Thursday, December 4, 2008

Action on the Bench: Second-String OTPs and the Fangirls Who Love Them

In light of recent developments, Leigh and I spoke briefly this evening about Hodgins and Angela from Bones. Now, we know there are a lot of folks out there who are really invested in these two, and we have to say—we’re kind of not. It’s not that we’re rooting against them, necessarily, and we definitely find some of their “moments” pretty sweet, but at the end of the day, we’re in it for the Booth and the Brennan. It got me thinking about other “second-string” couples over the years, and how they sometimes sort of fizzle (think: most of the couples on Grey’s Anatomy, Weiss and Nadia on Alias...) and sometimes become our favorite couples of all time—the ones discussed in this blog.

Let’s start with an obvious one: The Office’s Dwight and Angela. The bizarre tales of these two may not be the only reason why I tune in every week, but they definitely keep me laughing—and intrigued. I never know what in the world Angela wants, but I definitely would love to see her figure things out with Dwight. They’re just too weird not to work, frozen cats and all.

I don’t know how many of y’all watched Sports Night, but Jeremy and Natalie are a pretty archetypal second-string couple. Most of the will-they-or-won’t-they tension belonged to Casey and Dana, but these two had the most consistently sweet and romantically interesting storylines Aaron Sorkin has ever written. They also follow a relatively consistent rule of second-stringers: they break up when it’s time for the drama to happen between the starter couples. Once Casey and Dana’s relationship drama picked up in the second season, Jeremy and Natalie broke up (for a while, at least).

Notice that the same thing happened to Dwight and Angela circa the beginning of season four. As a more serious follower of starter couples, I sometimes find myself a little excited when the secondary couples split, as it often means there’s good stuff ahead for my OTPs. On the flipside, it makes double dates really difficult.

Lost’s Charlie and Claire are also a pretty good example. Notice that their tension begins in mid-season two, around the same time things get more flirty for Jack and Kate. Ultimately, though, it’s the peanut butter lovers who get to do the overtly romantic things—like calling “meeting you” the best moment of his life. But, you know, one of ‘em ends up dead and the other one gets her baby stolen by my OTP. Hi-yoh!

Around here, we’re really fond of Grey’s Anatomy’s Izzie and Alex. Who doesn’t love how these two bring out the best in each other, and that week-to-week, we really get to see them try to figure things out? Okay, maybe not so much for her right now with the Denny sex, but she is working at it, kind of, and he told her he loves her! I almost hesitate to call these two second-stringers, because with the lack of attention being paid to Derek and Meredith right now, Izzie and Alex are pretty much pulling the romantic storyline weight around here. And, let’s face it, Alex’s adorableness was the saving grace of tonight’s episode. Pretty soon, they’ll be the only reason I watch this show.

Because that’s what I have trouble understanding. It’s the same problem I have with those of you who watch Lost and hate Jack—why bother watching when this character that you despise is such a prominent and integral part of the series? How could you stand it? I tolerate Sawyer because he’s only had three centric episodes in the entire series! Jack’s my man, and he’s had NINE. Three times as many!

So for this, we’ll go to Mae, who, as you may be aware, is right now going through a pretty intense period of love for Chase and Cameron on House. I asked her and her friend Michelle why they can watch 22 episodes a year knowing there’s going to be a cumulative eight minutes of Chase/Cam. No seriously! Mae talked for MONTHS about “The Itch” before it aired and all that happened was that she gave him a drawer! (She assures me that the episode actually meant a lot more than that.)

Michelle says, “I watch for them because I think it's far more interesting to watch a relationship formed of little nuanced moments.” I guess she doesn’t need to get beaten over the head with ship all the time, which one would upon watching Bones.

She says, “They’re quirky. It's not the traditional love story, as it can't be in House-verse. Everything's a little bit backwards and a little bit reversed, and never quite what we expect it to be.” It fits their universe.

“Also, they're pretty together.”

Mae calls them “endlessly fascinating,” saying, “I'm always fascinated watching two screwed up people realize that they balance each other out and that, together, they're actually not that screwed up at all.”

No, seriously, she loves them.

And, finally, the best second-string OTP of all time...Monica and Chandler. I have such affection for these two, who first hooked up at the end of season four and never broke up. The next six seasons chronicled their awkward beginnings and sneaking around (“We know, but they don’t know we know they know we know!”) to their marriage, infertility, and ultimate adoption of twins. I often wonder how shows like Friends convince themselves that they can’t write established coupledom for Ross and Rachel without destroying the show, while simultaneously writing some of the best relationship storyline of all time.

Second-stringers often become the glorious consolation prize to the delayed consummation of a show’s OTP. Booth and Brennan can’t hook up for another three years? Here, have some Hodgela. Ross just married Emily even though he said Rachel’s name during his vows? Now introducing Mondler! So while they sometimes have to play second fiddle, we often get to see even more development for these couples while we wait (sometimes for as long as six years!) for something to happen for the starters.

And, no, Hodgins and Angela are never going to be enough for me. It’s gotta be Booth and Brennan, and if you told me I could have Booth and Brennan together tomorrow if Hodgins and Angela, like, were given Angela and Hodgins repellant, respectively, I’d be purchasing that in bulk.

4 Responses to “Action on the Bench: Second-String OTPs and the Fangirls Who Love Them”

Kat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kat said...

Kat said...
Fun topic! Agree for the most part with what you say. You know, I don't hate Hodgela in the way that I generally dislike anycoupleexceptjate on Lost or a lot of the filler-pairings on other shows. I guess b/c I know that B/B are going to happen regardless but not for a while I get that there needs to be some other romance meanwhile. I'm def not ever actually shipping them though as much as I really like Angela and Hodgkins separately. I'm just a passive watcher with them: they get engaged? Wow, cool! They break-up? Aw, too bad! Unlike what I would be saying if it was Jate or B/B. Claire and Charlie held a small amount of interest for me but only because she's Jack's sister if I'm being toatlly honest. I did really, really love Monica and Chandler. His sarcasm with her OCD was really fun to watch. I actually liked them better than R/R a lot of the time.

Now, one 2nd string couple I am 100% behind is Lost's reigning island royalty: Suliet. If they keep running through the jungle holding hands and the such and I just may bump them up to OTP-jr. ;p

Caroline Carter said...

Kat! I totally was going to mention Suliet and then forgot. Oops! But, yes, they are definitely high on my list of fandom loves. I'm also with you on the Charlie/Claire--Claire definitely becomes more interesting when you know she's Jack's sister.

Anonymous said...

I sometimes find myself shipping second string ships above the show's main ship because it generally has better odds. Or, at least, better short term odds. As in "You know we can't have anything really good happen for the main ship, so we'll give you some fluff with this little ship over here to tide you over." So instead of fighting it, I usually try to embrace the fluff. Admittedly, they do sometimes go sour (Hodgins/Angela and Dwight/Angela, as you mentioned, and the two Angelas just really freaked me out), and I hadn't noticed, but you're right, that does often come with some happiness for the main ship. Jam, obviously, and I often think BB gets more shipper fodder than actual couples on most other shows that I watch (which I'm okay with). I, personally, shipped Charlie/Claire pretty hard, so that was rather disappointing, but very fluffy while it lasted. Now I ship Dan/Charlotte, so here's hoping that will turn out well. I find myself agreeing with the sentiment mentioned that sometimes it's more fun to have to pick out the moments in between, rather than having it stuffed down your throat. Not all the time, but sometimes. That's how I feel about Dan and Charlotte. Most of what shippers there have to work with is not overtly shippy, and it makes you be more creative with it. I'd also like to mention a second string ship in a fandom nobody here has probably heard of, Abby/Connor on Primeval. It's another of those "guaranteed to make your teeth melt" kind of ships, and that's why I love it. Oh, and Heroes: Mohinder/Eden. Okay, so that one's more pretend fluffy/happy than actually so, but still. And Firefly! Kaylee/Simon. I need to rewatch Firefly. NCIS: Abby/McGee. That one just sort of dissolved. And I'm not sure whether or not you'd call it second string, but I suppose it is. And that's not to say I don't ship main ships. Those are just the shows where my OTP for the show is a second string ship. And how do they turn out? Mostly dead or to early to call. I maintain hope for Dan/Charlotte (oh, it's LOST, who am I kidding?). But I think Abby/Connor has a real shot. Primeval is a cracky enough show not to think that they really have to tear them apart, I hope. They tear the main ship apart. I'd be willing to bet they won't take the second string ship down with them.