When Jim and Pam got together on The Office three seasons ago and it didn’t destroy the show, it was a rebuke to the Moonlighting theorem: the idea that if you create a will-they-won’t-they couple, you don’t get them together unless you want people to stop watching. Pam and Jim not only got together, they got pregnant, got married, and got a baby — and people are still watching. You’d think this might have inspired other comedies to take the leap; instead, it seems to have inspired other sitcoms not to create will-they-won’t they couples at all.
This past week, two freshman sitcoms took their potential will-they-won’t-they couples and turned them into oh-yes-they-will couples. Last night on Community’s amazeballs paint-gun episode, Jeff and Britta did the deed; the day before on Cougar Town, Jules and her neighbor Grayson decided to try to have a relationship. Rather than creating a Jim-and-Pam dynamic, both of these shows have opted to go the Ross and Rachel (or J.D. and Eliot) route, where characters bang early on and then play musical beds for seasons to come.
On the one hand, this is smart. Opting out of having to do what Chuck just did — i.e., get the two protagonists together after a few seasons, but have to redefine the basic tension of the show as a result — or what dramas like Bones, House, and Castle continue to do — i.e., stubbornly, aggravatingly refuse to get two people who clearly want to be together, together — is a huge hassle avoided. On the other hand, it’s cowardly. Will-they-won’t-they couples can be really fun to watch! Not for years and years and years (ahem, Bones), but for as long as they make sense. So while Cougar Town and Community opted for a completely understandable solution to an annoying problem, here’s hoping some future sitcom show-runner is willing to sack up and prove Jim and Pam weren’t just a fluke.