Show runners and television writers, indulge me for a moment...
Here's how it goes: you're writing a TV drama, most likely, circling around the adventures of two leads, one male, one female. They're opposites. Maybe he's all heart and she's all brain, or she's faith and he's science, or he's crazy and she's calm, or he's a big womanizing flirt and she's a feminist man-hater. At first our two leads really just hate each other, and they fight all the time. Maybe they don't even trust each other. But then, after some sort of traumatizing situation (he saves her, she helps him, he tells her about the pain in his past, she listens to him, he shows her what faith is, they go to church together, he ends up in the hospital, he walks out on a date to come to her rescue, blah blah blah) and very slowly, usually after many episodes and many seasons of many episodes, they begin to realize the folly in their original judgment, and the fact that they're so completely not right for each other makes them perfect together. They are soulmates! It's destiny! After all, As Einstein taught us (it was Einstein, right? I never paid attention in science class), opposites attract.
We have, as the internet fangirls like to call them, our One True Pairing (OTP). But it's not all a cakewalk from here. It's never easy for this dynamic duo. Yes, their chemistry is off the charts, the unresolved sexual tension (UST in fanspeak) is crackling in every episode, and each week brings about a new amazing moment wherein our two leads almost, almost kiss. Or have some other five second staring match where the average TV viewer might think, "I never stand that close when talking to my co-workers. Even the attractive ones." Oh and then they are put in extreme situations. Maybe they go undercover! Maybe they're pitted against each other in some sort of competition! Maybe one of them is assigned a new partner! But all that UST and all that angst is just out of control at this point. It's hot and amazing, and I find myself watching a show I don't even like that much just to see said hotness, but then 17 years later they still haven't kissed and it doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense and OH MY GOD JUST STOP IT ALREADY!
You know I'm so incredibly sick of TV insiders talking about the "Moonlighting curse." First of all, I never watched that show, and a lot of TV viewers in that key 18-39 demo probably didn't either (at least the 30-and-under ones). I know it was something to do with David and Maddie and they were teeming with UST and then they got together and all of a sudden the show sucked, the ratings tanked and as a result every show runner appears to be fearful of this eventual doom, and every TV critic hypes up this potential outcome. As a consequence, shows like The X-Files, The West Wing, Alias, JAG, Friends, Firefly, Castle, Fringe, and yes, of course, (what I think might be the biggest offender of this plot game right now), my favorite show of the moment, Bones, all carry on this tradition of keeping viewers in limbo, waiting for that OTP to finally get together, well past the expiration date.
Browse the discussion forums for Bones over at Television Without Pity and you'll see a lot of frustrated viewers talking about how these almost-kiss scenes are becoming too unbelievable. At the end of a recent episode of Bones, the dynamic duo was standing so close it was clear they wanted to kiss each other, while I wanted to scream "MAKE OUT!" and throw the remote at the TV when they didn't. It's just plain silly! And I know I'm not the only one thinking this. I might be in the majority here. In fact, I watched the episode separately from my roommates, who told me they found the situation preposterous as well. I mean really, these people can't kiss? (So sure, that was a focus group of 4 -- me + three roommates -- however, I have a feeling most of that noisy online fan base would agree with me).
What's a bummer is that the longer the dancing continues, the less time there is in a show's lifespan for that relationship to be explored and redefined. I was so happy when in its tenth season Ross and Rachel finally got together on Friends. But two episodes later the show was over for good. Okay yeah, they lived happily ever after, but why not show a little bit of their new relationship? I wanted to see them as a happy couple! And sure The X-Files attempted to show Mulder and Scully in a committed relationship (I mean I think it did, but most of that show was shot in so much darkness I couldn't tell what was happening half the time) but again, it was in the last season when those two finally got together (and I think a lot of their relationship was merely alluded to, which just doesn't work for me).
Occasionally a show will get it right: midway through the second season of Alias the OTP, Sydney and Vaughn, actually did get together, and it was fairly well-executed. Viewers got to see two adults in a functioning and committed relationship. Well, as functioning and committed a relationship could be when you factor in double agents and memory loss and a lot of danger and some serious mommy issues. Hell, even The West Wing was able to put White House staffers Josh and Donna in a relationship in an effective way, albeit a little too close to the end of the series for my liking, but it was something.
You know what TV show has the most realistic adult relationship on television? Friday Night Lights. Not only is this the best show on TV, but with Eric and Tami Taylor we have a couple anyone can relate to, one that is truly grounded in reality. It's refreshing.
Now shows like The X-Files or Fringe are science fiction, and Bones or Castle are procedurals with quirky characters solving crimes, not a show like Friday Night Lights that's following the small-town lives of families in Texas. However, it's on those realistic procedurals where a little more realism in the interactions between characters is needed.
It's been fun to watch two characters circling each other for a while now, and I think that build-up is necessary, but wouldn't it be more fun if Booth and Brennan on Bones actually kissed each other? Like normal people in real life probably would? And maybe they even dated? And it could be interesting to see them keep their relationship secret from their bosses or something. I mean, I'm pretty sure we all have more than a few stories about interoffice romances (and hey did you hear about that couple on The Office? Jim and Pam? Yeah. They got married. MARRIED!).
At this point I'm a lot more interested in watching two people attempt a relationship rather than be teased by the possibility of one. God, people who are attracted to each other usually end up getting together. And it doesn't always require five years or so of forlorn glances and drawn-out moments. It happens. So let it happen!
A frustrated TV addict*
*but I'm such a sucker I'll watch anyway. You've totally got me. Dammit.