by Kimberly Grams
I had a rule. But then Rev. Heinz asked if I had seen “Pushing Daisies” and was interested in the subject of the “afterlife” on TV. My rule? No new shows until the cancellation carnage is over! A show premieres. I watch it. I like it. Then it’s cancelled, leaving me hanging and I feel like I wasted my time. Or, if it’s on Fox, the itchy-trigger-finger-network, there’s two months of commercials for the show, followed by two actual episodes, and then it’s yanked. I’ve been burned once too often. If it “sticks”, I check it out during summer reruns. But, for myHT I’m ready to set that rule aside.
I caught episode 3 of “Pushing Daisies” and the premise is simple. The main character, Ned, a.k.a. the “Pie Maker,” has the ability to touch a dead person and bring them back to life. The catch? If he doesn’t touch them a second time within sixty seconds, another person will die instead. That person could be anyone within the vicinity. The Pie Maker doesn’t control that factor. He touches murder victims to find out who killed them, and then puts them “back under”. He and a PI friend collect the reward money.
Plot twist: He used his power to bring back childhood sweetheart, Chuck (for Charlotte), and this is the episode where she finds out that someone else died in her place. (It turns out to be a crooked, grave-robbing funeral director, so no one feels too bad). Oh yeah, and he can’t touch her ever again, or she’ll be re-dead. There’s a lot of comedy coming from the whole one-minute thing. In one hilarious scene, the Pie Maker is trying to get answers from a dead person when the lid of the coffin closes and gets stuck. The PI, who was with Ned, runs away willy-nilly, so as not to not be in proximity – in case the Pie Maker misses the one-minute deadline.
Interesting premise, but what makes the show fun for me is its tone. It’s funny, quirky – almost Tim Burton-esque, but not as dark. There are lots of interesting characters – some recurring, some for that episode, and some for just one scene. A narrator ties the interplay between these characters together. The setting seems to be from a bygone era – I’ve seen elements (fashion, cars, décor) that remind me of the 1940’s through the ‘60’s, but nothing specifically defines the time period. It has really snappy dialogue and the humor is very tongue-in-cheek. It’s a smart show that doesn’t take itself too seriously. From an entertainment standpoint, it was good enough for me to watch another episode and add it to my DVR.
But from a Christian standpoint, could this premise be a problem? Let’s discount my friends who are non-Christian (and yes, I do have some). Among my Christian and even LCMS friends, it’s amazing what ideas people have from stuff that was made up for TV and movies. Think about it. There are tons of shows where the worldview doesn’t jive with what’s Biblically true. “Touched By An Angel”, “Joan of Arcadia”, “Highway to Heaven”, “Ghost Whisperer” are some recent (or not so recent) examples. I usually avoid these shows, finding them boring, melodramatic, or annoying (because of the hit/miss views on the afterlife). But, a lot of Christians DO watch shows like this, because they are mostly non-violent and wholesome. But how much of TV Pop Culture creeps into one’s belief system?
Example: One of my favorite movies, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” skews our perception of the afterlife. It’s a holiday classic, but let’s be clear – angels are creatures that God created SEPARATE from people. Angels are NOT your dead relatives. Take a poll. Do you know how many people believe this? More than you think. My Dad died and he is in heaven with Jesus. He’s not floating around waiting to get his wings. When a bell rings, it’s just a bell. Lots of people have weird, mixed up things that they believe about angels (and many afterlife issues). Just on the angel issue alone, many people have no idea what is from the Bible and what they learned from another source, like TV. When I hear a bell and some Christian says, “Oh, an angel just got their wings,” I really want to smack them.
(See our Catechesis article St. Michael and All Angels and Higher Homily Let Your Holy Angel Be With Me. --Editor)
But back to “Pushing Daisies.” If someone really had the power to touch people and make them not dead (and they weren’t Jesus), where would that power come from? The devil has power too, and his demons are always ready to trick us. There’s a heaven and there’s a hell and we’re all going to one or the other when we die. Only those who believe in Christ, and Him crucified are going up. Who’d have thought TV shows could be so dangerous? They can be, if you let them influence what you believe.
But we’re smart. We know the difference. We can watch whatever we want as long as we understand the difference. But what about the ones who DON’T get the difference, who are letting their TV get mixed in with their beliefs? Hmm. Maybe that’s a good place to start a conversation about the Gospel and our Lord Jesus. Like this show, I bet it will be interesting.
My rating for “Pushing Daisies”: entertainment value, A; worldview, F.
Kim Grams is a writer and pastor’s wife who lives in Scottsbluff, NE. She is myHT’s regular columnist for Pop Culture & the Arts.
Hey readers! Post your comments. What new shows are you watching? What shows do you want to hear about in Pop Culture? Have you watched “Pushing Daisies”? What do you think about the show? What do you think about Pop Culture images of death and the afterlife that are pervading people’s beliefs?