Will They Or Won’t They (Ever Learn)

The most romantic thing a man can do for a woman is read aloud to her, with voices

The most romantic thing a man can do for a woman is read aloud to her, with voices

Today I’m going to diverge from my usual topics of writing and history to talk about the other thing nearest and dearest to my heart: Romance. Not just any romance, though. I want to talk about the way that romance is handled by television, because there’s something that TV does to 95% of all good small screen romances that drives me completely bonkers. I am, of course, talking about the myth that getting the “will they or won’t they” couple together kills the show.

Now, I don’t actually watch TV these days. I have too many other things to do! But I do download my favorite show to watch when I have time. I pretty much watch one and only one show, The Mindy Project. (Downton Abbey doesn’t count, btw, because it’s more of a seasonal mini-series than a show) I watch Mindy because I find it to be some of the most brilliant, zingy writing on TV. I also watch it because, like me, Mindy is a hopeless romantic and rom-com fan.

Yes, I spent the entire second season waiting with giggling, baited breath to see if the writers would get Mindy and Danny together. Yes, I squeed my pants when they had THE KISS on the airplane. We’re talking serious romantic-y crack here! I came to the conclusion that very possibly the most romantic thing a man could do for a woman is to read Bridget Jones’ Diary aloud to her, doing the accents in the episode where Danny did just that. And this season’s season finale? I almost cried.

So imagine my horror when I was surfing the internet the next morning, only to find this blog post on the Washington Post site about how bringing Mindy and Danny together is more or less sitcom suicide! I was livid! No, I was more than livid, I was sorely disappointed in the writer of this blog and in the entire faulty belief that in order for a television show with a romantic pairing to keep its comedic edge and its viewers, the central couple can never get together.

I’ve actually felt this way for years. As a romance writer, I spend a lot of time keeping heroes and heroines apart, only to have them get together at the very end of the book. Actually, I personally tend not to do that. I prefer to have my characters get together somewhere in the middle or even beginning of the book and have them face challenges together until the end. I’ve always been let down by those show that keep the couple apart until the show is on the verge of being canceled. They miss out on a wealth of opportunities and, dare I say it, they take the easy way out.

I was crazy about Mad About You

I was crazy about Mad About You

Comedy, drama, and human interest do not end when a couple gets together. In order to be engaging and to keep an audience, two people in love do not have to be kept constantly apart. There is far more to the essentials of tension and conflict in a relationship than having the hero and heroine be at odds with one another in a way that will destroy their relationship. And frankly, I’m sick of the television world failing time and again to portray relationships as strong, loving, lasting, and funny, entertaining, and moving at the same time.

They say having a couple get together kills a show, but what about Mad About You? I absolutely loved that show! And it was about two married people. They were a couple from the beginning and they stayed a couple until the end, with all the usual bumps, weirdness, laughs, and tears of a real couple. The show was phenomenal, and it won tons of awards and made Helen Hunt’s career. It also, by the way, made my brother cry during the episode where their daughter was born. My brother. Cry. (I’m so glad he doesn’t read my blog right about now!)

I’m thrilled that The Mindy Project was renewed, but anxious that it was only renewed for 15 episodes instead of a full season. But if the writers of the show are out there, please hear this! I beg of you, please let Mindy and Danny stay in their relationship and get married. Please satisfy all of the millions of fans who know that contained within that wacky, perfect relationship is all the comedy you need to keep us laughing ourselves off our couches and crying over our downloads for years and years to come! Keep Mindy and Danny together! Set the example not only for the television world, but for the impressionable minds who watch too much TV and think anything less than commitment to the one you love is normal.

Mindy and Danny 2As for we writers, The Mindy Project is a brilliant example of how the comedy and drama of the story comes from the richness of the characters. All of the characters on the show (except maybe Jeremy, who they just can’t seem to get right) have so much depth and sparkle. As a writer, you need to develop as many dimensions to your characters as possible and then just let them loose in their world and a story will be born. I watch The Mindy Project because just about every episode teaches me something about the craft of writing romance. Mindy Kaling is one of my heroes because of her vision and talent.

Keep up the good work, Mindy! Don’t let Hollywood take you down the wrong path. Let love and romance rule!


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What I Learned About Love From Bill Cosby

BillWhen you think of Bill Cosby, you might very well think of Jell-O Pudding Pops or Fat Albert or Temple University (if you’re from Philly) or even some of the most hysterical comedy routines of the last quarter of the 20th century. I’m sure you think about The Cosby Show. That’s certainly what comes to my mind. But along with that, indeed, because of The Cosby Show, when I think of Bill Cosby, I think of love.

About a month ago, I was out to dinner with my brother and sister-in-law. Kristine mentioned that she had never watched The Cosby Show. Stewart and I immediately launched into “Oh, you HAVE to watch it” and “It’s so good!” and “It’s the best tv show that has ever been produced”. We went on to relate our favorite Cosby moments to each other across the table: the time that Denise tried to make the shirt for Theo, Bill Cosby’s explanation to Theo, using Monopoly money, of how much life costs when you’re a young person living on your own, Sondra singing mopey songs when she broke up with Elvin, the episode guest-starring Danny Kaye. We remembered so much, even though we hadn’t watched the show in more than a decade.

Well, thanks to Amazon, that has changed. I’ve been watching The Cosby Show again from the beginning, and I tell you, my heart has grown about five sizes.

Bill Cosby was not only funny, he had (has) a unique kind of integrity that I don’t see on tv so much these days. The Cosby Show was firmly about family and for families. Lots of shows on the air today are about families, but Cosby was different. The kids could have attitude, yes, but they were not consistently rotten, nor were they smarter than the parents. Cliff and Clair Huxtable were not always right, but they were always the Mom and Dad, with capital letters. The show taught values in a way that I don’t see on tv now. It wasn’t preachy, it was so, so funny. But the humor didn’t come from wild or wacky situations, it came from the little things that we have all experienced in our own families and therefore identify with.

The Cosby Show was a great show, but for me the lesson of love goes much deeper than that. Continue reading

Top 5 Non-Traditionally Romantic Movies

There’s nothing like a good, romantic movie to curl up with on a lazy evening. I’ve always been a sucker for them. But the other day as I was driving home from the day job, thinking about some of my favorite romantic stories, it dawned on me that some of my favorite romantic movies are as far from the traditional “boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl overcome obstacle and live happily ever after” trope as you can get. In fact, some of my favorite romantic films are downright tragic!

So I decided to put together a short list of my top five non-traditionally romantic movies. Here they are in no particular order…. Continue reading

How NOT To Write A Series

More often than not these days, it seems as though every story is told as a series. Whether it’s books, movies, or TV shows, series are the format of choice. And why not? Once you get hooked on a world, on the characters and storylines that inhabit it, you want to see more and more and more of it. And while some stories I’ve known drag on and on, the really good stories have you – oh, I don’t know – standing in line for hours and purchasing the seventh and final book of a certain series at 1:30am, then rushing home and reading it in one sitting so that no one spoils it for you.

BramwellBut I have also known cases where a series has been absolutely, completely destroyed by its writers. There are few things in this world that have made me angrier. Case in point: Bramwell.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of it, but Bramwell was a fantastic, brilliant British TV series from the late 1990s about a woman doctor in London of the late 1890s. Let me tell you, this is one of my favorite series ever. It was complex and meaningful, full of interesting characters and insightful reflections on a world that was as rich and swiftly-changing as our own is today. If you haven’t seen this show you need to zip over to Netflix or Amazon and watch it.

BUT…. Continue reading

A Different Kind of Romance – The Girl in the Cafe

One of my all-time favorite movies is a beautiful little piece you may never have heard of. It’s an intimate movie made for HBO in 2005 starring Bill Nighy and Kelly Macdonald called The Girl in the Café. I love it. I’m a sucker for any love story, especially when it involves two oddballs, but this one takes the cake.


Not every love story is about a dashingly handsome alpha male and a strong, beautiful woman with a mission she has to complete. In fact, most love stories are far quieter than that. And The Girl in the Café could very well be the complete opposite of the heroic love story. The “hero”, Lawrence, is a shy, quirky, lonely British civil servant well past his prime. The heroine, Gina, is an introverted young woman (I won’t give away her backstory) with nothing to do.

Lawrence and Gina meet by chance when Lawrence steps out of the office to have a cup of tea on a particularly bad day. The café is full and the only place for him to sit is at a booth where Gina is sitting alone. They strike up a conversation that is every bit as awkward and stilted as you could imagine and more. The tension of two desperately lonely people with no idea how to act around others is palpable. And it works.

Much to the shock and amazement of Lawrence, whose point of view the story is told from, Gina wants to keep seeing him. More than that, she agrees to attend the G8 Summit in Iceland with him. The romance is not so much a roller-coaster ride as a rough, jerky trolley moving at five miles an hour over treacherous terrain. What makes it beautiful is that these two sad, pathetic people actually seem to work. They fill the holes that were missing in the other.

But the course of true love, even awkward, hopeless love, never does run smoothly. The film is more than just a love story, it’s a political statement about poverty and the responsibility of great nations to care for small nations. The political message is wound so deftly through the incredibly personal heartbreak that these two characters have and continue to endure that it didn’t seem as obnoxious as it could have.

Another thing I love about this film and this love story is that it ends before it really ends. Or at least that’s the sense I get. It could never work in a romance novel, but for me it feels as though the film ends just as the romance reaches its moment of truth. Someone might argue with me on this one, but I feel as though the monumental question at the end is “Will these two people be together?”

And that’s what makes this love story, and so many of the love stories we all experience in our everyday lives, so potent. On the surface we have a man and a woman that are totally mismatched. But once you get past the age difference and the economic difference, you start to see that both of these people are deeply scarred by the quietly tragic things that have happened in their life. They are outcasts, forgotten by society for various reasons. Aren’t we all in some way?

The Girl in the Café gives me hope. Yes, there are messed up and repressed people in the world. Sometimes I feel like one of them. Sometimes just about everyone feels like one of them. But the oddballs can find love too. It’s the same reason I love the movie The Secretary. As weird as you are, there is someone out there for you. I love that concept!

So why, I wonder, does Hollywood and the world of Romance focus so much on the devastatingly handsome? The ridiculously wealthy? The genetically gifted? Sure, I love reading about gorgeous men with bundles of confidence and sex appeal that leaves women faint in their presence. But at the end of the day I would almost rather read about an average man who loves a woman desperately, beyond reason, and to the point of ruin … in a carefully controlled and quiet way. That’s true love.

I actually managed to find the trailer on YouTube. Just ignore the quality and the Greek subtitles.