Show: ABC’s Pushing Daisies
Featured Characters: Ned the Pie Maker and Charlotte “Chuck” Charles
Some romance tropes never work, while there can be rare exceptions for others. That’s the case for Pushing Daisies‘ Ned the Pie Maker and Charlotte “Chuck” Charles. Though, if we look at the logistics, Ned and Chuck aren’t exactly childhood best friends to lovers, but they fall more in line with the second chance trope. And that’s perhaps why it works because they aren’t a traditional exploration of it. There are enormous risks TV and books often gloss over when exploring childhood best friends to lovers, but since Ned and Chuck don’t grow up together, there’s a silver lining here.
That said, as quirky and unique as the show’s concept is, Ned the Pie Maker and Charlotte “Chuck” Charles are the epitome of adorable. You must genuinely love someone if you’re willing to go forever (maybe) without ever touching them. Yet, in every way they could, they made it work.
One of the fascinating details in the series is how Pushing Daisies delivers trauma through colorful set designs, humor, sweets, and a unique third-person omniscient narrator. The show is dark, heartbreaking, and ultimately a means to showcase that not only are all these characters facing something grim, but they’re coping by avoiding it all and, well, with pie.
Ned and Chuck and A Second Chance
For starters, Ned is an incredibly damaged man, and he has been from a very young age. Still, when he remembers his childhood, he focuses on the wonders in his mother, Digby, and Chuck. The rest of his childhood is a screwed-up little bubble where he wasn’t accepted and was often neglected. For a kid like that to reunite with one of the two people he cared most for, anyone would understand his decision to keep Chuck alive. And from that moment, we were exposed to a love story that showcased the importance of inner longings and the diligence to keep trying. Physical contact is important, and while this isn’t in the same vein as haphephobia or anything similar, the series makes it clear that love works without it—there are ways to cope and find comfort. There are also ways to get creative. Thankfully.
In the end, it came down to the fact that while Chuck didn’t have anywhere else to go because she was supposed to be “dead,” she chose to stay with Ned. They decided to give in to the second chance they were granted to see if their childhood crush could develop into something bigger. And the facts were these…through everything, Ned and Chuck took care of each other. They were two people who’d known each other for a long time with an unbreakable trust that fueled everything within them.
And even after Ned told the truth about accidentally killing her father while navigating through his abilities to save his mother, they made it through the heartache together, like adults. She understood him. She forgave him. And with a bit of time, she was able to look at him the same way again because she knew deep down that his intentions were never to harm anyone. Chuck took a broken man’s hand with gloves and gave him hundred-and-one reasons to smile more. She was warm and kind, and it’s ultimately what mattered most in this love story—their collaborative kindness and gentleness serving as the fire that ignited both of them at all times.
Years have passed, but it will always be easy to appreciate the little ways that made their relationship feel new and exciting. Sometimes (a lot of times), actions speak louder than words, but since they couldn’t always display it, Ned and Chuck used their words to show each other how cherished they were. And so much relied on both Lee Pace and Anna Friel to frequently use their expressions to tell stories their bodies couldn’t.
There was never a time when their sincere adoration for one another wasn’t shining through their eyes, making this little show so profoundly entertaining. You wanted them to touch each other, but in some strange way, you were satisfied with the little ways they showed their love. Whether it was dancing on the roof in full-on bee suits or holding their own hands to show they wanted to be there for their partner, it felt enough. It was torture, but you never once questioned whether they’d suddenly part ways. Chuck could’ve used her second chance to move somewhere and start over, but instead, she stayed with a man she could never physically treasure. And for Ned, she was always everything. He would take every opportunity to give her the adventures she deserved, even while others were opposed to it. Life became a different kind of adventure when they embarked on a romance, and had the series not been cancelled, the chance to see Chuck’s two worlds collide would’ve been darling.
They wanted to adore each other in every way possible, and their overt desires were always glaring signs of true, pure adoration. It showcased that the heart is everything, and no matter the circumstances, a relationship can work as long as two people are willing to give their all no matter the roadblocks. Ned and Chuck did a marvelous job of illuminating profound emotions simply in the way they’d look at each other—as the series went on, they got better and better at finding new ways to expose their longings, but so much still poured in their gazes. Not all pain is beautiful or poetic, but even though Ned and Chuck were aching because of the barriers between them, somehow, they were able to heal simultaneously. Their love was so strong, and they were so secure in the trusting foundation they fortified that they could lay their heads on their pillows in peace.
Pushing Daisies is a conundrum. How could a series about a man bringing back the dead to solve crimes while not being able to touch the woman he loves be anything but depressing? I would’ve steered clear from this series if trustworthy friends didn’t vouch for it as a romance, but the reality is, it’s anything but depressing. It’s hysterical. It’s tragic and dark, but it’s colorful and bright. There’s light in every corner. It’s beautifully captivating in indescribable ways, and Ned and Chuck’s love story is at the forefront.
The love story that is developed through Ned and Chuck is one for the books. It’s been fifteen years since it debuted, and we’re still geeking out about it in 2022. We’ll geek out about years from now too. Their second chance at love might look a little different than what people usually get, but they leaped towards a relationship with creativity, an ardent adoration brimming with every smile, and a determination to make the best of every day that followed their fateful reunion.
The facts were these: the Pie Maker and a girl named Chuck would sacrifice a lot more than physical touches as long as they could be by each other’s side—safe, warm, and loved.