CULT, Classy Under-appreciated Ladies of Television, is an ongoing column about the minor yet essential lady characters of television, past and present. Many of these ladies tend to have a small cult following in fandom, as well. There will be no Temperance Brennans, no Sydney Bristows, no Liz Lemons, no Blair Waldorfs here today. These women have inspired us in ways that have possibly gone unappreciated by viewers because they were overshadowed by a major character – but no more. Welcome to CULT, the column to celebrate the best under-appreciated ladies on the small screen.
The facts were these: Another perfect show that fell prey to being too brilliant for its time, the precocious half-hour comedy that was Pushing Daisies also contained one of the best hidden gems: Olive Snook, played by Kristin Chenoweth. Though every character on this show was priceless, Olive was the breakout, the adorably wacky character whose backstory was just ridiculous enough to be believable. In such a vibrant landscape, Chenoweth’s bubbly personality brought just the right amount of charm to Olive.
Dear Olive, who dogsat for Ned’s dog Digby and eventually got her own pet pot-bellied pig, Pigby. Olive, who was always second-best in Ned’s eyes when compared to Chuck, but refused to ever give up hope. Olive, who always thought Chuck was faking her death and struck a deal to keep her secret, not knowing she had skirted a huge reveal. Olive Snook, former horse jockey and one-time nun, is one of my favorite minor characters of all time, and I’m pretty sure she’s one of yours, too.
Let’s talk about Olive’s life for a minute. When Olive was nine, she became a jockey to her horse The Pie – and not just any jockey. After winning the Jock-Off 2000 (when the rightful winner’s saddle broke and he fell off, trampled to death), Olive hid her winnings away and didn’t speak of it again for years, until the mystery came knocking at her doorstep. After her horse The Pie died, she wandered, not knowing what to do until she came across The Pie Hole, which she took as a sign. She waitressed there until the weight of all of the secrets Chuck brought with her caused a mental breakdown, taking herself to become a nun (eerily similar to The Sound of Music). After a stint as a Maria, Olive realized it was time to go home (with new pet Pigby), and she waitressed at The Pie Hole until the end. When the surprise finale happened, Olive embraced Randy’s sack of pasta and opened a mac-and-cheese shop called The Intrepid Cow. Absolutely fitting, wasn’t it?
Olive truly loves her job at The Pie Hole, that’s for sure. Whether she’s chit-chatting with customers, putting love into a specific kind of pie each day, or going to competitions with Ned, she’s always having a great time. She loves the distinction between their place and a corporate chain restaurant, and it’s clear in her attitude at work.
Something else classic about Olive was that she always almost came upon the truth, whether that was the truth of Ned and Chuck’s relationship or the truth of a life lesson. Olive often spoke little snippets of truths, too, that grounded her character. She acted like an airhead most of the time, but we always knew there was more going on up there than we ever gave her credit for. Even if she didn’t realize at first what she had stumbled upon, she always found a way to use it to her advantage.
Some great Olive quotes:
- “Wouldn’t it just rock and roll if liking someone meant they had to like you back? Of course, that would be a different world, and something else would probably suck.”
- “So what’s the poop? Poop. Scoop. The skinny. The haps. The dealio. The 411. PI lingo.”
- “Musing on the idea of setting someone on fire doesn’t mean you really want to set them on fire. It’s just the thought of it that makes you happy. But only for a second, then you feel bad. But that second could be a lot of fun!”
- (Monologue) ‘And how are you today Olive?’ ‘I’m fine, thanks for asking, Ned.’ ‘That was a funny joke about the witch’s bosom, Olive.’ ‘Well thanks, Ned!’ ‘And-and I appreciate you using the word “bosom”.’ ‘Why Ned, because it’s less offensive than other words?’ ‘No, I just simply like the word bosom. I say it to myself all the time. Bosom, bosom, bosom. I just can’t help myself, I’m a bosom-aholic!’
And as if that weren’t enough, “Olive often imagined there was an orchestra in her heart, music heard only by her, except when her heart broke open and it spilled out into the world.” Yes, that’s right – they weren’t going to waste Chenoweth’s vocal talent here. When Olive feels really strongly about something, she breaks into song, her most beloved solo arguably being a cover of “Hopelessly Devoted to You.”
On a sillier note, though, I’d be missing an adorable part of Olive if I didn’t refer to her position as Emerson Cod’s sidekick, or as he affectionately called her, “Itty Bitty.” There are few friendships on TV that I’ve enjoyed more than that of Emerson and Olive. Chenoweth is just so tiny, and Chi McBride is just so large. Olive’s flair for the dramatic made her the perfect sidekick to Emerson’s straight man, and together they made quite the kooky crime-solving pair. Their relationship really developed in season two, and it made me laugh every time they were on the screen together, as they played off the opposite traits in each other. This .gif is one of my favorite moments in their friendship, and is one that I think is hugely representative of how hilarious they were together.
Though largely an effort of comedic relief, Pushing Daisies wouldn’t have been the show it was without Olive Snook – let’s not forget that Chenoweth won a supporting actress Emmy for this role. The show was before my time of television fanaticism, so I never got to see it live, but I have both seasons and I watch them regularly. My heart breaks just a little bit for Olive every time, as she tries so hard but rarely gets where she wants to go. However, her constant optimism is an inspiration – I’ve never known anyone like Olive Snook, and I doubt that I ever will.
What do you miss most about Olive? Any favorite quotes I’ve forgotten? What makes her stick out in your mind?
Look for Kristin Chenoweth in the upcoming comedy GCB, which premiers March 4th at 10/9C on ABC.
All images property of Fox.