—Ned throws his sword into the wall, where it trips the fleeing villain.
- Timeshifted Actor: Because of the opening flashbacks mentioned above.
- Title-Only Opening: Made in some way out of daisies.
- Tomboyish Name: Charlotte "Chuck" Charles. (A common trope in Bryan Fuller works.)
- Tradesnark™: Both the Narrator and Ned refer to "Betty's Bees, trademark" in "Bzzzzzzzzz!".
- Translation Convention: Subverted in "Dim Sum Lose Sum", when the Narrator notes that "Bao chose to respond in English."
- Translation: "Yes": In "Dummy", when the CEO of Dandy Lion is presenting a crash test to Japanese investors:CEO: Science guy, tell them what happens in here!Scientist: This is where we use electronic-anthropromorphic units.CEO: [to investors] Dummy.Scientist: To test the Dandy Lion SX for structural integrity, as well as the viability of all the restraint and impact-initiated safety systems.CEO: We crash things in here. Boom desu ka!
- Theme Twin Naming: Averted if you consider the show tendency to alliterative and repetitive names.
- Twitchy Eye: Ned. As noted by Emerson, Chuck and the Narrator, it twitches when he's lying.
- Unbelievable Source Plot: Subverted because the investigator is on the inside and therefore knows the secret. The protagonist can bring the dead to life for a minute and interview them about their death. Sometimes, it feels like they still have to lie all the time to others about why they know so much. Not *quite* a paradigmatic example, but still showcases the endless lies necessary to cover their secret investigative trick.
- Undeath Always Ends: Averted with Chuck, Digby, and Mr. Charles. Exaggerated with everyone else, for good reason.
- Unlimited Wardrobe: To the point Chuck can dress thematically to the centerpiece of a given episode. So can Olive. And Chuck's aunts... right down to Lily having eyepatches to match her outfits.
- Un-Paused: In the first episode, the first thing Chuck does after Ned brings her back to life is grab his tie and bang him on the lid of her coffin in self-defense against her killer.
- Uranus Is Showing: Young Emerson gets sent to the principal's office for making this joke.
- Valley Girl: Elise, the gold-digging wife in "Robbing Hood."
- Waking Up at the Morgue: at least Once an Episode, starting with Chuck in the first episode
- Weather and Environment:
- Redemption in the Rain: the aunts, in "The Smell of Success"
- Snow Means Love: "The Legend of Merle McQuoddy"
- A Storm Is Coming: "Comfort Food" and "The Legend of Merle McQuoddy".
- Wham Line: "I'm... Charlotte's mother."
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Following the sudden cancellation of the show, the finalé of Season 2 leaves a few plot threads haning:
- The relationship plot between Alfredo Aldarisionote and Olive.
- The fate of re-living Charles Charles.
- The fate of Ned's father, as well as the hints of his return.
- Whodunnit to Me?: Chuck helps solve her own murder in "Pie-lette".
- Window Love: Practically obligatory for Ned and Chuck, as they can't touch in any other way.