I've been trying to gather my thoughts for the next installment of my Sports Night retrospective, which I think will begin to tackle the will-they/won't-they/but-it's-TV-so-of-fucking-course-they-will relationship between Dana and Casey. It's a dynamic that never worked for me, and one reason why is that it felt so forced. The show tells us that Dana and Casey have been friends for 15 years, but never gives a second's thought to the notion that being great friends could be enough.
It irks me how often TV shows imply that a close relationship between a male and a female can't be valid or satisfying unless it leads to romantic entanglement, or sexual tension. I'm watching Friday Night Lights for the first time, and I was thinking about this while watching that show's handling of Tyra and Landry in season two. (SPOILERS AHEAD after the jump.)
I get why the writers wanted to bring the Tyra/Landry combination closer to the forefront. It was apparent at the end of season one that Adrianne Palicki and Jesse Plemons had an enjoyable chemistry. But it wasn't necessarily a romantic chemistry, nor did it need to be.
Tyra and Landry, as individual characters, each exerted a unique sort of confidence. Hers was brassy, cocky, occasionally guarded; his was more of a carefree pie-in-the-sky optimism. Those different energies bounced off each other wonderfully and made for some fun, loose moments. Thing is, those sorts of moments can be - are - shared by friends, too. Of course Landry would want to escalate things, but why force that into heart-on-one's-sleeve love?
And as much as pop culture loves to present mismatched romantic pairs, let's be honest - there's no way in hell these two really belong together as a couple. For evidence, look no further than Landry's too-brief dalliance with Jean, a bright, pretty girl cut from the same geeky cloth. Landry's a guy who debates Jaws versus The Wrath of Khan as date movies, and Jean's a girl who digs up episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 on YouTube. You're telling me they're not a better match than Landry and Tyra?*
Hell, the show had to concoct an infamously overwrought assault/murder/shared-secret storyline just to create a plausible emotional impetus for them to hook up in the first place. Yes, sometimes in real life a Landry and a Tyra will wind up together, but aren't most happy, successful relationships more in the Landry-Jean mold?
By coincidence, I watched that arc play out the same day I also read this piece in Jezebel, which captures the contrast to a T. When Jean entered the picture, and especially when she confronted Tyra to learn if she was "competition," I was hoping against hope that Tyra's answer - just a friend - would prove true, and nerd love would win the day for once.
Then Landry and Tyra could've returned to their initial, natural dynamic in a loyal, goofy, sincere friendship. She could provide relationship advice to a guy who's new to such things, with varying degrees of success. He could work through his lingering crush on her, because crushing on a friend without it necessarily leading to tension or consummation is pretty common, actually - and she could be rolling her eyes at him the entire time. These sort of friendships exist between men and women, comfortable yet awkward yet relentlessly Platonic. It's a shame they're so often overlooked as sources of rich story potential.
*I should add two caveats: 1) As of this writing I've only completed season two; I have no idea how the Tyra/Landry relationship evolves in later seasons; 2) Season two was shortened by the writer's strike, so I have no idea whether the writers intended them to remain a couple, or if Jean would've returned in a larger role.