November 28, 2012

The holidays are here: the season of kissing in the snow. This time of year begs us to imagine sneaking out of a holiday party to kiss someone on the porch, staying secluded in a make out session for as long as you both can stand the cold. It’s got me thinking about new love and how exciting that can be.

On a more depressing note, we know those new moments don’t last forever, and that’s been displayed over and over again by our favorite TV couples. It’s always sad when love ends, but sometimes even more sad when it morphs into something different than it was. These five TV couples make me nostalgic for the spark they once shared. Not necessarily because they went on to have great relationships; but I miss the moments when they were flirting and discovering each other and everything seemed possible. YOUNG LOVE! Don’t you miss it?

(Spoilers ahead, so be safe and smart as you proceed).

Don and Betty – Mad Men

Ok, I know what you’re thinking. Don and Betty had the WORST relationship of all time: he cheated on her constantly; he lied about both the cheating and also, um, his entire identity; she was mean to their kids and in general sucked a huge amount. And those are all fair points. But I want to direct you to memories of the past.

Remember the episode “The Wheel” in season two? That episode is heartbreaking for its nostalgic genius. As Don runs his presentation for the Polaroid team, we see his family memories spin before us; pictures from a time when, it looks like, Don and Betty were really in love. They were young and excited to be building something together. They didn’t see, then, that the lies would pile up, that the discontent would slowly swell until it burst. They were kids in love with an idea of the future.

Liz and Floyd – 30 Rock

When Liz and Floyd first got together, it was magical. They met because he sent her flowers by accident (his girlfriend at the time was named Liz Lemlin; Liz promptly fired her), and the sparks were instantaneous. Sure there were hurdles, like Liz pretending to be an alcoholic, but soon they’d moved past that and they were hating the same movies and Liz was doing her sexy flannel PJs and Kleenex dance. They were just perfect together. It was a dream come true.

Those memories made it even harder to deal with when Liz and Floyd were unable to sustain a long distance Cleveland-to-NYC relationship. In a particularly acute observation on long distance relationships, he tells her that he better get off the phone because… he’s waiting for the bus, so… yeah. It was just too hard, and they had to break up, and it was devastating. And when Floyd came back in the fourth season engaged to another woman, well; the memory is almost too much to bear.

Nate and Brenda – Six Feet Under

You may protest that, like Don and Betty, Nate and Brenda were a terrible couple. And ultimately, they really were; they just were notright for each other, no matter how hard they tried to make it work. But remember when they met, in the pilot, and they were both so crazy and messed up that they had sex in a storage closet at LAX? Weird, definitely, but there was something about that completely animal attraction that seemed like fate. And through all the insane ups and downs that faced them both over the years, they kept being pulled back together; I really believed there was something special about their connection.

At their wedding in season 5, in an episode symbolically titled “A Coat of White Primer,” Brenda had just miscarried. They almost cancelled the ceremony, but she insisted they go ahead; and Nate was there for her, and agreed. It was a last ditch attempt to make something sad and un-workable into something real and beautiful, but it didn’t work. Once all of the pieces were finally in place, it was just clear that it was wrong. And that gave it the tinge of tragedy, in the end.

Chris Traeger and Belief in Love – Parks and Recreation

When Chris came to Pawnee at the end of season two, he was a bundle of joy and delight. He LITERALLY loved everyone! And he especially was into Ann Perkins, who he pursued with upbeat aggression. It was inspiring to see his positive outlook! It was so genuine! Even when he and Ann broke up, he seemed totally fine with it (it was Ann, after all, who didn’t, um, really get what was happening). At the end of that season, I had no doubt that Chris would always be full of hope for himself!

But then… something switched off. Suddenly, it was clear that Chris’ outward optimism was masking a deep, deep loneliness. Chris is now something of a shell of a man, who relies on daily visits with his therapist to get by and finds comfort only when he’s making himself forget that he doesn’t have someone to love. It’s really sad. I miss the days when Chris and his belief in love were making sparks fly everywhere!

Still, I have hope for Chris. All of that desire to love someone just has to swing back around and lead him to his soul mate. Come on, writers! I hope they don’t let Chris suffer too much longer.

Jim and Pam – The Office

Jim and Pam, you point out, are still together. They have two babies and a house. They made it work!

This is all true, and I’m not saying these are bad things. The Office has done a commendable job of showing a realistic trajectory for their relationship; now, they are in the figuring-things-out phase, the really-dealing-with-adulthood phase. But, honestly, this phase sucks. And it has sucked to watch them get here. I remember watching “Casino Night,” that magical finale to season two, when they kissed for the first time: it felt like so much was possible! They were palpably, insanely, crazy about each other, and it seemed like their coming together would bring them both closer to a life they would feel happy to lead.

But it hasn’t. They both still work at Dunder Mifflin, and while they have kids and that’s great, they seem unsatisfied. I’m not doubting that they still love one another, but I really miss old Jim and Pam. I hate seeing them like this, and I miss the way it was before.

But, like good old Chris Traeger, I bet Jim and Pam will find their way to excitement again. Theirs is a different kind of story, and one much more in tune with real people in love everywhere. It’s not always thrilling and sometimes there is disappointment and even lies, but I’m hopeful that there is happiness ahead for them. And (hey why not!), for all of us, too.

Aren’t you glad this list didn’t end up as depressing as it began? Let the romantic holiday season begin!

Reminisce with me on Portable.

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