Pushing Daisies: Three Plum Pie

I’m not a huge fan of romance on television. Mainly because it’s usually used as an excuse for someone involved to act like a moron (it tends to be the women), or it’s one character’s sole reason for existence (also usually the women), or it’s an excuse for fake drama when the relationship is “threatened”- usually by a third party (the dreaded love triangle)- even when the outcome is obvious. Pushing Daisies has managed to not only create a relationship that I can willingly root for, it also features a triangle that’s both endearing and well written.

Ned the piemaker has the ability to revive the dead with a simple touch. If he touches them again however, they die again forever. This ability has made him understandably withdrawn when it comes to relating to other people (as a child he revived his mother, only to learn of the second touch clause when she kissed him goodnight). And through a combination of avoidance and denial, he’s carefully ignored the fact that Olive Snook, the waitress at his pie shop and his next-door neighbor, has been in love with him for some time. But everything changed after Ned revived his childhood sweetheart Charlotte “Chuck” Charles, after she was murdered. Since Chuck can’t go home to her aunts, being supposedly dead and buried, and is clearly as taken with Ned as he is with her, she moves in with him and spends her time helping at the pie shop and helping Ned and Emerson Cod (a private investigator) with their murder investigations.

The triangle works for several reasons, the most significant of which is that everyone involved is basically a nice and likeable person. While the audience is quite clearly supposed to support Chuck (and it’s impossible not to) Olive is made quite sympathetic. Olive doesn’t know Ned’s secret, so she’s at a disadvantage trying to figure out why Chuck is closer to Ned than she is. Unlike the standard format, Olive was there first rather than setting her sights on someone who was already involved, and while she’s sad about the fact that Ned seems to be falling in love with another woman she isn’t taking it out on Chuck. Both women are kind and intelligent, without either being played for laughs in a hurtful way. Ned isn’t intentionally stringing anyone along or being indecisive- he knows exactly who he cares for- it’s simply a case of Olive’s emotions not quite catching up with what her brain knows: the man she loves has found someone that isn’t her.

Some people might argue this hurts the drama of wondering who Ned will choose, but I don’t think I’ve ever really seen that question in doubt on any show. So while the audience wants to see the show’s predestined pairing end up together, we can’t help but root for Olive to be happy too. That simple fact- wanting everyone to turn out well, not just the couple- leads to better and more complete characters. Rather ironic that a show I described the other day as ‘Roald Dahl and Tim Burton on Prozac baked into a pie, sprinkled with Dr. Seuss, and narrated like a bedtime story’ would be the one with the characters that seem the most human, but Pushing Daisies has found a way to do it.

Comments

  1. S. A. Bonasi says

    I’m liking Pushing Daisies. It could stand to be a little bit more diverse, but yay for a series regular cast that’s 2:4 male:female. It passes the Mo Movie Measure every episode!

    Anyway, I’m pulling for Olive to notice a certain traveling homeopathic salesperson with a first name of Alfredo and a last name of Aldarisio.

  2. says

    Some people might argue this hurts the drama of wondering who Ned will choose, but I don’t think I’ve ever really seen that question in doubt on any show.

    Actually, I would say that the impossibility of it gives a hell of a lot more room for exploration of emotions. I’m certainly bored of the standard emotions of love triangles, and this sounds like it could get at something different–I mean, people certainly didn’t get less interested in the Buffy/Angel relationship after sex became not an option in that one, and the ideas about love and relationship that were explored from there were more complex once that layer was added to what was previously another (well-done) star-crossed lovers tale.

  3. says

    You find the predestined couple unavoidably sympathetic? I’ve got to say – the blind bliss is aggravating. I also found that Olive is played ONLY for laughs, and in a fairly hurtful way. I keep wanting to like the show, but I am incapable of enjoying the primary romance.

    I far prefer the dynamic everyone has with the undead mutt.

    But, thank god, it’s not the COMPLETELY stereotypical Reaper.

  4. MaggieCat says

    Anyway, I’m pulling for Olive to notice a certain traveling homeopathic salesperson with a first name of Alfredo and a last name of Aldarisio.

    I’m rather hoping for that myself, and only a little bit of that is because I’d give an arm AND a leg to get a duet between Kristin Chenoweth and Raúl Esparza on the show. I don’t care how they make it happen, they’ll think of something.

    I’m certainly bored of the standard emotions of love triangles, and this sounds like it could get at something different–I mean, people certainly didn’t get less interested in the Buffy/Angel relationship after sex became not an option in that one

    Hm, I hadn’t thought to compare Ned and Chuck to Buffy and Angel (probably because I was never a fan of Buffy and Angel as a couple) but it is similar. I have heard several people point out that since Ned can’t touch Chuck without killing her the obvious thing to do is move on and hey, Olive’s right there and she loves him and she’s nice/smart/cute, but that isn’t how it works and it’s been a while since any show found a good way to use that.

  5. MaggieCat says

    You find the predestined couple unavoidably sympathetic? I’ve got to say – the blind bliss is aggravating.

    It’s not blind bliss in my opinion. It’s the all too brief honeymoon period before the fact that they can’t so much as brush hands without Chuck dropping dead becomes more and more difficult and strains the entire relationship.

    I also found that Olive is played ONLY for laughs, and in a fairly hurtful way.

    It’s primarily a black comedy- she’s played for laughs, but so is most everybody else at one point or another. While Emerson is mean to Olive about her feelings for Ned, he’s just as mean to Chuck for not having the courtesy to stay dead, and to Ned for not caring that he was in proximity. For me Olive’s window and mirror stunt is on par with Aunt Lily losing an eye to a tragic cat litter changing accident.

    But as with anything, your mileage may vary.

  6. Djiril says

    I keep wincing throughout the show because Chuck keeps standing so close to Ned, they could brush hands at any moment! I guess that’s part of the point, though.

    I also like how the show has treated Olive so far. Last night’s show especially gave her some good character development.

  7. MaggieCat says

    I also like how the show has treated Olive so far. Last night’s show especially gave her some good character development.

    The previews for next week seem to imply that Olive will be getting some backstory and will at least be a little involved with the case, which does pretty much the only thing I was hoping for that hadn’t happened yet- given that a lot of the case related conversations happen at The Pie Hole and I get the sense she has a slightly less sheltered view of life than Ned and Chuck do without being as cynical as Emerson, I think she would be an asset.

    But I love Lily and Vivian too, and I love Olive when she’s hanging out with them. And they need somebody now that they’ve lost Chuck, no matter the circumstances. *sigh* Silly conflicting wants.

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