Will they or won't they: An examination of NBC's character pairing in the 1980's, 90's and beyond
NBC ruled the airwaves back in the 1980's, '90's and part of the 2000's, thanks in large part to shows that relied on a good, old-fashioned, "will-they-or-won't-they" trope involving main characters.
They love me, they love me notIf something works, why stop doing it? Must See TV turned NBC into a powerhouse, thanks in large part to Cheers, Friends, Seinfeld, and so many others that helped pave the way prior to these sitcoms.
During this span, it was Cheers that really captured the movement. This sitcom is one of the fantastic ones in the last 50 years and, even with an outstanding ensemble cast, it was the early chemistry of Danson and Long that drove this show. Debuting in 1982, the early seasons were a constant back and forth between Sam and Diane, matching brawn with wits, with romance sprinkled in. This dynamic was so central to the story, creators James Burrows and Glen and Les Charles attempted to duplicate the success when Long left the show in 1987. Alley was brought in and the Sam-Rebecca stories barely missed a beat.
NBC sitcoms did not lose the trope, either, with new shows in the 2000's. J.D. (Zach Braff) and Elliot (Sarah Chalke) were given the nod here, with their love and troubles stretched out over the run of the show.
And perhaps the most popular will-they-or-won't-they on NBC in the 2000's belonged to Pam (Jenna Fischer) and Jim (John Krasinski) on The Office. This show was a perfect example of how tricky it can be to get these characters together in the middle of a series run and consistently finding obstacles to throw in their way to keep fans interested.
Looking back, this structure wasn't limited to simply the sitcoms on NBC's docket. There was the juggernaut that was ER, with the back and forth between Doug (George Clooney) and Carol (Julianna Margulies). We even saw to an extent the same parrying of hearts between Mark (Anthony Edwards) and Susan (Sherry Stringfield).