TV Execs, Don’t Be Afraid of TV Couples Coupling

It happens every TV season. Some show has a couple with chemistry…except they aren’t a couple. Their non-couple status is then teased and dragged out for season after season. Why? Because we have to wait until the end of the series’ run. Again, why? Because we must: remember what happened to Moonlighting. It’s time we give it a rest.

I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that the Moonlighting excuse has out-lived its warranty period.

The Moonlighting fiasco was a result of rancor between the actors, late scripts that caused air dates to be missed, a writer’s strike, and some piss-poor management of the series. Add to this some chickening-out with the storyline and you had a recipe for disaster. Whether or not David and Maddie got together was probably the least important factor, and yet it casts a shadow on every potential television romance ever since.

Here’s the deal: if you plan the romance, if you commit to the plan, then it will likely be OK. Sure, some shows will collapse, but those are shows that likely would have self-destructed in any case. For some shows, the romance will help. For others, it will necessitate a concept re-think.

Let’s look at Castle. Except for some minor extra-curricular scenes/lines that are only accents to the light-procedural, the show could stay very much intact. A show like Chuck could go either way now that the romance genie has been let out of the bottle. It could be little more than an enhancement to the action, or it could morph into something new.  On the other hand, Bones might have chosen to simply take the option off the table. There’s no reason why that can’t work as well. After a while the will they/won’t they starts affecting the show.

The point is that too often the star-crossing becomes a story crutch, if not an outright impediment. Creatively, there’s no reason to favor one tactic over another. It has more to do with fearful suits who are more number-crunchers than creative folk. Basically, they employ the withdrawal method of character coupling. They think if they pull away from the R-word soon enough, there will be no consequences. Thing is, no one is really satisfied. Plus, you still risk an unexpected consequence (in this case, audience erosion).

I’m not saying that show runners should do one thing or another. I’m saying that whatever the choice, they need to commit to it. Jump in with both feet and hope the water’s deep enough. If the only thing that’s keeping your audience is a teasing couple…well, you have bigger problems with your show than smoochies. I’m just sayin’.

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