'Pushing Daisies' did perform well among the highly sought after younger audience, with 31% of 16-34 year-olds, compared to 18% watching 'Casualty'.
Friel appears in the eight-part drama as the childhood sweetheart of pie-maker Ned, played by Lee Pace, who can bring people back to life by touching them, but he if touches them again, they die.
The Golden Globe-nominated series, which was an unexpected hit in the US in the autumn among audiences and critics, marks a gamble for ITV. The channel does not normally schedule quirky, offbeat dramas in primetime slots.
The opening episode was well received by UK TV critics, with Thomas Sutcliffe at The Independent offering mild praise: "Pushing Daisies badly needs a heart, but it has art direction instead: a welter of Fisher-Price colours and whimsical inventions, such as Ned's pie shop, with its crimped-crust roof, or Chuck's guardian aunts, Vivian and Lily, a retired synchronised-swimming duo who share 'matching personality disorders and a love of fine cheese'."
ITV1 had Saturday's highest rated show with the return of 'Britain's Got Talent', which earned 8.8m viewers and a 37% share between 7.45pm-9pm. It attracted an impressive 43% of the coveted 16-34-year-old audience. It peaked with 10.6m and a 44% share of the audience, boding well for its 13-week run.
The channel also scored a hit with the new series of 'All Star Mr & Mrs', with an average audience of 6.3m viewers and a 29% share between 6.45pm-7.45pm.
The first episode of the eight-part series, presented by Philip Schofield and Fern Britton, featured among others former cricketer Phil Tufnell and his wife Dawn, and 'Eastenders' star Wendy Richard and her partner John Burns.
On Sunday, ITV1's newly launched satirical comedy sketch show 'Headcases', which uses CGI, held steady from the previous week with 4m viewers and an 18.7% share at 10pm-10.30pm.
Earlier in the evening, ITV1's 'Foyle's War' pulled in the largest audience of the day as it returned for a new run with 7m viewers and a 27.8% share at 9pm.
BBC One's wildlife documentary series 'Tiger Spy in the Jungle' took a tumble from last week in the same slot as 'Foyle's War', with 4.8m viewers and an 18.9% share, compared with 5.7m last week.
Channel 4's 'Bear Grylls: Born Survivor', in which former Special Forces adventurer Grylls demonstrates how to survive in extreme environments, launched with 1.3m viewers and a 5% share between 8-9pm.
The ratings for the first episode of 'Bear Grylls: Born Survivor' matched the average audience for the last series which aired a year ago. Including Channel 4+1, it netted 1.4m viewers and a 5.4% share.