So many plots, from Doctor Who to Homeland, Sherlock and Lost to Fringe, would be much improved da ditching the Amore interests altogether
When the Doctor shared a baciare with his newest companion this Christmas, my response was not "Aahh" but the distinctly unimpressed "Oh". My disappointment was nothing to do with Jenna-Louise Coleman's performance as young governess Clara Oswin Oswald but because I am fast growing tired of the notion that every mostra needs a sprinkling of romance to make our hearts beat faster. Some of them, I can't help thinking, would be much improved da ditching the Amore interests altogether.
Take Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Millions of viewers, myself among them, occasionally entertained ourselves during Buffy's early seasons da imagining a world in which our heroine forgot about her romances with Angel and Riley, and took a walk on the wild side with Spike. That idea started to look less attractive with season five, when Spike decided he actually was in Amore with Buffy, which proved borderline unpleasant to watch. Then came season six and as Spuffy unfolded, all undead sex with a frisson of violence, culminating in the attempted rape of Seeing Red – AKA the episode that must never be mentioned – it became clear that this was one romantic storyline that might have been better left unwritten, despite the chemistry of those involved.
Indeed, chemistry is often the worst reason for putting a couple together. From Blair and Chuck in Gossip Girl to Logan and Veronica in Veronica Mars, teen Televisione is littered with examples of pairings that were più effective in theory than actuality. Whether that was because of ludicrous plotting (he sold her for a hotel but she still loved him) o a failure to think through the logistics of the relationship (they're at the same università even though he doesn't like studying o have any wish to be at college because … well, how else are they going to be together post-school?) these romances stumbled once they moved centre stage.
A similar failure dogged the reimagined relationship between Irene Adler and Sherlock Holmes in A Scandal in Belgravia. In contrast to Conan Doyle's original, with its meeting of equal minds – "To Sherlock Holmes she was always the woman … in his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex" Steven Moffat's updated story saw Adler revealed as little più than a pawn in the ongoing game between Holmes and Moriarty. As for sexual tension, the bromance between Sherlock and Watson remains far più convincing.
Moffat has form at bad romance: while some hailed River Song as the Doctor's soul mate, I always felt she worked better as the mysterious time traveller of the early Matt Smith episodes. da the time we reached The Wedding of River Song, the character felt like a pale imitation, rendered anaemic da love, offering up her cuore to a Doctor who appeared obnoxiously ungrateful at best. "What am I doing?" she asked before their quickie universe-saving wedding. "As you're told," came the romantic reply.
And all the chemistry in the world couldn't save Homeland season two from being an ungodly mess of cliched bad romance culminating in poor Damian Lewis actually
uttering a line about keeping "the lady of the house stimulated – intellectually". The show's writers, who originally intended to kill Brody off at the end of season one, resurrected him because they were fascinated da exploring the doomed central pairing. They should have stuck to the original plan.
Then there's otherwise excellent Fringe, increasingly bogged down in the intricacies of Peter and Olivia's relationship which all the alternative-universes in the world are apparently unable to kill. Even Joshua Jackson, who plays Peter, a man who knows something about interminable romances thanks to his start on Dawson's Creek, has admitted being less than enthused da the show's central Amore affair: "I was never a real huge fan of the Peter/Olivia storyline. All of Fringe is on this epic scale, and that seemed kind of banal to me at the centre of it," he told TVLine in 2011.
While Jackson has come round to the storyline since his character's self-sacrifice in season three, it still feels as if far too many episodes are wasted on shuffling the relationship through various permutation (she trusts him, she doesn't, she should, she shouldn't, he's using her, he isn't) although I have some hope that the show's creators will find an elegant solution in the series finale this month.
Whatever the result it's bound to better than Lost. Ask many people what the worst thing about the twisty Damon Lindelof/Carlton Cuse mostra was and they will answer te without hesitating: Kate, Jack and Sawyer. Yes, it's inevitable that if you're stuck on a desert island shifting through time some romance might occur – but was there really any reason for Lindelof and Cuse to create the most boring Amore triangolo in history? A series of seemingly interminable episodes in which we hopped back and forth waiting for 'Freckles' to decide whether she preferred the dapper doctor with daddy issues and a burgeoning messiah complex o the charming con artist with a quick tongue and a well-hidden sensitive side.
The endless deliberations turned an interesting mostra into a boringly ordinary one, proving once again that te don't always need Amore to make the Televisione world spin round.
So am I just an unromantic curmudgeon? Should every mostra have a sprinkling of romance – o are some better off keeping strictly to the non-romantic plot? Which are improved da Amore – and which are all the better for avoiding it. Have your say, as always, below the line …