Love Isn’t Real, But Sometimes Television Does A Good Job Of Pretending It Is
Who is the best TV romance? Eleanor and Chidi? Tara and Willow? Coach Taylor and Tami Taylor? Jim and Pam?
It was recently Valentine’s Day, and you know what that means! Questioning whether or not you’ve ever experienced love, and if you ever will again! And also, watching TV and judging all the TV romance ruthlessly.
Television is full of storied couples, grand and tortured and comforting and absurd love stories — sometimes they’re the entire point of the show, other times surprising diversions. The world stans some bloody romance.
Even I, love-grinch, romance-doubter, international sad-kid, loves a romance on my screen.
But, not all television romances are created equal.
Extremely metaphysical comedy The Good Place recently ended its somewhat wishy-washy third season on a big, heart-rending emotional twist, centred entirely on the stakes of characters Eleanor and Chidi and their much-benighted love. However, a lot of people have found themselves unmoved, because they don’t find Eleanor and Chidi convincing.
A thought kicked off by a comment on my Good Place post: it is *weird* how the criticism of S3 seems to have coalesced around "Chidi and Eleanor don't have chemistry".
— Abigail Nussbaum (@NussbaumAbigail) February 14, 2019
Which is pretty interesting. Eleanor and Chidi have lived literally hundreds of thousands of lives together in all the reboots of The Good Place, and in most of them, they end up falling in love. It’s a love story that exists outside of time and reality, that defies multiple attempts to kill it off. It is based off a kinda antagonistic, but mutually respectful friendship. They literally, LITERALLY make each other better people.
Me, standing in a huge crowd, holding a knife: Now, WHO SAID Eleanor and Chidi aren't convincing? WHO!!?
— Kara Schlegl (@karaschlegl) February 14, 2019
It’s weird that it’s not hitting for some people.
So, after this most cursed of days, I’m going to talk about some of the relationships on TV that DO seem to work. I’m going to feel FINE at the end of this.
1. Leslie and Ben — Parks and Recreation
Now, Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt are often the go-to comparison to Eleanor and Chidi, being the romantic protagonists on Mike Schur’s other big comedy, the beloved Parks and Rec.
“I love you and I like you” is such a perfect summation of this couple, who do genuinely like each other, and enjoy each other. They are both goddamn dorks, but they specialise their weird passions in different fields.
The way their relationship played out is perfectly timed too, with each beat helping our investment make sense — their courtship hindered by work rules, the will-they-won’t-they of administration surprisingly effectively.
Their proposal. Their wedding. It’s all so gorgeous (and it’s no surprise that Jake and Amy from Brooklyn Nine-Nine stole their wedding beat for beat).
God, I hate them.
2. Veronica and Logan — Veronica Mars
You know how sometimes you don’t WANT a relationship to be right, but it is?
That’s Veronica and Logan. Logan is not even a particularly good person. I don’t like his early 2000s belt. I don’t like his hair. Veronica only deserves the best.
But fuck, their chemistry.
That scene in season 1 where they kiss for the first time after he rescues her from a bomber? Damn, you just have to believe it.
3. Jim And Pam — The Office
TV comedy’s it couple! What a weird sentence.
Honestly, there’s a reason why Jim and Pam are an iconic relationship — if nothing else, they’re about finding something beautiful and magical in the absolute dungheap of life. Imagine finding the love of your life at Dunder Mifflin? But I guess that’s what everyone wants from a relationship — something magical.
It’s a very CUTE relationship, that does dip into sickly sweet at times — but hey, they’ve got each other. Who cares what bitter husks like me think?
There’s something so depressingly suburban and at the same time, yet so gorgeously transformative. Little moments — like Pam’s sad interview to camera in the drab meeting room — are elevated to something so cute and romantic and lovely just by Jim popping his head in and asking her to dinner, finally.
They can fuck right off.
4. Coach Taylor and Tami Taylor — Friday Night Lights
Not all on-screen relationships have to be new and fresh.
Sometimes, we can come into a show and find something already stable and gorgeous and rich and deep. That’s them. Coach and Tami aren’t flawless, and they aren’t boring — there’s still something exciting about their marriage, and they adore each other. Tami’s hair is flawless.
Their marriage is all about SUPPORTING each other, and it’s so gorgeous. Honestly.
But also, how dare they? How actually dare they? Throw me off a cliff and let me live at the bottom of the ocean forever.
5. Captain Holt and Kevin — Brooklyn Nine-Nine
What, no Jake and Amy? Shut up. Look, they’re great and all, and I do believe in them, but you know who I love? Raymond and Kevin.
Two weirdos who managed to find each other, and just fit perfectly together.
— Marc Evan Jackson (@MarcEvanJackson) February 14, 2019
What about that whole storyline about the pie that neither of them like, but always buy because they enjoy the drive together to purchase it? Punch me in the heart and fly my broken body to a lonely island.
6. Hannibal And Will — Hannibal
I’m VERY opposed to the concept of projecting queer relationships on to straight ones — I’d much rather advocate for queer representation on screen.
That said, these two murder friends were in love. They mightn’t have boned, but intellectually, they touched each other’s penises.
It’s the best doomed, romantic relationship on TV ever.
I… I don’t want this. This makes me happy to be alone.
7. Willow and Tara — Buffy the Vampire Slayer
They were very sweet. Of course, they would be sweet. I found their whole thing very convincing and gorgeous at the time because I was young and queer. I found the ending of it traumatic. It was very very important!
Plus, any queer relationship which has levitating cunnilingus on the screen will forever own my love and respect.
I love them.
8. Eleanor and Chidi — The Good Place
No, I did the research. I went back and watched — and friends, Eleanor and Chidi are in LOVE.
I believe it. I believe in their chemistry. Sure, it’s an ‘opposites attract’ narrative, but they are as old as time.
I think (and this is a theory only) that maybe some people get it because there’s a shift in the usual energies — Eleanor pursues but Chidi intellectualises, Eleanor is horny but Chidi is anxious, Eleanor is aggressive but Chidi is gentle — Chidi is emotionally honest, Eleanor is weird and repressed. In short, Chidi is not fulfilling the masculine archetype, which is why some people don’t get him as a romantic lead.
Plus, there’s the fact that they are constantly forgetting one another.
Anyway, I think they’re sweet! And Eleanor is definitely horny for him.
Remind me to write an article about how many batshit fan videos there are, because yikes, I watched a lot and I don’t feel right.
Patrick Lenton is the Entertainment Editor at Junkee. He tweets @patricklenton.