Opposites Attract on Television

They say that “opposites attract” in a relationship, but do they really? Throughout the years, television shows seem to have centered their storylines around on again, off again relationships. This strategy has kept audiences captivated and on the edge of their seats wondering whether or not the couples will actually work out in the end. The creators of these toxic couples often drag the romances out in order to keep the viewers entertained. It is common that once opposing characters get together, viewers tend to lose interest. This method of television writing is timeless and despite our recognition of its pattern, it continues to keep us engaged no matter what new conflicting couple is introduced.  

On the hit 90s sitcom, Friends, the characters of Ross and Rachel find happiness with one another despite their differences. Two individuals with different backgrounds and interests end up finding their soulmate in a person they did not think was possible. Throughout the series, while keeping in the rhythm of comedy, the writers of Friends fight to show the possibility for opposites to attract when one is searching for love. Their on again, off again relationship had us on the edge of our seats in suspense for ten seasons. While the couple does in fact get together in the end, their oppositions are what continuously drove them apart. Ross is a paleontologist who is often seen as a “nerd” who is desperate to find a wife. This desperation often brought him to act in extreme manners. Rachel once described Ross by saying, “He was possessive, he was jealous, he could never just let the little things go,” (Season 8, Ep. 8). Meanwhile, Rachel is the daughter of a rich father and was the popular girl in high school who could get any guy she wanted. She moves to the city to try and find independence by taking up a job as a waitress then later works in fashion. However her roots often get in the way as Ross claims, “I guess you can say she’s a little spoiled sometimes…i guess you know sometimes she’s a little ditsy…and I’ve seen her be a little too into her looks,” (Season 2, Ep. 8). Ross makes these observations when asked about Rachel’s flaws. However in spite of them, whenever Ross attempts to be in a new relationship with a woman, all he can think of is how, “she’s not Rachel,” (Season 2, Ep. 8).  While Ross’s quirks can drive Rachel insane, “none of that compared to how kind, and gentle, and thoughtful he is,” (Season 8, Ep. 8). These two people, while coming from opposing worlds, still seem to look towards each other when searching for love. Their constant tension and apprehensions are what keep the audience captivated for ten years.

We have seen this pattern emerge both in the past and present. On the 80s sitcom Cheers, the characters of Sam and Diane were two opposites that played with each others hearts. The writers paired the jock and the intellectual to have a bizarre love affair for nearly five seasons. However, once the couple finally came together in marriage, the creators wrote Diane off of the show to keep the storyline interesting. For the next six seasons, Sam desperately went after yet another woman completely different from himself named Rebecca. The show was a success and there is no doubt that the credit is due to the constant conflicting relationships the writers had continued to create to keep the show alive.

Today, we continue to see this style of sitcoms in the show The Big Bang Theory. Within the series, a physicist by the name of Leonard is constantly pining after his neighbor and aspiring actress, Penny. Their back and forth romance has gone on for twelve seasons. After many years of fighting and butting heads, the writers finally decided to wed the two characters. However, due to the sexual tension between the characters being cut, the show has found itself declining in ratings. Many viewers have lost interest within the show due to the feeling that there is nowhere else to go with the storyline.

It is hard to believe that two people who are completely different from one another could find happiness between them. However, sitcom writers keep us captivated in trying to prove that it is possible. While some characters with opposing personalities face many obstacles, others can overcome them just like any other relationship. Creators try to show that differences do not only add to the spice of life, but they allow us to learn and grow with one another. This method of character development has produced many successful, award-winning sitcoms that have kept audiences entertained for generations.

Nicole Bruso


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