By Kate Emswiler
How important is sexual tension? On a TV show, I mean. Some might say it’s the very thing that holds certain shows together – the “will they or won’t they?” question mark hovering between two characters throughout every episode, hints and innuendo that come so close to bursting into something wildly passionate … but pull back in the nick of time, just before credits. The constant anticipation.
Whether we’ll admit it or not, most of us would prefer to dwell in the “will they or won’t they?” for as long as possible because once the tension is released we have these two disappointingly happy characters who are flush with new love, but devoid of their signature crackling repartee. Gone are the barbed jokes, the coded language, the backhanded compliments. Gone is the mild cruelty that masks desire simmering just below the surface. Gone is, well, most of the good stuff that viewers turn on the TV for because it turns them on.
Drama and comedy alike have to grapple with this issue. Some series, like “Grey’s Anatomy”, have a solid ensemble and multiple strong storylines supporting each episode. Thus, whether or not you are in favor of Derek and Meredith together (and happy), it doesn’t make or break the show because there are still other characters to provide plenty of tension, excitement and humor.
“Castle”, on the other hand, though it boasts a stellar supporting cast, focuses so intently on Castle and Beckett that their relationship pretty much dictates the tone of each episode. And if any series has provided a satisfyingly incendiary relationship with sassy quips and innuendo-sparring, it’s “Castle” with its blend of clever writing and charismatic actors. Even though there’s still the fun of trying to keep the relationship hidden from everyone at the precinct, there’s something missing from this show now that the question has been answered with “yes, they will and they have”. It seems, perhaps, neutered.
Comedies can obviously be more playful about the whole thing: even if the main couple gets together, at least there will still be funny jokes on the show, probably. And if the couple breaks up, that’s great fodder for humor as well. I’ve talked a lot about “The Mindy Project” lately and some of my friends have wondered if it’s too painfully obvious that Mindy is, of course, going to get with her co-worker Danny (Chris Messina) at some point. I think it’ll be funny if she does and it’ll still be funny if she doesn’t because it’s clear that Mindy’s life is full of mishaps and zaniness no matter who she dates. That’s the fun thing about the show: as much as Mindy wants her life to be just like a rom-com, it just won’t ever turn out that way. Life (Mindy’s life, particularly) isn’t like the movies. That’s why I’m watching the show.
“New Girl”, however, seems to center much more around the possibility of a Jess-Nick romance (though personally I find Schmidt and Winston far more interesting), but if it happens, will it just be a big let-down for the viewers? Do we want to see these two obnoxiously shmoopy-giddy and in love? It sounds boring. I think I’d rather just keep wondering: will they or won’t they?