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.
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.
As 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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