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TV couples, don’t you love them and don’t you hate them. Tv is a special landscape as we do not get that many happy couples. Happy couples are dull, boring, have nothing to say and seldom bring joy to our screen. That is very curious as happiness in general in ‘normal’ life is fun and good to watch.

In my personal life I remember fellow students who had their girlfriends since high school, they married them right after their final exams and they had a very happy and peaceful life sitting behind the tv sets every evening. I went the other way, a life with more risks, more gains but also more falls and I am pretty sure I have never been as happy as they belief they are. But I am sure my life was so very less dull and that’s worth a lot. It’s the same with tv, happiness in couples is no fun to watch, we need drama, tension, do-they-or don’t -they and lots of teasing.

Drama and tension are often added giving us a couple that have a do-they-or-don't they relation. They are attracted to each other in some way and that tension, that unresolved sexual tension makes sure there is room for fun, laughter and drama. In general we then say we ship those relations. But what happens if those two people resolve it and become a couple in the series. It so completely changes the dynamics of the couple. Does it make the series better?

I am not talking about soaps. As they need their daily amount of drama, the relations seem to happen and change in such a hurry no one should feel connected to it.

To start of with one that will never be resolved, John and Joss in Person of Interest. I once wrote a post considering many of the other possible ships in that series (read it here). To answer one question immediately: yes, I do believe Joss and John had some great tension going and I hated to see her go.



In many of the shows the tension is resolved by eventually getting them together, breaking up again, getting them together etc., just like in The Big Bang Theory. The fact that Kaylee Cuoco and Johnny Galecki dated each other for two years in real life added to the tension. But for me, if Penny and Leonard would separate again I would quit watching as my annoyance would be bigger then my crush on Kaylee or the jokes they make.



To answer my own question if a series gets better when a couple gets together, my answer is no; for me it usually kills much of the fun in that show as the (sexual) tension is away. So often that tension is shown by the characters are teasing each other and I love that. It’s the way I love to do it myself. Growing up near the German border, I learned the Germans had a perfect saying: “Wasz sich liebt dasz neckt sich”, meaning something like “Teasing is a sign of affection”. But when the characters get together, the teasing is gone as it might be dangerous for the relation. What was normal to accept before is now dangerous for the relation if taken seriously. This is how it works in real life and certainly in tv series.

So, after they kiss or jump into bed, something goes wrong. It’s not that the ships sinks, it’s just that TV shows so rarely can make the ship continue on the same course it was going. It deviates from it’s destination to go to a shipyard somewhere else.

I see three main reasons why a ship gets launched. First of all because the storyline just can't avoid a couple coming together, secondly because it gives them the drama opportunity to break them up and thirdly to ‘jump the shark’. The show was going down and producers wanted to give it another power injection by bringing the characters together. Never a good idea and I have never seen it work.

The worst recent example for me must have been Bones where the intimate teasing of the characters just stopped as their relation just didn’t seem to be able to handle it; they became too serious. I stopped watching it. I’ll have to see where The Mentalist brings us as Patrick Jane and Teresa Lisbon kissed in the last minute of last seasons finale. It was filmed at a moment the producers expected the series to end and they wanted the viewers to get closure on the (sexual) tension that had been there since the first series. How will they cope with it now the got a new season, will the fun still be there?



The only show for me over the last years that really seemed to be able to cope with it is Castle. The main characters kept acting basically the same way, I am very jealous of them. It looks like they’re still having fun instead of only having relationship problems.



In tv land the disaster of Moonlighting is considered to be the worst example of a shipwreck, although the complainants might have outlived their warranty period by now. We now know the characters did not really like each other and combined with other factors it might have led to the worst sinking of a ship. But, as you can see in this post also, it still is used as the potential shadow on every tv romance.



Another big mistake for me was when Mulder and Scully ended in bed together on the X-Files. It was stupid, stupid and crashed so much of the strength of the combination. It was a bad example off ‘jumping the shark’.



An older shows where I think the tension worked until the end was I Dream of Jeannie with Major Nelson (Larry Hagman) and Jeannie (Barbara Eden). Although there did not seem to happen anything at all between them at first, they were obviously attracted to each other later on. When I saw it I always wished I had a Jeanny of my own who would tease me like that. They did marry in the end, but that was just before the series ended.



I loved Mork and Mindy ( with the dearly missed Robin Williams), but they married in the last season and it never got as funny as it was before.



One of my favourite unresolved ones was the relation between Ziva David and Tony DiNozzo on NCIS. She was a confident and powerful woman who knew how to oppose Tony. She could literally kick ass and always had his back if needed. The best scenes were when they had to play a married couple. At the end of last season they even seemed to acknowledge they really liked each other, but the failed contract negotiations with Cote de Pablo killed it off. The best thing is that it was never the center stage of the series thus not making it the necessary do-or-don’t they situation. I heard that Tony will have a new love interest next season and probably it will kill off the last bit off my love for the series. I miss Ziva, hate her replacement and wrote a post about it recently (read it here). Michael Weatherly, who plays Tony said in a commentary on an episode: “Unresolved sexual tension. It's the engine that makes television run.". He is right.



A special mention of a series that handles it well goes to Unforgettable. It is the only exception I know where a couple that separated now has a healthy unresolved relation. Carrie and Al separated years ago, went their own way and came together at work after so many years. The tension is still there, but due to her remembering everything and him knowing that, they can be friends but not anything more. It is the most fun part of the series for me as the crime part is not that ingenious.



And last but not least, we have to give credit to our favourite comedy Community. It has the unresolved tension between Jeff and Annie. Jeff initially tries to keep his distance from Annie as he is uncomfortable with the age difference but we’ve seen him become a bit more honest about how he feels towards her. Although nothing really happened last season between them, we can always sense it in some way. There is much discussion about this ship and I often read opinions against it. They almost always start with the fact that it’s not the age difference. As it is tv thus fantasy, I wonder what it is they want?




What are your favourite couples or ships that have not sailed yet and should not sail. What are your ships that have become wrecks and caused you to stop watching the shows?


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