Why Do All TV Couples Hate Each Other?

I feel like at some point in time, some network fat cat set a rule that sitcoms are funnier when the married/partnered couples seem to be barely tolerating each other. And it's a bummer.

Jan 12, 2012 at 2:00pm | Leave a comment

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I was watching "Modern Family" the other night, and I was struck by yet another plotline that has Cam and Mitchell, the gay couple, at each other's throats.

"Harrumph," I harrumped. "This show must not value gay couples."

But then I thought about it and realized that none of the couples on that show, all established, long term things, seem very happy. They're always weirdly competing with each other, or angry about something stupid, or treating each other like children.

"Well that's weird," I thought. And then I started thinking about other TV shows I watch, and I couldn't think of a single established couple on television that seems happy with each other. So I started looking into other shows.

And then I got pissed.

Sure, Ben and Leslie are adorable on Parks and Rec, but they just got together. Whitney and Alex on Whitney (a show I don't watch, but too good of an example) exist only to verbally jab at each other and set up jokes about sex. The people who created "Happy Endings" want us to think that Brad and Jane are a happy couple, but they trade insults in front of their friends and seem more interested in winning than in supporting each other.

In most of the standard "They're a couple, he wears plaid, she's too attractive for him, and he has a regular guy job" shows, the couple spends the entire episode slowly dismantling each other to canned laughter, only to have them hug and declare their salty love for each other at the end of each 22 minute story arc.

Reagan and Chris on "Up All Night" are the only example of a fairly happy couple on TV that I could think of, though most of their plotlines are about how to keep their relationship going in the face of a new baby.

Now, I don't watch every single show, so I'm sure there are other examples out there on both sides that you can and will make me aware of, but I feel like at some point in time, some network fat cat set a rule that sitcoms are funnier when the married/partnered couples seem to be barely tolerating each other. And it's a bummer.

I'm happily married, and nothing makes the thing that my husband and I work hard to keep happy and healthy look less appealing than watching a couple that's been married for a long time contradict and correct each other with bored bitterness. So why on earth would we want to watch that on TV too?

Is it that people are seeing themselves in these couples, and laughing the sweet laugh of empathy, or is it that we all think these couples are shitty to each other, but we laugh because we're so happy we're not like them? Fuck the agenda to keep gays and lesbians from getting married, "sanctity of marriage" folk should focus their attention on network television.

So hey, network folk, if you're out there reading:  How about a sitcom about a couple where their relationship is not even the main plot point, but rather, just one pleasant thing in their lives, like a solid BFF relationship in most shows, with the focus being on the nuttiness that is reality.

Isn't it possible for there to be a sitcom about a couple who have fun together, enjoys each other's company, aren't too cutesy, and still have to face a shitload of adversity because they're a) poor in NYC, b) moving to a new country, c) buying a zoo?

I'd watch the hell out of it, and then I'd turn and high-five my husband, excited anew about the life decision I made to marry him. And then we'd watch "Law & Order: SVU."