I have devised a scientific method of predicting whether two actors on a sitcom will end up together. In the words of one of the all-time great TV lovers:
“If you have chemistry, you only need one other thing: timing. But timing’s a bitch.”
– Robin Scherbatsky, How I Met Your Mother
You may only need chemistry and timing in real life, like Robin suggests, but I am talking about sitcoms here. My method depends on three factors: proximity, relationship status and chemistry. (In real life, proximity and relationship status would be bundled together under “timing” but the rules of the sitcom are rigid, and thusly, so are the rules of my prediction technique. Also, I’m going to omit sexual preference as a factor, because we should assume that a couple is attracted to one another if we think a couple is going to end up together, right?)
Factor one: Proximity. I have only two questions. Does the pair work together? Does the pair live together? And by living together, I consider hanging out in the same bar, every single day to be living together. If the answer is yes to either one, then the characters have fulfilled the proximity requirement. Proximity is easy. It’s built right into the genre: “situational comedy.” Naturally, all the characters are in the same situation. Long distance couples do not exist in sitcoms, because long-distance relationships are boring to watch. We want our characters interacting with each other every episode.
Factor two: relationship status. Are both parties single at the same time? Since viewers love watching flirtation and romantic build up, writers of sitcoms will write obstacles (mostly in the form of other boyfriends and girlfriends) to keep two people apart. But eventually and inevitably, at some point during the long life of a sitcom, two characters will be single at the same time. (This 2006 Slate article by Kate Arthur provides an extensive and charming history of TV couples that take forever to hook up.) When the stars align, or when the abacus of life finally adds up, what is needed to push these two characters, who see each other all the time, to finally, AT LONG LAST, hook up in a meaningful way? Chemistry.
Chemistry is an objective quality, meaning that, either two people have chemistry or don’t. Chemistry is indescribable, but we all know chemistry when we see it. It’s Jim and Pam. It’s Carrie and Big. It’s Rachel and Ross, but not Rachel and Joey.
Therefore, my thesis is: if you put two people with good chemistry on a show together, and if the show runs long enough, the two will become a couple.
The Sitcom Hook Up Chart
|Yes||No||No||Obviously not going to work|
|Yes||No||Yes||Series of titillating encounters until they finally get together|
|Yes||Yes||Yes||YES! It’s go time|
To test my theory, I’m going to examine three sitcoms that will be returning in the Fall 2014 TV Line Up.
|Brooklyn Nine-Nine||Peralta and Santiago||Yes, work together||No, Santiago has a boyfriend||Yes, but we’ve been shown very little|
Detective Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and Detective Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) work in the same police district in Brooklyn. As part of a stellar ensemble cast, Samberg and Fumero have ample opportunity to bounce off the other wacky police officers as well as each other. Both are childlike characters, so there is a lot of teasing between the two of them, and a lot of the teasing has to do with the year-long bet to see who can make more felony arrests. While there is a lot of schoolyard banter, there is no real, adult flirtation until near the end of season one. In the finale episode, Jake reveals he is leaving the precinct for an undercover operation and reveals to Amy how he feels:
“I don’t know what’s gonna happen on this assignment, and if something bad goes down, I’d be pissed at myself if I don’t say this: I kinda wish something…could happen…between us…romantic-stylez. And I know it can’t, ’cause you’re with Teddy, and I’m going undercover, and that’s just how it is. Anyway, we’re not supposed to have any contact, so I should go.”
Will They? My prediction is yes. Since the writers took a chance with that simple, sweet but totally true-to-character speech, I think that Jake and Amy will get together in an interesting, and non-traditional way. But I’m going to guess not until season 3, at the very earliest.
Ok. So writers are clearly good at keeping lovers apart in order to keep the love-sparks entertaining.
“Television is a writer’s medium.” Where this phrase comes from, I don’t know. I wasn’t able to find the answer on Google, but I’ve heard the phrase so many times from TV critics, writers, directors and the like, that I believe it to be true. As John Truby, American screenwriter and writing teacher, explains in this informative video, the writers rule in TV-land. There are so many outlets looking for good content, that a good writer has a much better chance at telling their story on TV than anywhere else right now. I don’t need to tell you that there are SO many good shows on right now! (In the video, John Truby even calls this the “golden age of television.”)
I’m not going to go into depth here, because I’m talking about sitcom romances, but you’ll have to take my word for it. Television is a writers medium.
Except, a writer can’t write chemistry.
When the time comes to film that smouldering look, or that at-long-last kiss, the actors are the ONLY thing that can sell the story. You can write two whole seasons (and don’t forget that in sitcom-land, two seasons is over forty episodes) of flirty and charming and well-written encounters and at the end of it, the big pay-off kiss on the top of the Empire State building will only be mildly pleasing. I’m talking about you, the Mindy Project.
|The Mindy Project||Mindy and Danny||Yes, work together||Yes||No, unfortunately|
Dr. Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) and Dr. Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) are your typical sitcom odd-couple pairing. He’s the cranky one. She’s the funny, quirky one. They are co-partners in a Ob/Gyn office. I dunno, that’s all you really need to know. They do have their sweet moments, and funny moments, but sexy moments? Nope, nope, nope. Both Kaling and Messina are skilled comedic actors – and they are certainly capable of creating heat on screen (see: Mindy with Casey, played by Anders Holm) but the honest moments Messina and Kaling have together are based on friendship. When Mindy is bedridden, Danny comes over and cuddles her. Aww… what a nice friend… but wait, he’s apparently in love with her, even though he keeps telling her he isn’t! It’s just frustrating in the wrong way. The two actors just don’t have that weird/awesome connection that sparks an exciting romance. I’d rather watch them be awesome friends together.
I really want to love this show, but so much of the reason I don’t is because season two spent so much time on Mindy and Danny’s relationship, and it just ain’t workin’.
Won’t They? I think Mindy and Danny are doomed, sadly. While the characters have some things in common, there isn’t enough going on in their lives together to sustain a full 24-episode series around.
So what happens when a pair of actors has so much chemistry that the writers can’t help but write the two characters together? Season Two of New Girl happens.
From the very first episode, when Jess moves into the loft with Nick and his male roommates, Zooey Deschanel and Jake Johnson had palpable chemistry. The writers did an excellent job in season one, of keeping the two apart – so much so that the notion of romance between the two of them faded into the background of the show. Then came season two. To be honest, I don’t remember exactly how the two started flirting, it happened so subtly, but by mid-season, the audience was titillated enough to be rewarded with the hottest kiss I’ve ever seen on TV. Don’t take my word for it, watch for yourself. I don’t know when the writers decided to get Nick and Jess together, maybe they had it planned from the beginning, but once Deschanel and Johnson were cast together, they must have known one day they would write them together. Season Two of New Girl is the perfect combination of skilled writers creating a tension-filled and slow moving storyline for two dynamic actors, who obviously have a butt-load of chemistry.
|New Girl||Nick and Jess||Yes, live together in a loft||Yes||YES|
At the end of season 3, after dating for some time, Nick and Jess break up. They think they don’t have anything in common. But if history has taught us anything, having things in common doesn’t matter on sitcoms! All you need is proximity, singleness and chemistry.
Will They Again? Dear writers of New Girl, please get Nick and Jess back together. Sincerely, everyone.
But in all seriousness, if we follow the Sitcom Hook Up Chart, I think Nick and Jess are bound for a relapse. As of the end of season 3, both are single, both are still living together in the loft and the chemistry ain’t gonna fade anytime soon.
I just realized that I chose 3 sitcoms that air on FOX. Good job, FOX. I’ll stand behind the Sitcom Hook Up Chart for any other network though. Feel free to post your own findings in the comments.
As a final note, the Sitcom Hook Up Chart does not work on dramas. In sitcoms, we want the characters to fall in love and be happy forever. Dramas are the home of sadness and longing. If the Sitcom Hook Up Chart worked on dramas, Don Draper and Peggy Olson would have banged eight times by now.