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Embracing Sitcom Character Relationships

May 18, 14 Embracing Sitcom Character Relationships

Leonard and Penny are getting married! The on-again, off-again couple of TV’s number one sitcom decided – in an anti-climatic fashion – to tie the knot. Fans of The Big Bang Theory seemed as upset as Leonard’s roommate Dr. Sheldon Cooper, who in the season finale was so upset by change that he left.

While Sheldon had actual reasons – selfish reasons, I should add – to be upset, why are some fans upset?

On message boards there were postings by would be “fans,” who said it would change the dynamic of shows, but isn’t that a good thing? A few seasons back, when new female characters were introduced, some fans also took to message boards, saying that they didn’t want these changes either – it was “better to be a show about Penny and the guys.” Wouldn’t that be boring and predictable? Shouldn’t characters grow like people (hopefully) do in real life?

The show is now being compared to Friends because it is too focused on relationships.

My advice to anyone who wants to continue to see an on-again, off-again relationship on TV should go watch those re-runs of Friends. The “will they, won’t they” get back together barely worked when that show attempted it with Ross and Rachel. It became silly to think that these two people could remain friends with their ex- for so long – not to mention having a child, etc. In many ways Ross and Rachel were unhealthy – let’s consider that Rachel ruined Ross’s wedding with another woman, only to decide she (Rachel) and Ross weren’t right for one another.

Moving on, for some reason some TV viewers rooted against Jim and Pam on The Office or Niles and Daphne on Frasier. Some comments that I saw and heard at the time were that those shows would lose the tension if these characters were to hook up. Really, is tension such a good thing? Is it even a viable comedic element?

This goes back to the 1980s dramedy Moonlighting, which had David Addison (Bruce Willis) and Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shephard) engaged in two and a half years of “will they or won’t they.” They finally “did” and so what? The rumors have swelled that it led to the show’s decline. Yet, that’s not quite the full story. On the Season 3 DVD, show creator Glenn Gordon Caron cited other reasons – notably that Shephard and Willis had few scenes together in Season 3, as she was pregnant with twins and he was becoming a movie star (Die Hard came out during the show’s fourth season). A show with little interaction between the stars doesn’t make for chemistry.

Taking this a bit further; the concept of two adults with feelings for each other being unable to consummate a relationship during the 1980s is sort of silly in hindsight.

This is why, for one, I was delighted (at least as much as I could be by a sitcom) that Jim and Pam were able to get together, get married and have two kids! This is what people do in real life. Even in the case of Niles and Daphne, it is nice not to see the pompous doctor pine for what turns out to be the love of his life.

The same was true for Ross and Rachel. Was it really fun to see a character in pain because he can’t be with the person he loves? Would Big Bang Theory be better if Penny dumped Leonard again?

The only way that could work would be if Johnny Galecki or Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting were to leave the show – perhaps a spinoff called Leonard or Penny. After real breakups, people can say all they want that they’ll remain friends, but it normally doesn’t work out that way.

Instead, we should embrace that these characters have grown. Penny has remained streetwise and grown as a character, while Leonard has also matured. Even Sheldon has expanded somewhat. That is what most people (hopefully) do in their lives.

As for those who say the show was best when it was a bunch of scientists having problems relating to the real world – as was the premise in the early seasons – I have to ask, didn’t that run its course? Having Howard and Raj fail to find romance (or just easy women) would be like years of Charlie Brown trying to kick the football.

Sheldon had to run away because he didn’t like change, and I would say those who don’t care for the change could turn the channel. Apparently other people like the show the way it is… Big Bang Theory is still the number one comedy on TV right now. That should suggest it is actually doing something right.

Image Credit: CBS

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