If you love writing romance, TV might be more up your alley.
First comes love, then comes marriage… then comes the end of the screenplay. Roll credits. Don’t forget to pick up your trash before you leave the theater. Parking validation is by the restrooms. Have a good night everyone!
With little exception, feature-length love stories are one and done. The movie ends with a reconciliation, proposal, or wedding. Maybe, once in a while, like the rhyme goes, a baby carriage. Viewers get to spend two hours with the happy couple, and then everyone has to part ways. We must imagine the rest of happily ever after, whatever that might be.
But in the era of Peak TV, the love doesn’t have to end.
TV Romance is Full of the Good Stuff: Conflict
Romantic relationships are complicated, no matter who’s involved. When two people decide to date, hook up, live together, get married, or somehow become a couple, conflict is bound to happen in one way or another. And while that may not be good for the couple in question, it’s great for writers.
Television relies on consistent conflict. In order to fill an entire season’s worth of episodes, there must be conflict to propel a show’s characters forward. Love, while seemingly simple in feature-length rom-coms, can be its glorious, complicated, conflict-filled self in television shows.
Whether it’s the oddball situations Jess and Nick find themselves in in New Girl, the miscommunications and missteps of Gretchen and Jimmy in You’re the Worst, or the complications caused by Claire and Jamie’s differing historical backgrounds in Outlander, romantic relationships are full of enough conflict to sustain seasons upon seasons of episodes.
TV Gives Plenty of Space for Characters (and Relationships) to Arc
Watching a movie is a contained event. You buy your ticket or press play, and it’s over about two hours later. When people sit down to watch a TV show, like any good relationship, they’re choosing to be in it for the long haul. This means that they expect to see the progression and evolution of a relationship.
Viewers want to see Ned and Chuck struggle to figure out how to be together in Pushing Daisies. They like watching Rob and Sharon argue and make up again and again in Catastrophe, and root for Mindy to find her one true love on The Mindy Project.
Romance movies provide a happy ending after two hours. Romantic TV shows hold out and only give up that happy ending after many episodes of trials and tribulations. Seeing characters change and relationships grow over time makes us love characters even more. It’s the journey that makes it worth it, after all.
In TV, it’s possible to have entire seasons in which the couple isn’t actually together. Take season four of You’re the Worst, when Gretchen and Jimmy are very much not a couple and, in fact, don’t even spend that much time together. Or look at Jane the Virgin and how often Jane isn’t in a relationship with either Rafael or Michael.
TV Gives Your the Time to Marinate in Love…or Hate
Having more screen time to explore a relationship also means the opportunity to delve into the subtleties and intricacies of emotion.
While movies typically don’t have the runtime to devote to deeper emotions, television has it in spades. It’s why Normal People can trust viewers to track emotional changes in Marianne and Connell’s relationship based solely on physical looks and movements, and why This is Us can take an entire episode to dive into the emotions around Kevin and Sophie never finishing a movie they once watched together.
Love isn’t easy. Writing a love story certainly isn’t simple either. But if the romance between your characters doesn’t fit into a tight-90 time-frame, consider moving the story to television.
While there may not be such a thing as the perfect couple, television and romance make the perfect pair.
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