I'm awfully glad that I'm spending time doubling back to take a second look at the episodes submitted to Emmy jurors.
A week or so ago, while noodling the race for best comedy actor, I vastly overrated the performance of Lee Pace while recalling the pilot episode of "Pushing Daisies" that aired last fall. But last night I watched it again. Good thing.
Back when I saw it in September, I was bedazzled by that candy-colored heaven where love really does exist — as sweet as cherry pie — and death can be fixed. But since then I have wrongly remembered Lee Pace's performance as being more considerable than it was, even carrying the whole show.
Lee Pace is aces, yes, but now that I've just watched the "Pie-lette" episode of "Pushing Daisies" again, I see he's much more reserved than I recalled. That's perfect for a doe-eyed (dough-eyed?) baker whose yearning for his first love still simmers in his oven, but Emmy voters like to bite into pie-lot instead of pie-little. They like to see bigger perfs, more theatrics.
Although there are some very impressive, understated scenes that Lee Pace plays out superbly. His best comes when he brings his ol' childhood love back to life with a magic touch and, all bashful and aflutter, confesses to her, "I used to … when I lived next door to you … I had a crush … I was in … you … were my first kiss."
They come close to kissing again, but, of course, they can't. Resurrected people die for good if this pie chef touches them a second time. They are doomed to be divided by a wall, real and imagined, that they touch instead when trying to connect. Late in the episode, when they discover that she was murdered because the toy monkeys she carried were secretly made of gold, they even put the monkeys' lips together in a smooch.
Awwww. Yeah, lots of Emmy voters will be smitten by Lee Pace. He's in this race because he's good and he stars in a one-hour episode. Over the past eight years, five winners prevailed with one-hour episodes competing against sitcoms half that length. Now Lee Pace is up against two more flashy perfs in one-hour episodes — by Steve Carell ("The Office") and Tony Shalhoub ("Monk") — and a darned good turn by Alec Baldwin in a half-hour slice of "30 Rock."
In the screen-grabs below, you can see Pace's reax to the news that his childhood gal pal was killed, then spy him bringing her back to life with a magic touch, yearning to kiss her upon being reunited. Afterward, at his apartment at night, they reach out to each other with a wall between them and, later in the story, they discover the secret that caused her death.
(Photos: Screengrabs from ABC's "Pushing Daisies")