If there’s one thing that can carry a show for years, it’s a good will-they-wont-they romance. I’m talking about the kind of romance where two characters pine for one another but the timing always seems off. For seasons, viewers hang on their every moment, watching and enjoying the chemistry between the two and wondering if it’s ever going to happen. It usually does happen. It has to as part of the will-they-wont-they formula. It is this formula that I am going to both examine and express my appreciation for as a long-time fan of TV romances.
Think about some of the great TV couples from series past. I don’t even have to name the shows for most people to know who I’m talking about. Sam & Diane, Mulder & Scully, Ross & Rachel, Carrie & Big, Buffy & Spike… I could go on and on. What qualifies these couples as “will-they-wont-they” is the build up. Plenty of shows include couples. Both dramas and comedies often involve romantic relationships but it’s the shows that engage viewers by making us want to see those two people finally get together that I am referring to.
There’s two general formulas for a will-they-wont-they setup. The first one is when one person pursues the other then finally gives up and dates someone else. Once they’re involved in another relationship the other person comes around and starts to realize they’ve developed feelings for them. This can go back and forth for a while. Eventually, a choice has to be made and if its done right, the couple finally has that first kiss we were all waiting for. A prime example of this would be Ross and Rachel from ‘Friends’. He wanted her but she barely knew he was alive. Then Ross gets a girlfriend at the same time that Rachel realizes she’s in love with him. Eventually, when the timing was right, the managed to get together.
The other scenario is when the two characters are so different and often do not get along with one another. They fight and argue constantly but then one thing or a series of “things” happen and they are forced to put up with each other. Eventually the sexual tension builds up so much that they have to either kill each other or sleep with each other. A good example of this is Spike and Buffy in ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’. From the beginning the sexual tension seemed almost unintentional but fantastic nonetheless. The build up went on for seasons and only when Buffy was at her emotional lowest, did she finally give in. While it was evident that she wasn’t proud of her behavior with Spike, the passion between the two was delicious. Their first kiss was only matched by their first romp-session (which literally brought down the house).
In general, when the couple finally does get together, it’s only a matter of time before things fall apart. With soap operas, relationships can go on for decades without crumbling but with primetime dramas and comedies, it’s necessary for things to go wrong in order to keep the show fresh. There are some people who will disagree with me here but I’ll get to that later. The falling apart part is hard for viewers but its part of the formula. Like a roller coaster, there are ups and downs to the relationship that need to take place in order for the ride to be good. Someone cheats on the other or hurts them in some way. They go “on a break” or there’s some misunderstanding that drives a wedge between them.
With Spike and Buffy it was Spike’s inability to accept that Buffy couldn’t love him as long as he was soulless. With Rachel and Ross it was the infamous “break”. The breakup is almost as momentous as the first kiss.
Lets examine some current shows for a minute. In ‘Veronica Mars’ we have Logan and Veronica. They started out hating each other then found themselves drawn to one another. Veronica couldn’t trust Logan at first but eventually he proves himself to her and they date. They break up when the trust issue becomes a problem again and Logan dates an older woman for a while. Finally they get back together at the end of season 2 and everything is perfect. That’s pretty much where we’re at right now. Most realistic viewers realize that it’s only a matter of time before they break up again. It has to happen. While its great to see them all kissy-huggy with one another, I for one, really miss seeing them bicker. I miss the tension and the snarky back-and-forth banter. The couple is truly at their best when they’re at odds with one another. For Logan and Veronica, it’s the build up that counts.
In ‘The Office’ there’s the Jim and Pam romance. Jim’s pined for Pam since the beginning and it was only at the end of season 2 that he professed his love for her. He manned up and put it all out on the table. She initially rejected him but he found her in the office and kissed her. The first kiss for Jim and Pam was easily one of the best kisses in TV history. There was an element of realness to it, almost as though we really were spying on some private, romantic moment between two people.
After the kiss, Pam tells Jim that she is still going to marry Roy. Jim transfers to the Stamford branch and Pam ends up calling off the wedding anyway. With the exception of a phone conversation and an unanswered text message, that’s as far as their interaction has gone since the kiss. Soon the branches will merge and Pam and Jim will most likely be working together again. But now there’s Roy, who is trying to win Pam back and Karen, who is clearly trying to get something going with Jim. With these two factors, it’s likely that the two will go the Ross and Rachel route for a while. Both will see other people but neither will lose much affection for the other. It’ll always be there in the back of their minds that they’re meant for each other and if all goes well, in the end, they’ll be together.
With the will-they-wont-they relationships, there are usually two types of viewers. The first type accepts that there needs to be ups and downs and that the couple need to spend time apart, being with other people in order for there to be enough built up tension to make the getting-back-together part good. Then there are the fanatical shipper viewers that are only happy when the two people are together. I’ve encountered many of these people on various message boards across the internet. Their obsession with the will-they-wont-they couple blinds them from every other aspect of the show. They don’t want to see the characters with other people and they rarely care about anything in the show that doesn’t involve the romance aspect.
It is my opinion that the built up sexual tension between two characters in a show is far better than the instant gratification that some of the soapier TV shows offer (constant bed-hopping and few real relationships developed). These epic romances are filled with both passion and disappointment. Both factors are necessary in order to make the couple’s story “their story”. It requires the writers to know how far to take things and when to let the story go for a while. It also requires patience on the viewer’s part in order for the story to be truly appreciated. Afterall, it’s the build up that makes the ride truly worthwhile.
”Amazing Race 10” (CBS) 8:00 pm
He Can’t Swim but He Can Eat Cow Lips - (New) The miner couple has to come in first in order to not be penalized for coming in last in last week’s episode. Will their alliance with Alabama and the Cho brothers be enough to carry them through the next challenge?
”Desperate Housewives” (ABC) 9:00 pm
Bang- (New!) – After learning that her husband cheated on her with Monique, Carolyn Bigsby holds a bunch of people hostage in a supermarket (that’s how they do it in suburbia). The previews seem to be implying that someone (possibly Lynette) will get shot in the episode. Too bad Nora doesn’t appear to be one of the hostages.
”How I Met Your Mother” (CBS) 8:00 pm
Swarley- (New!) – Marshall starts dating a girl who Barney and Ted believe has “crazy eyes”. The show’s been a bit off since Ted and Robin started dating and Marshall and Lily broke up. Balance needs to be returned to the force of HIMYM and soon. Until then, hopefully there will be enough Barney-isms to carry the show.
”Heroes” (NBC) 9:00 pm
Nothing To Hide- (New!) – Its becoming more and more difficult for the heroes to keep their powers a secret. In this episode, Claire finds out where the missing tape went, Niki (who is apparently still alive) confides in someone about her alter-ego in order to try and get Micah back and we get to meet Nathan’s wife when she helps him with his campaign.
”Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip” (NBC) 10:00 pm
Nevada Day (Part 1)- (New!) – Some of the staff heads off to Nevada to rescue Tom from prison but they run into some trouble with the Judge (played by John Goodman) who isn’t a fan of the show. Still no word on whether or not the show has been picked up for more than the next three episodes.
”Veronica Mars” (CW) 9:00 pm
Hi, Infidelity- (New!) – Keith dates Harmony (even though she’s married). Veronica gets accused of plagiarizing a paper and based on the previews, something happens with her and Logan. Could it be more distrust on Veronica’s part or has Logan done something bad?
”Help Me Help You” (ABC) 9:30 pm
Raging Bill - (New!) – Bill gets a new patient who is a boxer who cant get mad enough to fight. Meanwhile, Inger goes on a Jdate with a guy who turns out to be Asian. Neither will admit they’re not Jewish. This show is 2 parts funny, 1 part heart. If you haven’t checked it out, I strongly recommend you do.
”Jericho” (CBS) 8:00 pm
Rogue River- (New!) – Jake and Eric head to Rogue River to get medical supplies but they run into trouble when they make it to the hospital. I cant say I rave about this show to anyone and everyone who’ll listen but it is sort of great in an almost understated way.
”Lost” (ABC) 10:00 pm
I do- (New! – Season 3 Part 1 Season finale) – the last episode before the ‘Break’ (heh) and it looks like things are about to come to a head. Jack has to decide how to deal with Ben’s spine surgery. Picket looks like he might make good on his threat to kill Sawyer. Will someone get the crap beat out of them by the smoke monster? Probably not but then again, you never know.
”My Name Is Earl” (NBC) 8:00 pm
Mailbox- (New!) – Catalina helps Earl with another item on his list. Something about using a mailbox for a trashcan. I love Catalina and the casual way she talks about her crazy past. Its as though all of the pain and tragedy she’s experienced is nothing more than a footnote in her life.
”The Office” (NBC) 8:30 pm
Branch Closing- (New!) – Word gets around that the Scranton branch is closing. This inspires the staff to imagine what their lives will be like when it happens. Does anyone really think they’ll go through with shutting down the Scranton branch though?
”Smallville” (The CW) 8:00 pm
Rage- (New!) – Lex has something to do with a medication that Oliver is taking. The medicine gives Oliver the ability to heal himself but there’s a negative side effect… could it be… rage?
”Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC) 9:00 pm
Where The Boys Are- (New!) The men (everyone except Sloan, I think) go on a camping trip. Meanwhile, Miranda confronts Cristina about what she saw (Cristina wiping names off the board).
”Men In Trees” (ABC) 9:00 pm
The Menaissance- (New!) – When the first chapter of Marin’s new book gets leaked to the New Yorker, Marin has to find a way to tell Jack that a good part of it is about him. Meanwhile, singer/songwriter Jewel (playing herself) comes to Elmo and mingles with the locals. Men in Trees is easily one of my favorite new shows. It doesn’t have the greatness of ‘Heroes’ but its found a good blend of humor and romance mixed with great characters to make me really love it. It’s a great show to DVR on a Friday night so you have something to watch Saturday morning.
”Battlestar Galactica” (Sci-Fi) 9:00 pm
The Measure of Salvation - (New!) – Starbuck is dispatched to interrogate the infected/dying Cylons on the basestation they found. I’m still new to this show and I generally don’t consider myself a fan of sci-fi but I can definitely understand the appeal of ‘Battlestar’. Still not having watched the first two seasons, I’m already finding myself invested in some of the main characters.
Thelma and Louise (We) 7:30 pm
The guys (and other 80’s freaks like myself) can watch Back To The Future on Bravo but if you’re a girl (or a guy who likes seeing Brad Pitt shirtless in a cowboy hat), tune in and watch as Thelma and Louise abandon their lives as bored housewives and take an adventure together.