So Should They Or Shouldn’t They?

I Don’t Think Even Their Hairdresser Knows For Sure

When was the last time you were watching a show and realized that you really cared about the characters? When was the last time you found yourself wondering what they were doing when the camera wasn’t on?

Yes, lots of fans are like that about Chuck and Sarah (and about Casey and Morgan and Ellie and Anna and…). We’ll call that a tribute to the cast, writers and crew. We want to see them succeed, especially in their relationship with each other, as if we were in their positions, or as if they were our friends or ever our children.

The Chuck and Sarah characters are so well done that sometimes fans just ache for them to be together. But anyone who’s seen more than a smidgen of TV over the past 30 years knows that this has been a tricky proposition. Kate Aurthur at Slate wrote in April 2006 that the track record is spotty, at best, when a show’s leads “get together”.

Today, as slow-motion courtships proliferate onscreen—see the Kate-Jack-Sawyer triangle on Lost, Jim and Pam on The Office, Grissom and Sara on CSI—it’s important to remember that we’re living in the Moonlighting era. Almost 20 years after the Bruce Willis-Cybill Shepherd detective series ended, it is Moonlighting‘s post-coital flameout that keeps the Joshes and Donnas of the world fully clothed. The show had been on for less than two years when US Magazine—not a weekly yet, if you can remember such a world—screamed “Do It, Already!” in a February 1987 cover story. A month later, David and Maddie obliged, before an astonishingly large audience of 60 million viewers. (The Friends series finale drew 52.5 million.) From there, Moonlighting seemed almost cursed. Shepherd’s pregnancy absented Maddie from the story for months the following season, and then a 1988 writers’ strike caused all television production to shut down. When Moonlighting came back after a nine-month absence, it had a terrible 13-episode fifth season, crawled into the forest, and died.

Scary words for Chuck fans (and my emphasis, btw).

Kate Aurthur is saying that it’s been a mistake, one promulgated by the networks in fact, to keep separate characters created to be together. She’s saying it doesn’t have to be that way, and the example of Moonlighting is a bad one because the show died for completely different reasons.

So what is the problem?

The problem seems to be that writers and actors are unable to reliably generate and sustain palpable sexual buzz between two characters who are actually having sex—which may be a depressing comment about life in general. After all, what do you replace that fun flirtatious energy with? Discussions about what to order from Fresh Direct?

I see her point. The sexual tension generated by two attractive lead characters is spellbinding for viewers when done right.  But does it have to disappear completely if/when characters get together/have sex/get married?

I’m not so sure it has to, but I can’t recall a show in the past, oh, 25 years or so where getting leads together really has worked in the long term.  Honestly, I also can’t think of many shows where it’s been tried, other than in Moonlighting and possibly Remmington Steele.

So should it be tried with Chuck? Could it be tried? Could the show exist and be just as entertaining if Chuck and Sarah got together? Would it last more than one season on network television if they did? Would the show get too frustrating or stale if they didn’t?

The odds are against it, historically speaking. Writing sexual tension is easy, apparently. Writing love is harder. It seems to me that if any one show could pull it off, this is the show that could do it.  I have enough faith in the writer’s creativity to believe they could make it work, gloriously.

But I also believe that there’s only one way the story should be told, and that way is most definitely not mine. It’s theirs. The story tellers should always be allowed to tell the story their way and at their pace.

Update: Wouldn’t you know it? No sooner do I write “I can’t recall any…” above, when this article appears, listing 22 (count ‘ em’ 22) shows that were “improved” when the lead characters got together. I have to admit that I hadn’t seen some of these shows (most notably, The Office, which I know is popular), and in fact, there were some I hadn’t even heard of!

Can’t help but note, though, that Moonlighting is listed, which is odd, since that show is almost always counted as the prototype of shows that failed after the leads got intimate. Also, The Wonder Years? Great show – one of my favorites. But it ended moments after Kevin and Winney “got together” (or not) in the barn. How can you say it was improved? And That ’70s Show? In most senses of the word, Eric and Donna were together from the beginning.

I might have considered putting Babylon 5 on the list. It was improved when Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) and Delenn (Mira Furlan) made whoopie, or at least, not diminished. I was rooting for Susan Ivanova and Marcus Cole to get together at the time, though. They didn’t – he died.

All in all, I can think of plenty of ways to discount that list.

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About joe

In my life I've been a professor, martial artist, rock 'n roller, rocket scientist, lover, poet and brain surgeon. I'm lying about the brain surgery.
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6 Responses to So Should They Or Shouldn’t They?

  1. amyabn says:

    I agree that Moonlighting is a terrible “standard” to hold any show to. I was never a huge fan of that show and felt the sexual tension was just that-tension, not love. Cybil’s pregnancy and virtual disappearance from the show did nothing to promulgate the relationship aspect and thus doomed it. They bickered, they bantered, and the one thing they have in common with our heroes on Chuck-they worked together.
    Chuck and Sarah have evolved into a true partnership. Each has opened themselves up to the other, although Sarah has had hers revealed in more unintentional ways (Cougars, DeLorean). They accept the other for who they are and help each other become their better selves. Bring on the under the undercover relationship and the comedy of hiding it. Is it March yet?

  2. dave says:

    I think 90% of fans probably feel the same way about the show…Chuck and Sarah should just be loyal to each other regardless of actual relationship status. I.E. the love triangles and huge steps backward make no sense.

    As fans however we don’t need to let the general public know about each and every complaint, which is really what seperates a shipper like me from a shipper like (you know who you are). Most of us realize that we need to be positive at the more generic forums. And never take any cheap shots at producers/writers.

    So that is my disclaimer and now I get into detail.

    The producers are seriously missing an opportunity which may forever dampen this show if it gets cancelled after S3. They missed the opportunity to have the hottest and most wonderful couple on tv ever in history BE A COUPLE.

    I just cannot get why they want to avoid the strength of the show. How much more fun would season 2 be without Beefcake and Jill and even Bryce redux AND WITH a hot steamy sexy Charah relationship that had to be hidden from Casey (although he knew that they knew that he knew) and Beckman. THAT WOULD HAVE JUST ROCKED. Instead we get a number of episodes which people like me simply don’t watch much (Jill/Beefcake).

    They missed the boat big time in my opinion, and again I am not suggesting that we whine about it and scare off new viewers, I am just telling it like I see it (after watching the show every night since the season ended…)

    My biggest hope is that the show recovers from it’s own mistakes and gets to Charah quick enough to SAVE the show from an avalanche of negativity. Otherwise we never get that sweet payoff we want to see.

    At the end of season one, Chuck and Sarah were crying with each other about Chuck getting locked up. In season 2, Chuck forgets Sarah exists at all for some fulcrum witch from college and then Sarah tries to get back together with Chuck and five seconds later smooches with Cole and five seconds later moves in with Chuck.

    How about they just get it hot and keep it hot and that is that? I just hope we actually see that before the show gets iced for good which could be this year for all we know.

    To me it is a staggering missed opportunity. And again I watch the show every night and wrote 6 letters to NBC, subway, charity CMM, ect, it is not like I watched it once and just complain to the world. I just hope the show survives and reaches the level where Charah are treated like adults.

  3. amyabn says:

    Dave, I completely agree. I know how dispirited I was as the comments were released by TPTB. I don’t understand the strategy, particularly when NBC isn’t doing much to promote the show (see my article on the main page).
    I do think they will go with an under the undercover relationship and will use Morgan (roommate), Ellie and Awesome (family) as excuses to keep doing things together as a couple, to protect the cover. I think it could be fun to watch Sarah and Chuck try to hide things from Casey. And if they use Shaw as an interloper, Casey may side with them and hide their relationship from him and Beckman. Is it March yet?

  4. Gord says:

    It is funny, but I was one fan who was just as upset about the Chuck/Morgan bromance as I was about Love Trapezpoids for S3. I personally made it through the Jill and Beefcake episodes without needing therapy. Although it did seem rather incongruent to have those new love interersts (Jill and Cole) in the episode order they were produced and I can honestly say they were not my favourites. However, if they were determined to have new love interests for Chuck and Sarah,putting those episodes right after Vs the Breakup might have made a little more sense. But breakup was followed by Cougars and Tom Sawyer, which were episodes in which we saw Chuck and Sarah’s relationship on the mend. Chuck went from having a girl to share a cheeseburger with to the next one wishing on a star for Sarah followed by pining for Jill.
    Then again, even the best of shows are entitled to have a few bad episodes, and I will admit it is possible that not all fans have the same feeling towards those episodes. Some may have actually liked them.

    One thing I do know for sure is that in spite of the spoilers, I will definitely be watching Chuck come March because there is so much more to Chuck than the Chuck/Sarah relationship.

  5. joe says:

    Hummmm… I’m the odd man out here! The way I’ve seen it, you gotta break some eggs to make that omelet, and boy, were some eggs broken with the Jill arc and in Beefcake. You’re not going to believe it, but I actually enjoyed Beefcake the last time I saw it, mostly because I sort of realized that Sarah wasn’t all that interested in him (Her eyes kept comparing him to Chuck, the way Anna compared her boyfriend, Wang, to Morgan in Best Friends).

    If it wasn’t for that one kiss…

    The Jill arc is another matter. I have a much harder time enjoying that, mostly because Jill is good, and then she’s duplicitous. One minute she’s “obviously” in love with Chuck, the next, she’s betraying him again. I get whiplash every time I see them together.

    So as much as I want to say “meh!” to anyone who says they’ll quit watching the show if that happens again, I gotta say that a repetition of that scenario – we’ll call it “geometric shapes” for short – will be extremely frustrating. Repetitious, too. Gotta believe TPTB are better than that, right?

    Hey! Maybe I’m not such an outlier.

  6. dave says:

    I think it is all relative. If the Charah ins-and-outs bug somebody so much that they just lash out at Josh and just want to badmouth the show….than it is time to quit.

    On the other hand most of us that tweet and do CHUCKMEMONDAYS are going to overlook the show’s glitches and just hope like heck that we get to the hottie charah stuff that we all want to see.

    The whole hidden relationship is simply priceless comedy. That is how I felt in the ring episode when Ellie found Chuck and Sarah in the hallway at the church….They looked like they had just been shagging in the back room or something. That is hiliarious for those two. It doesn’t even need to get more graphic with those two because we just know in our minds they are hot.

    We don’t have to see it, it just has to exist.

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