Ross and Rachel, Castle and Beckett, Bones and Booth, Luke and Lorelai…just a few of my favorite TV couples. And what they all have in common is that long, drawn-out romance that we expect from sit-coms. Years and seasons worth of sexual tension, constant teasing of the “will they, won’t they?” storyline. Each encounter is only prolonging what we viewers have come to expect as the inevitable. If two people are undeniably attracted to each other, no matter the obstacles, no matter their superficial feelings about the other, they will be together. End of story…sometimes literally.
People talk about the distorted romantic expectations caused by rom-coms and Disney princess movies, but what about those sit-com couples we love to cheer for? The Pams and Jims of the world. Would fans have ever settled for anything less than happily ever after? If there’s one thing that sit-com couples have taught us, it’s that other relationships, long distance moves, even marriages to other people can’t stop a couple that is truly meant to be. Nothing short of death will end our firm determination that they will make it in the end. And even then, I’m sure there would be some among us who would see death as merely the next great adventure, overcome by the likes of Cathy and Heathcliff and Romeo and Juliet. We know that if character A meets character B in the first episode and they share an inexplicable “moment”, the show will never be complete until the loose ends are tied up in a beautiful, loving bow. It’s Shakespeare at his finest: no matter what, a comedy must end in a marriage!
And I know what you’re saying: we know it’s not real! It’s not like Jim and Pam are that couple everyone swears by to get them into online dating because if it worked for them it can totally work for us. But admit it, while we know Disney princesses are far and away unrealistic and rom-com couples make us laugh with their absurd meet-cutes, there’s something that’s just so real about sit-com love. They struggle in love. We struggle in love! They have problems and stupid fights, weird hang-ups and emotional baggage. They are fabulously, believably flawed and yet still, they find their happy endings. There is something incredibly tempting about believing that in some, slightly more dramatic than reality way, they reflect real possibilities.
Even as I write this, I don’t really want to say that these twisting, turning paths to happiness are their own kind of fairy tale. But the truth is, they are. Sometimes, the obstacles to a particular happy ending aren’t challenges to make you appreciate the end goal even more. They’re not there to challenge you to really work for that shining vision of happiness you’ve conjured up. Because sometimes, your Pam is actually a Daisy and instead of being the everyman Jim Halpert, you’re actually Gatsby, building castles on a foundation of clouds.