Most concerns about Pushing Daisies can be summed up by the Prom Queen Syndrome, which is when the networks and television big-wigs are concerned that their star freshman vehicle will not live up to the hype. (Think Lost, Grey's Anatomy, and Desperate Housewives, all incidentally on ABC. Hmm.) Did ABC oversell the show? Is it perhaps too quirky for mainstream audiences? Who is the target audience? Luckily, Pushing Daisies is the closest to television perfection. What's not to love? Jim Dale's fairytale narration? The use of bright greens-yellows-reds-blues? Even the episodic storylines are fantastic. The second episode ("Dummy") really laid the foundation for future episodes and allowed for dark material to have bright and fantastical executions. The creative design team really outdid themselves with the color and futuristic design of that episode. Also, Lee Pace is quite lovable in a rather dull role. The premise of the show is clever (the two lead romances can't touch! almost inconceivable in modern television!), and the characters are unique and interesting. Also... what's not to like about pie?
But about the characters... I love Chi McBride's Emerson Cod. He has a sick sense of humor beyond mere sarcasm, and his delivery of lines is on par with the brilliant Adam Baldwin. The aunts could very easily have been two-note characters; they miss their niece and now don't leave their house. Oh, but... they're also synchronized swimming mermaids. That certainly sets them apart from the typical family role. But here's where Pushing Daisies fails... I can't stand Chuck. She's annoying. She's not bright, but she is pretty. She tends to put herself in compromising situations, but does television really need another damsel in distress? (I do keep in mind that the damsel in distress is a fairytale archetype necessity... but it doesn't mean I have to like her. Which I don't.) She reminds me of Kate from Lost. She has the sex appeal, but she's not very appealing. She's somewhere between an adult and a child, and her childish side comes off as, well, childish. In fact, the only times I like Chuck is during scenes with Olive Snook... but that is because Kristin Chenoweth carries the dead weight that is Chuck.
Olive Snook is a perfect blend of realism and fantasy. She is strong and confident (a bit nosy and lacking a sense of personal space), but she is also heartbroken and completely in love. She loves Ned, who loves Chuck, but she's not mean to either Ned or Chuck. This shows me that the Pushing Daisies writers aren't concerned about drama or ratings or shock but about developing dynamic multi-dimensional characters. She puts on a brave face and is good at heart (unlike Chuck, who I feel is selfish and not very understanding). And when Olive broke into an a capella version of "Hopeless Devoted," it didn't feel fake or cheap or obligatory (due to Chenoweth's Broadway fame), and I think the song really humanized the character.
BUT, although I much, much, much prefer Olive to Chuck, I don't want Olive and Ned together. Not yet, anyway. They would be a superior couple, so I hope that's something the writers hold out until the end of the show. Ideally, I would like to see Olive get a new man (perhaps the elixir salesman from last season?), which makes Ned see Olive in a new romantic light. This in turn would make Chuck jealous (and she'd throw a hissy fit, no doubt, and possibly disappear again). The whole idea that Ned would still be in love with the adult version of his old eight-year-old neighbor seems a bit strained, but Ned is an idealist and I could understand him taking time to grow up and realize how great Olive is. And I did enjoy the dynamic of these three characters last season, but next season needs to show change. Relationships need to shift. (Perhaps Chuck can befriend Emerson Cod? Who else does she have to talk to?) But Olive is perfect and well-written as is. I think female viewers need a female character they can really relate to (and not necessarily dream about becoming). Although Ned pursues Chuck (and that's a dream of many women), I think more viewers can relate to Olive because she loves someone who she knows does not love her back, and all women have experienced that type of heartbreak. Olive is the character to watch.