Pushing Daisies, Chuck

ABC/KATE TURNING, Mitchell Haaseth/NBC

Apologies for the delay in this post, but Friday's mail had a flood of new-series screeners (finally!) that I had to check out before I could safely go forward with my original No. 1 Best Bet: CBS' Eleventh Hour (an intelligent procedural, but nothing to write home about), NBC's Kath & Kim (absurd but giggle-worthy), Knight Rider (mostly just absurd) and My Own Worst Enemy (very intriguing, but not something I can toss up to the top of my list on 18 hours notice).

Now, I know, my countdown of Fall's Best Bets is supposed to be about new series. Pushing Daisies and Chuck technically are sorta-kinda sophomore series, so they shouldn't be in the running, but truth told...there is so little to downright adore this season among the new shows, and more importantly, both of these shows are so fantastically recharged (dare I say better than ever?) in their new seasons, that I can't help but bend the rules. Not to mention, Chuck and Daisies are relaunching after a far-too-long break and far-too-short first season (because of the strike) and may very well may be new to you...

Fall TV Preview Watch with Kristin 2008

Both Pushing Daisies and Chuck were just wee babes in the TV woods when the strike hit last season, but they have both been renewed, are returning in two weeks and have come back bigger, stronger and better than ever before.

Read on to find out what's so great about these two series if you've never seen them before, and learn about what's changed for the better if you're already a fan...

Lee Pace, Anna Friel, Pushing Daisies

ABC/Scott Garfield

Wed., Oct. 2 at 8 p.m. on ABC

Pushing Daisies Refresher: The facts are these: Ned the Pie Maker (Lee Pace) can restore the dead to life with just the touch of a finger. But if he doesn't re-dead them within a minute (with another touch) an innocent bystander goes to the great beyond instead.

There are two major figures in Ned's life whom he has failed to send back to the big sleep: his dog Digby and his childhood sweetheart Charlotte Charles (Anna Friel). Oh yeah, and private detective Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) has blackmailed Ned into helping him solve crimes (for a tidy fee). And then there's Olive Snook (Kristin Chenoweth), who works as a waitress at the Pie Hole (the bakery where Ned bakes his delicious pies) and nurses a fairly major infuation with Ned, who in turn only has eyes for Charlotte (aka "Chuck"), the girl whom he would instantly kill were they ever to touch again (which puts quite a crimp in the ol' sex life). And lest we forget, this is also the story of Chuck's aunts who raised her, Aunt Lily (Swoosie Kurtz) and Aunt Vivian (Ellen Greene) live alone together in rambling old Victorian mansion where they grieve over Chuck's death (ignorant of the fact that Ned has revivified her) and keep their secrets (for example, Aunt Lily is actually Chuck's mother, not her aunt).

It sounds crazy, and it totally is, but this television fever dream has a rainbow palette, the heart of a fairy tale and creative daring unlike few other shows on TV. Want to know more? Read my original writeup on the many (many!) virtues of Pushing Daisies from when it premiered last fall.

Pushing Daisies Resurrection Plan: Season two of Pushing Daisies delivers more family drama as well as bringing more singing and spectacular set pieces. Olive Snook can't stand keeping everyone's secrets, so she leaves the Pie Hole and secludes herself in a nunnery. Chuck begins an investigation of her own—into the fate of her parents. And Ned tries to find a way to be with Chuck without, you know, killing her. As genius creator Bryan Fuller recently told me, "Chuck and Ned are meant to be together, that's the relationship to root for." Indeed!

Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, Chuck

Dean Hendler/NBC

Mon., Sept. 29 at 8 p.m. on NBC

Chuck Dossier: When this series from Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak launched last year, Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi), a mild-mannered nerd in the middle of an extended quarter-life crisis, accidentally absorbed the entire contents of the NSA-CIA intelligence database into his brain. That means that now when he sees certain faces or objects, the supercomputer inside his skull instantly sets off alarms in his head and sends him off to fight the bad guys of the world, with his handlers, gorgeous CIA agent Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) and grumpy-cool NSA agent Casey (Adam Baldwin) in tow.

More capable than he realizes as an agent, Chuck still lacks confidence in his personal life, despite the undying admiration and devotion of his best friend Morgan (Joshua Gomez) and a series of not-quite-helpful pep talks from his more-secure sister Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and her perfectly perfect surgeon/dude boyfriend Captain Awesome (Ryan McPartlin).

Chuck New-Data Download: In the immortal words of Michael Corleone (and Veronica Mars): "Just when I thought that I was out, they pull me back in." And that's probably more or less what Chuck Bartowski is thinking by the end of the season premiere.

Despite the best efforts of the NSA and the CSI, this season Chuck remains the intelligence community's most important asset, so he must continue to engage in high-stakes espionage while repressing his feelings for Sarah (Yvonne Stra-HOT-ski, as we all like to call her), trying to change his everyday life (the computer service desk at Buy More, believe it or not, is not the happiest place on Earth), and continuing to hide his secret life from his friends and family.

I've seen the first three episodes of season two, and Chuck has shaken off any initial, first-season jitters, turning into a confident, supercute (albeit clumsy and underprepared) superagent. Chuck is a totally fun and funny adventure comedy series that you will instantly enjoy, and this season is beefed up with better writing, more fully developed characters and several neat guest star appearances by the likes of Michael Clarke Duncan, John Larroquette, Melinda Clarke and, yes, Nicole Richie herself. This one is worth investigating...I promise. I truly, madly, deeply loved the season premiere—please check it out!

Now, want to know more? Check out the scoop served up the cast and creators at a special installment of the series, an episode I like to call Chuck vs. Comic-Con. (Spoiler alert: Chuck wins!)

OK, now it's your turn, guys: What returning sophomore series also qualify as awesome new-to-you treats? Terminator? Life? Post your faves in the comments!

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