Friday, September 4, 2009

The Sour Taste Of UST

I know what you’re thinking. Sour taste in the same sentence as UST, a Bones picture... what?! Because really, UST is the most powerful ‘shipping force on TV and when written and acted well, it can be absolute perfection and help hold a show up for years. Trust me, I get it; I believe the hype and my stomach gets all fluttery and I can write an entire post about that time when my ‘ship shared that meaningful glance. Hell, I ‘ship from cast photos before a pilot has even aired (thank you, Stargate Atlantis).

However, for a moment, step with me into madness and try subscribing for a brief moment to what I call the RST Scenario. Yes, Resolved Sexual Tension is a real thing, and I know almost every writer and actor (and fan) will tell you that putting the ‘ship together means death. But honestly. HONESTLY. That has to be my single, biggest grievance with TV ‘ship today.

First, let’s discuss how a UST can die all on its own.

More...
I’m still surprised every time I hear a Bones fan say they don’t want Booth/Bones together yet. I’m sorry, but how much more unbelievable do you really want their relationship to get? We’ve taken most of the journey with them and completely experienced partnership, then friendship, then trust, and now we’re pretty much watching them go through the entire love factor. ALL WHILE SOMEHOW STILL NOT GETTING IT ON. I mean really, everyone knows they love each other, they know they love each other; can anyone name a couple in real life that has actually gotten this far in a relationship without having committed to an actual relationship? And yet, it’s Bones and Booth, man. I’ll stay for the ride because the UST right now is just that good.

But here’s where we start to see the dead end: they’re working through everything now! Fears, hopes, dreams, trust issues, family drama, babies, vices... what’s left when they finally become a couple but happily ever after?

Second, how RST can kill a show.

There is the inevitable Moonlighting scenario. I never watched more than a few episodes of this show and yet somehow it always comes into play with articles about will-they/won’t-they TV relationships. I would just like to know why this show is still being talked about. It went off the air in 1989! Was it the first show to have sexual tension? Can we not find a more recent comparison?

Okay, maybe we can say Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman was one such RST casualty. I’m sure there are more recent examples of shows that fell to their demise once the ‘ship became a couple, but I’m hard pressed to find one. And no, Gilmore Girls does not count.

Third, how RST is done wrong.


1. Do not over extend your UST welcome.
Law and Order: SVU taught us you can only dangle the treat in front of everyone for so long. Some of us still watch, but we whine, and it’s doubtful we’ll think it’s worth it when it happens.


2. Do not exhaust the minute relationship workings or personality quirks before the ‘ship becomes a couple.
Oh X-Files.


3. Do not skip the good stuff.
The Office, I’m looking at you. We went from OMG OMG UST to happy couple? I let it slide because it still kind of works, but cheaters! Also, Stargate SG-1, nice try.

Fourth, how RST can be done right.


1. Do explore sex before a relationship.
Farscape. Bloody genius show. Sex in season one, and still they managed a will-they/wont-they relationship? This wins at life.


2. Do start a relationship too soon.
Standoff was running from the start and chock-full of sexual tension even while they were sleeping together. At first it was just sex, and it was hot, and then it was more than just sex, and still hot. And I know it was cancelled, but I promise it wasn’t because of the ‘ship. Go watch.


3. Do evolve the relationship naturally.
Jericho paired Stanley and Mimi perfectly. The wedding plans may have started a little early, but in a war-torn, post-apocalyptic setting, and with a ticking cancellation clock, who could blame them?


4. Do keep something in your back pocket.
If timing had been on our side, ER could possibly be the crown jewel of the RST Scenario. Carter and Abby, you guys. Excuse me for a nostalgic moment. It’s what we didn’t see them work through before they became a couple that will tantalize forever. Luka/Abby is nothing compared to what Carter/Abby would have been. We didn’t see how Carter’s parents would react to an engagement (we love you, Gamma!). We didn’t see Abby go through the bipolar disorder freak out when she got pregnant. We didn’t see the ups and downs of the ever-recovering addicts. We didn’t see how their trust and timing issues would ever resolve so that this relationship would actually last. And while it may not have had the same UST thrill as the first time they saw each other as more than just co-workers, or the first time they touched or kissed, the RST was built on a swiss cheese foundation – full of enough holes to keep us hoping they’d fill in the gaps before it all fell down.

So seriously, stop with the excuses!

How great would it be to watch Booth/Brennan try to hide a relationship? Brennan into it for sex, and Booth something so much more? Brennan pregnant? Booth’s family interacting with Brennan as his girlfriend? There are still things we haven’t seen, but those are getting fewer and the predictability of these scenarios is greater.

Don’t start writing a show planning to avoid RST and drag the UST to the bitter ends of absurdity (Hart Hanson). Man up, think creatively, plan the relationship arc with the storyline, and show us something amazing!

15 Responses to “The Sour Taste Of UST”

bearlee_there said...

I've never told you but I love your blog. It's well-written, intelligent, witty and insightful. Thank you.

Wrt to this particular post - SPOT ON! Think I'll tweet the link to Hart.

cathangel said...

The Moonlighting argument is such a myth: the show lost its spark after the characters got together not necessarily because the show ran out of material but rather because that coincided around the time Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd started hating the sight of each other behind the scenes and it sneaked up on their dynamic onscreen. Numerous TV writers hide behind that myth to be plain lazy and to avoid tackling the more challenging issues that come with RST so yeah, I completely agree with the stance of your blog.

Lucid said...

The one thing I dislike to read more than anything is when a writer says "We can't have them get together too soon. It will ruin the show."

I've never understood this because I think if done well, it can work perfectly. I think this is the case with Bones. Besides, they started out the VERY FIRST EPISODE playing that angle. In the second episode ever, Brennan tells Goodman that she doesn't think a field trip is a good time to have sex with Booth. No joke, I was dying right there. I think I screamed at my tv, "Omg, just do it!"

Most shows work up to their couples getting together and it evolves slowly. With Bones though, they played up the Booth/Brennan relationship from the beginning.

So, come on HH. I say let's try it and see what happens...sans dream sequences and blackmail.

This comment has been removed by the author.

I agree that RST/UST can kill, but I think its a bunch of hoogey how its seems to be assumed it will. To me its lazy writing! If the second point of the show is the relationship then keep that in mind,don't make it the first. If you have villians..don't let them start sucking, or the plots go off the deep end.. getting lazy on other aspects of the show are what sometimes kill a show..but then the ship/relationship gets blamed. One example Lois and Clark. Them getting together didn't bother me or anyone else I knew who watched it. It was how lame the stories & baddies got. But of course hooking them up got the blame..lazy writing! I also don't like investing in a show and ship only to have it never resolved cause of this paranoia that RST will kill the show. JUST DON"T GET BLOODY LAZY. Farscape def had it right!

Anonymous said...

Your thoughts are exactly my thoughts. But you have managed to express (write them down) much better than I could ever have. (I am not that good with words, plus English is not my first language).
I completely agree. And I love the examples you've mentioned (though I must admit that that I haven't seen most of those shows really)

I do have hope that HH will not follow the footsteps of other show-runners and make everyone wait too long. BB can definitely do the crime solving, relationship and still maintain the chemistry and all that makes this show (these characters) so enjoyable.
RST is not the end of BONES. It will be just continuation of the amazing journey that this show is. So enough of UST, bring on the RST! (in Season 5, thank you)

Thank you for an amazing post.

Am ( a Bones fan from Europe)

BonesLover said...

Hey, Jen. Let me first say that I don't think I've ever read one of your posts, and this was a great first impression! You hit the nail on the head.

RST can ruin a show. I mean, ruin. That's why I abosolutely LOVE UST.

I mean, have you SEEN the promos?

"I love you." Pause. "You know, in an 'atta girl kind of way."

^---- Obvious, no?

He loves her, she loves him, and they just don't know it yet. It's like that with real people, too! Someone likes someone else, and vice versa, and they never thought the other could love them back.

WE know they belong together.

HART HANSON knows they belong together.

EVEN CAM DOES!

But we can't let the pieces be put together just yet. As I said, RST can ruin a show. Especially if it happens fast.

Yeah, 5th season, but take Monk for example. 7th season, and there are MANY things that have not been resolved. I think Bones could even get to a 8th season if they tried.

So, what's next for this couple? We don't know for sure. But we hope it involves 3 words.

Unsolved.
Sexual.
Tension.

:)

~BonesLover

Katie said...

Great examples especially Matt/Emily from Standoff and Stanley/Mimi from Jericho. Two great examples of how RST can be done right! I definitely agree with you on everything! BB can work with RST, and I hope Hart realizes it sooner rather than later.

Mickey said...

Great post! No, Moonlighting wasn't the first or the last. In Remington Steele the characters' attraction was evident from the get-go and they first kissed (while undercover) in episode 3. TPTB then dragged out the UST for 4+ seasons even though there were many times where they wrapped up an episode sharing a glass of wine and kissing in front of the fire. (Even one where she pounced on top of him!) And we were supposed to believe that at some point they just shook hands and went home for the evening? To top it all off the series ended with a fake wedding to keep him from being deported. When the dreaded 5th "season" rolled around it seemed as though the leads were rarely even in the same scene and the show bombed after 6 hours had aired. (This after being brought back to prevent Pierce Brosnan from becoming the next James Bond.) Even 25 years later the faithful fans are upset with how things were handled.

Scarecrow & Mrs. King started a year after Steele and while it took their relationship a bit longer to develop (which was not surprising given the very different lives of the two lead characters), when they did finally become a couple towards the end of season 3 it was very natural. They married in late season 4 and if Kate Jackson's health had not become an issue I fully believe it could have lasted at least one more season as there were a lot of issues for them to resolve.

Too bad we'll never have the chance to see how either of these series could have worked things out. I really hope that HH & Co. have things plotted out such that they don't take it to new heights of ridiculousness.

Elena said...

The Moonlighting myth is definitely overcooked and overused. I agree with you so much that while UST is awesome and tantalizing, RST can be rewarding and even more exciting. Think about how much fun it is when you are in a relationship and it begins to unfold and grow. Watching Booth and Brennan get into a relationship and going along for the ride with them as it evolves would be wonderful. I would love it if they got together and tried to keep things a secret. It would also be something else to see things start off with Booth being into it for love and Brennan TELLING herself that she is in it for sex...and then, of course, fighting the truth as she goes along.

The possibilities for what could be if Brennan and Booth actually got together before the very last episode of the series (Hart Hanson you BETTER not be planning on this) are endless. Hart Hanson & Co. need to, as Jen says, MAN UP and get this show on the road. We're waiting VERY PATIENTLY...and our patience is wearing thin.

Elena said...

The Moonlighting myth is definitely overcooked and overused. I agree with you so much that while UST is awesome and tantalizing, RST can be rewarding and even more exciting. Think about how much fun it is when you are in a relationship and it begins to unfold and grow. Watching Booth and Brennan get into a relationship and going along for the ride with them as it evolves would be wonderful. I would love it if they got together and tried to keep things a secret. It would also be something else to see things start off with Booth being into it for love and Brennan TELLING herself that she is in it for sex...and then, of course, fighting the truth as she goes along.

The possibilities for what could be if Brennan and Booth actually got together before the very last episode of the series (Hart Hanson you BETTER not be planning on this) are endless. Hart Hanson & Co. need to, as Jen says, MAN UP and get this show on the road. We're waiting VERY PATIENTLY...and our patience is wearing thin.

BonesLover said...

@Elena- *pokes Elena* Double post XD

I agree with you. We know Brennan will be like, 'No, uh, I'm not dating Booth...you know what I said about interpersonal relationships....I'm just in it for the sex...' We all know this.

And Booth will be all, like, 'No, we're just partners...' and all, like he normally is. You know Booth.

And Hart Hanson?

NO ENDING BONES.

NOT ON MY WATCH.

*shifty eyes* I will kill him if he does. Slowly and painfully. *evil laugh*

...Well, not really. I'll just be very, very mad.

So, you know where I stand. I'm pro-UST. It's funny. :)

~BonesLover

Selina said...

Great post!! I think the RST thing is true for Jate too... we didn't get their firsts, they opted for the shock factor rather than the development. We saw them develop their friendship, and it would have been so incredible to then see that friendship become a relationship... but no.

Victoria said...

Thank you for writing what I've often thought. I mean seriously great relationships don't just have sex and then poof its all over. Great relationships build over time, they develop, people get to know each other even more intimately.

I thought Gilmore Girls was still great when Luke and Lorelei got together - it made sense, they still had some amazing chemistry and it was so much fun to see them as a couple - it was only when they started messing with the UST and bringing in the horrible Christopher as a threat that it went swiftly downhill.

Melissa said...

Awesome article. SO TRUE. I will definitely bookmark your site, and look forward to reading more well-written articles like this one :)