Monday, April 24, 2006

More things I hate about TV: Will They/Won't They

The will they/won't they relationship is going to rise up and destroy television.

Not right away, mind you. There's still some mileage to be gotten out of the old warhorse, so long as TV writers come up with fun new twists on it (I'm thinking, particularly, of Deadwood's richly conceived Alma/Bullock relationship, which feels like something out of a Victorian novel, or How I Met Your Mother's novel twist -- they won't -- or Jack Bauer, primetime's unluckiest lover). But, for the most part, will they/won't they, largely invented by Cheers and perfected by Moonlighting, has gotten tired.

Here's the problem: We know they will. But we also know that most TV writers fear that leaving their protagonists in a healthy relationship will remove all of the drama (because seeing all of the permutations of courtship and breaking up is more interesting). So we know that the will they/won't they duo won't actually DO anything until, say, the series finale.

Now, maybe I'm just stupid, but since these relationships become the focus of so many shows (indeed, a will they/won't they relationship is practically de facto in any show on TV now), the drama is gradually sucked out of these shows the longer the relationships are willing to straggle on. In addition, the couples at the center of these relationships aren't really cast with chemistry in mind (the producers of Cheers VERY carefully selected the actors who would play Sam and Diane because they knew they wanted the sexual chemistry between the two). In many cases, the will they/won't they becomes an afterthought.

Now, honestly, when there IS chemistry, this old dance feels like something worth watching still (I'm looking at you, Bones). But when there isn't chemistry or when the relationship stretches on through too many unrealistic plot twists (Luke and Lorelai?), the characters cease to be relatable. If no one on TV can have a functional relationship, it all starts to feel a little silly.

So here's a challenge issued to some brave producer out there: Get your characters together. Keep them together. Or break them up for all time (even if they still have friends in common). This is the way things work in the real world.

Sure, toss every obstacle in their path to getting together. But once they're together, make a choice whether they work as a couple or whether they don't work as a couple. And stick to it.

But, y'know, I'm clearly in the minority, judging from all of the weird, shipp-y fan fiction out there.

So I should probably just be ignored.


Not Cliff Geertz said...

I hear you Todd. It's just lazy writing usually.

You didn't mention the ultimate will they or won't they show: Will and Grace. A show all about how much they want each other, but yet, they can't...but then they did, but it didn't change anything. I'm confused.

Maybe the unresolved tension made the jokes funnier.

That Little Round-Headed Boy said...

No, I'm with you. I despise this almost as much as when a sitcom gets serious for a very special sweeps episode.