In my writing life, I’m constantly analyzing what I read and watch for technique, style, production, storytelling, and quality. I view all of it with a critiquing eye. I want the story to compel me. I want to love the characters and relate to them (whether or not they are villains or heroes). I want the work to please me like a succulent meal pleases me. And that has gotten me to wondering.
I’m thinking about adventure tv shows and specifically the Moonlighting curse (where once the two leads get together romantically, the show starts tanking). Moonlighting famously careened downhill once Maddie and David got together. The stories suffered. The audience seemed to lose interest, and the show didn’t last much past Mark Harmon and the entire Baby Hayes storyline. However, I wonder if that was more indicative of this show than it is a global issue with writing, television, and movies.
IMO, there’s a ton of fun stuff to mine when the two leads finally kiss and eventually become a couple. The trials and tribulations of relationships can be interesting and exciting to explore. And any show that thinks that’s not interesting to people is only skewing towards that younger demographic (that 18-35 or even the 18-24 group) where the first blush of love and infatuation is more stressed than the work and growth that go into making a long-term relationship work.
It is possible that the reason younger audiences enjoy those first blush moments in their entertainment is because younger audiences haven’t had time to develop those long term relationships. I wonder if they relate to those sorts of stories more because they themselves might still be more interested in the heat that comes with the anticipation of hooking up. I wonder if older audiences are more able to enjoy how the characters balance an ongoing relationship with the rest of their work, creative, and family lives.
As an example, I believe a number of tv writers have panned Castle this year. The criticism comes in part because not only have they hooked up, but the two leads are married (and others started panning it once they finally engaged in a romantic relationship at all). I don’t think the show has suffered due to this development. In fact, how much Castle and Beckett love each other only makes the show more fun to watch. Plus, now the actors, neither of whom are slouches when it comes to talent, get to portray their love, their worry, and the lengths to which they will go to protect and care for their partners.
This all gets me to wondering if the reason the Moonlighting curse was a curse was not so much that David Addison and Maddie Hayes got together as it was that the writing suffered and that Cybil Shepherd and Bruce Willis apparently despised working together. On some level, you can’t hide that animosity no matter how talented you an actor you are.
Personally, I’d like to see more stories that tackle what happens once the leads hook up. Don’t get me wrong. I like that “will they/won’t they” paradigm. It’s fun and generally, I keep enjoying it until the leads do start seeing each other/admit their feelings. To take it further, I’d like to see shows tackle those developments in a substantive way. I’d like to see how the characters learn and grow and relate to one another while they also solve crimes or run super fast or shoot arrows at bad guys.
It makes for fun viewing and it gives me something to sink my teeth into that satisfies me on a more meaningful level. I hope more shows will adopt this paradigm.