Wednesday March 27, 2013
Love’s labour’s lost
By S. INDRAMALAR and ANN MARIE CHANDY
The Spudniks don’t spare the drama when their favourite TV characters go from being day-time friends to prime-time lovers.
I AM so glad that Detectives Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) were never romantically linked in Law & Order: Special VIctims Unit. Sure, we could all see how special their partnership was: the chemistry between them was palpable and there were more than a few hints at their mutual attraction for each other.
Sure, at times I did feel that Olivia would be good for Elliot: she understood him and could relate to the anger and frustration he had inside him because of the nature of their job. But, a romantic liaison between the two? I think that would have ruined the show and our appreciation for both characters. It would have been too cheesy, too convenient and too predictable.
We’ve seen this happen many times on TV: two characters who have been friends for so long become romantically involved and all of a sudden, the show we love becomes becomes a hot mess.
I admit, I could not wait for Dr Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) and Dr Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) to get together on House M.D. After all, they seemed so good for each other; Cuddy was the only one who could reign in the acerbic House and the only one who could make him … feel. But when it finally did happen in Season 7 of the series, I was devastated.
The relationship seemed awkward and it turned both of them into huge jerks. The show went from funny to annoying fast and, truth be told, I stopped watching entirely. All of a sudden, House stopped being about the genius of the good doctor and his rapport with his team of diagnosticians.
It was just a soppy mess about the drama between two characters. Urrgh. I hear the series picked up in the final season but I couldn’t be bothered any more. I broke up with House!
TV writers have it tough: a series is compelling when there is some romantic tension between two seemingly combative leads. Play this out too long, however, and viewers just get bored. Give in to the romance too early and the dramatic tension dies and the show suffers creatively.
We’ve seen it happen more than a few times – on the 1980s hit show Moonlighting, when Maddie Hayes (Cybil Shepherd) and David Addison (Bruce Willis) finally got together, the show tanked. It stopped being witty and, like House, became annoying and dull. It was a disaster and gave rise to the term “Moonlighting Syndrome”: when a show suffers because of the romance between its two leads.
The same can be said of the romance between Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) on The X-Files. I liked the tension between the two. Mulder came alive with Scully as his partner on his hunt for aliens and it was nice to see that complicated relationship develop. But when the two hooked up (even though it wasn’t ever really played out on screen), it was kind of a let-down. Some things are better left as is. Some things are just not meant to be.
To be fair, there have been some shows that have transitioned the “friends to lovers” relationship between two characters quite well. In Cheers, Sam (Ted Danson) and Diane (Shelley Long) actually did get together and though they later broke up again, the series didn’t suffer at all. It was still funny and fans still felt the love for the show. The characters involved also remained true to their original selves and the relationship was believable; we could see the attraction between the two and we could also see how implausible it was that they could even be together, and that’s exactly how it was played out.
In Gilmore Girls, the romance between Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Luke (Scott Patterson) was drawn out for four seasons. Fans couldn’t wait for them to get together and when they did, it was perfect. This was one show that seemed to have developed the romance well – or so it seemed at first. But the Lorelai-Luke romance wasn’t all smooth sailing. They broke up after one season and quite literally stopped talking to each other and this was torture for fans.
Ask any true-blue fans and they’d most likely agree that Season 6 (when the two had broken up) was the most frustrating of all Gilmore Girls seasons. Thankfully, the series ended on a high with the two finding their way back together in the very last episode.
So, should friends become lovers? It’s a tough call and right now I’ve got knots in my stomach as I watch the relationship between Rick Castle (Nathan Fillion) and Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) develop on my new TV addiction, Castle (yeah, hearing Ann Marie wax lyrical about Fillion and Katic week after week got me curious. She’s right. It’s fabulous!). Here’s hoping the series doesn’t succumb to Moonlighting Syndrome. – S.I.
I GET so annoyed everytime friends turn into lovers on TV because things are bound to turn sour eventually. Yeah, even in art, the greatest loves are tragedies. Indra has already mentioned Moonlighting’s Maddie Hayes and David Addison. I loved watching the show when there was that unspoken chemistry between them; it was almost palpable, but not quite... you know? The same goes for Mulder and Scully, and Castle and Beckett.
Granted, there have been numerous entanglements that worked for a while – when Friends Chandler (Matthew Perry) and Monica (Courteney Cox) eventually hooked up, fans were pleased. And they even got married. Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), although never as successful with her liaisons, also seemed to get by whether she was in love with Ross (David Schwimmer). And fans of the show stuck by their favourite characters through thick and thin.
Somehow, the sitcoms always seem to pull these little love affairs off with great panache. Both How I Met Your Mother and Big Bang Theory have featured very successful romances – Cobie Smulders’ Robin has had relationships with both Neil Patrick Harris’ Barney as well as Josh Radnor’s Ted; Kaley Cuoco’s Penny and Johnny Galecki’s Leonard hooked up, and much more importantly Jim Parsons’ Sheldon teamed up with Mayim Bialik’s Amy (go on, Sheldon, spank her already).
I’m not quite sure what their secret is, but the sitcom writers seem to have got it down pat (Cheers was a sitcom too, by the way ... and wait, don’t forget Jim and Pam in The Office!) where the dramatic series writers fail.
But there are exceptions to the rule, I guess. For example, in The Closer, I never really minded when Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) hooked up with FBI special agent Fritz Howard (Jon Tenney). And in fact, they provided many interesting plot lines as husband and wife.
Similarly, on Battlestar Galactica, there were numerous relationships which were woven into the series, be it between cylon Number Six (Tricia Helfer) and treacherous scientist Dr Gaius Baltar (James Callis) or Lieutenant Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) and Samuel T. Anders (Michael Trucco) or Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos) and President Roslin (Mary McDonnell), all of which were pretty entertaining.
Booth and Bones (Emily Deschanel as Dr Temperance “Bones” Brennan and David Boreanaz as Seeley Booth) also seemed to buck the trend and even end up having a baby!
And currently, I’m tripping out on Fringe. At first I was a little upset when Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) hooked up with “Fauxlivia” Dunham (Anna Torv) from the Other Side but thankfully there are two universes to contend with, a pregnancy, emotional baggage, experiments on children, as well as a host of interdimensional problems.
Suffice to say, I’m still hooked on the series, and the chemistry between the protagonists, be they from our world or over there. Maybe true love can exist on TV after all. I want to believe. – A.M.C.