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  • Addison Rizer

Don’t Break Up The Slow-Burn Couple, Just Get Better at Writing: A Plea to TV Writers


There’s almost nothing I love more than the angst and yearning of a slow-burn couple’s relationship unfolding over many (many) episodes of a TV show. That clench-in-your-heart feeling when they cast meaning-filled looks as the other retreats, the flash of anger when one starts dating someone else, the big-gestures-but-we’re-just-friends-right? moments, all of it is so, so good.


You sit and wait as one season, two seasons, six seasons tick by, that sweet impatience, before finally: the kiss! The first date! The confessions! So euphoric and weirdly unbelievable despite the tension and the moments and you literally rooting for that moment to happen for days or months or years.


You can breathe out now. They’re together. All is well.

Until a season or half a season or four episodes (cough cough Mindy and Danny on their first go) the writers break the couple up because, in the aftermath of them getting together, the show fell flat. The tension was gone. Boring.


So, instead of coming up with any other source of drama, the writers turn back to what they know the audience loves: the couple. To ratchet up that tension, they break them up. Introduce an ex or some jealousy or weird out-of-character expectations for each other and send them running. All in the hopes to add a little bit of zest back onto the screen.


But, that slow-burn feeling isn’t ever the same the second time around. It’s just as lackluster as the writer’s attempts at tension when the couple was together. We know what it’s like when they do get together. The kiss, the sex, the feelings. We already know. It’s not something we wait for with bated breath. We exhaled, remember?


So, then, it’s just kind of weird. The two go off in search of love elsewhere. Maybe they hint at them getting together again, maybe not. But, it’s never quite the same. Nick and Jess’s elevator kiss doesn’t measure up to the one between their bedroom doors. It hasn’t got the guts.


All of this to say: TV writers please learn to write tension in some other way. Family, friendships, work issues, anything. I don’t want to watch two characters wait six seasons to make out and then find out a few episodes later it was all for nothing. It makes all my wanting, all my feeling, all my rooting for them, feel pointless. It’s, to me, like the equivalent of a dream sequence or a time machine fix or bringing someone, miraculously, back from the dead.


So, TV writers, let’s do something a little different next time. Leave those two together and write tension into the show in some other way.