What gets us tuning into a TV series week after week with more baited breath than sexual tension? It’s the steam that propels a story engine forward. We’re all familiar with the scenario: a coworker, a roommate, a neighbor catches our protagonist’s eye. Naturally a slightly combative, always sarcastic repartee develops. Often our protagonist can’t stand the apple of their subconscious eye, but we, the viewer, know better. We know that true love is just one heated argument away from an accidental embrace. We root for it, we want it, and yet when we get it, the show’s chemistry inevitably fizzles. It gets boring.
Watching two young, hot people who are attracted to each other fight is fun, exciting, tantalizing. Watching a couple bicker about who didn’t replace the toilet paper couldn’t be more dull. Sam and Diane, sparing verbally in tight quarters, behind a bar- hot!. It’s exciting to watch opposites attract on The Big Bang Theory, or on Castle- Richard Castle, watching Detective Kate Becket’s every move, their intellectual connection growing. It’s so tantalizing. But once the deal is, as they say, sealed, the anticipation is gone. Three episodes into Season 5 of Mad Men has people around water coolers complaining how boring Don Draper is, now that he’s happy and in love.
Keeping a show going after the main characters fall in love is a difficult task- not unlike the script of life. When you have a crush on someone- it’s hard to keep their name out of your mouth. Everything they do is cute. You invent reasons to bump into them and get comically tongue tied when you do. It’s the episodes after the first fling where the effort is needed to keep things interesting. I like to watch a movie or read a book with my partner so we have something to debate after. A tennis match can insert a little friendly competition and stimulate some of those feelings of tension (the good kind). The feeling of challenge compels us to put in more effort, to go a little further, to place more importance on keeping our partner happy. It’s also good to keep in mind that you won’t always be Carrie Bradshaw and Mr. Big, sometimes it’s ok to be a bit more like Raymond and Debora.