The thing about Valentine’s Day is…I hate it. I’m not against romance, flowers, and chocolates per se. In fact, I downright enjoy them. (Well, maybe not flowers. I have issues with taking their fate too seriously.) But I don’t want it thrown in my face, even if it is only for one day out of the year. Ugh. Just, ugh.
Despite my personal feelings, Valentine’s Day seems to be trucking along this year, and with it, the inevitable Vday blogs. To that end, I present my anti-Valentine list. Because as much as I enjoy romance, I also enjoy heartache. (Not in my actual life, of course, but on my TV screen.) C’mon admit it: You like the angst and the drama that goes along with a well-done fictional break up. It might hurt, but, as the song says, it hurts SO GOOD.
There’s no real science going on here; my requirements were the following:
1.) The couple has had a significant relationship.
1.) Angst, angst hitting you in the face, so much angst you almost can’t take it.
2.) Humor. It happens, sometimes, within a good break up.
3.) It’s not so much heartbreaking as it is, HELL YEAH! YOU GO GIRL (or guy)!
In ranking order, here are my 10 favorite TV break ups:
10.) Michael/Jan – The Office (Their most recent, season 5.)
I was a huge supporter of Michael and Jan back in the day. I thought Jan was a misunderstood character, I thought that, while dysfunctional, the two were good for each other: His flakiness balanced out her rigidness. He was there for her when she got fired; she was there for him when he was broke. But by season 5, I was tired of Jan. Having a baby from a sperm donor, because “this one had to count?” Manipulating him into believing he was going to be a part of baby Astrid’s life? Flat-out telling him not to date other women, while treating him like dirt? Sorry, Jan Levinson. You are now dead to me.
Which is why it was SO satisfying to see Michael finally stand up to her, defy her orders, and go for it with one Ms. Holly Flax earlier this season. You go, Mike!
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9.) Nate/Brenda – Six Feet Under
In the history of TV relationships, has one ever been as tumultuous as Nate and Brenda? You hate them, you love them, they’re great together, they’re terrible together, they make up, they implode… It was stressful enough watching it on screen; I can’t imagine ever being in a relationship like this one. Still though, they had something, as dysfunctional as it was. After everything, including a sketchy first meeting, the death of a parent, Nate’s unexpected fatherhood from another woman, an impending wedding, and Brenda’s increasing sexual trysts, things finally blow up. I watched this season knowing they were going to break up, waiting for it to happen, watching the tension build and build throughout the season…and the payoff was nothing short of awesome.
8.) Willow/Oz – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
One of the best things about Joss Whedon’s relationships is one tends to love them all. I love Xander and Cordy just as much as Xander and Anya. Watching Buffy and Angel together is heartbreaking, but so is watching Buffy with Spike. Heck, even Buffy and Riley had some tender moments. (Lest we forget: “You’re a little peculiar.”) To that end, I loved loved loved Willow and Tara. What a beautiful romance, right? If I had to pick one person for Willow to be with for the rest of her life, it would be Tara. (You know, if Josswasn’t EVIL in that way.) Even so, I also loved Willow and Oz, because that was such an important relationship for Willow. The reason almost all of Whedon’s relationships work is because they represent a certain period of a character’s life. Oz was the right person for Willow in high school – she was just discovering herself, what she was capable of, and Oz was there to support her in that adorable non-verbal way of his. And, like most high school relationships, things started to fall apart once the couple moved on to college.
Isn’t that what relationships are really about? You try people on, and they fit for awhile; you outgrow them and move on to someone new until you find that one person who fits permanently. Whedon said of his Buffy characters, “No relationship gets more than two years.” Considering the time frame of the show, (sophomore year of high school through senior year of college) I think that’s about right. Those are the crucial years where we learn and change. Relationships come and go, and even when they don’t stick, that doesn’t mean they disappear or lose all their merit. The transition from Oz to Tara is the epitome of this life lesson. That’s what makes Willow and Oz’s final scene so beautiful. Man…now I really want to go watch some Buffy.
(Please ignore the crappy video and subtitles as much as you can – this was the only version I could find.)
7.) Barney/Ted – How I Met Your Mother
You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. Remember the heartache that Barney suffered last year when Ted ended their friendship? It took two car accidents on the same day to bring these BFFs back together. I’m a big fan of this bromance, and when Ted told Barney he didn’t want to be friends anymore, my heart broke a little. A lesson to everyone out there: Don’t sleep with your best friend’s ex. It’s just never a good idea.
6.) Charlotte/Trey – Sex and the City
Oh, Char and Trey…they were doomed from the start and yet I couldn’t help but care. First with the “alrighty” proposal, then with the pre-nup, then the impotence, and Trey’s horrible mother, and the separation, and then when everything seemed to finally be on track, Charlotte finds out she’s reproductively challenged. (And not to make light of a terrible condition, but that phrase does make me giggle a bit whenever I hear it. So politically correct!)
So y’all know the story right? They find out they can’t have kids, Charlotte wants to adopt, Trey and Bunny decidedly do not. Charlotte starts fertility treatments that play havoc on her hormones, Trey convinces Charlotte not to have kids, they start sleeping in separate bedrooms, Trey buys Charlotte a hideous cardboard baby, their marriage collapses. I love this relationship, and not just because Trey says things like, “I’m sorry Charlotte. May I offer you a hanky?” when they are finally able to have relations. I love it because of what their relationship does to Charlotte. It changes her entire outlook on life. As Michael Patrick King said, “She finally got her fairytale wedding, and it went horribly wrong.” What a delicious story! Charlotte was never my favorite of the gals, but this plot line made me love her. It made her human. She was no longer the annoying princess waiting for her prince charming. She was damaged. She was interesting.
My favorite part of the episode comes at the end, when Trey shows up for the Home and Garden shoot. It’s a great metaphor for their whole relationship: Pretty on the outside, disaster on the inside. Trey’s earnest declaration and Carrie’s voice over kill me every time (I actually am tearing up thinking about it.)
**So I don’t have a clip of the scene I want, but I do have part of the episode here. The clip runs from 11:33 to 13:17.**
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5.) Buffy/Angel – Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the first time, season 2)
Oh, the eternal debate in the Jossverse: Angel or Spike? It’s unsolvable, really: Neither side will ever reach an agreement, and those of us who simply can’t make up our minds never will. They’re both wonderful. Is Spike a wee bit hotter without a shirt on? Of course. But, then, there’s Angel. An never-ending, unfulfilled love. They can never really be together, and that is why they have to be together. (Of course, then there’s the whole Angel/Cordy debate, which you shouldn’t really get me started on because I might never shut up. Quick answer: I’m for it.)
But forget about all that. Forget about Angel leaving town, Spike becoming lovestruck for Buffy, forget Cordy and Angel’s adorableness, all of it. Just go back to season two, when Angel and Buffy were all the rage, and remember how good it felt to feel so bad for Buffy. Girl never gets a break.
The actual break up of Buffy and Angel is questionable. Did they ever really break up? Did they ever stop loving each other? In my head, no and no. However, the aftermath of it all, after Angel turns evil, after the big fight, at the end of the day, it’s this scene that sticks with me. It’s this scene that makes me cry. From Giles’ speech to Buffy refusing to blow out her birthday candles, it’s heartbreak all the way. Perhaps the saddest thing of all is Buffy’s conversation with her mother:
“What did you do for your birthday? Did you have fun?”
“I got older.”
“Go on, make a wish?”
“I’ll just let it burn.”
Stab me through the heart with a stake- I’m done.
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4.) Carrie/Aiden – Sex and the City (the first time, season 3)
The thing about Carrie and Aiden is, they were never going to work. Carrie’s attachment to Big is too deep, and Aiden is too insecure to overlook it. (Not that he should; I’m just saying, guy’s insecure.) Then there’s my whole theory about how Aiden was too good for Carrie, but that’s a different post for a different day. (Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE Carrie. She’s my second favorite character from my favorite show of all time… Please don’t throw garbage at me.)
My first thought was to put their second break up on the list. It’s all dramatic, with the fountain, and the yelling, and then the quiet yet powerful ending: “The next day, Aiden moved out.” Fade to black, credits. It’s a punch in the gut, every time. As a viewer, you wish they could make it, even though you know it’s not meant to be. (The remedy to the post-Aiden blues? Watch this episode. As I said to my parents (through our collective tears) when after we watched it, “See. (sniff, sniff) That’s why she can’t be with Aiden.”
So there’s that. But there’s also the break up from season 3 – after Carrie tells Aiden she’s been sleeping with Big. While it doesn’t have the sucker punch of season 4, it’s just…well, it’s just so sad. Here are two people, who really do care about each other, trying to make something work and failing. Plus there’s the sad music, and afterwards, the brave face Carrie puts on for Charlotte. As Michael Patrick King said in his commentary for this episode, “No matter what’s going on in their own lives, the girls are always there for each other.” Now that’s love.
3.) Luke/Lorelai – Gilmore Girls (the second time, season 6)
I can’t even talk about this one. The only reason it’s on here is because it HURT so much when it happened, and not the good kind of hurt. It broke my heart and made me sad all summer, and then things just got worse in the next season and…yeah. I have to stop talking about it.
I’ll just say that, I’ve only seen this episode once, and hadn’t seen this scene since it aired until I went looking for it on Youtube. Even so, the sound of Lorelai’s voice telling Luke she picks the wallpaper over him has remained in my head for almost three years. It’s just. So. Heartbreaking. Damn you, Amy Sherman Palladino! Why? WHY? If you’re going to break a couple up, take your cue from the masters above. (See: Whedon, Joss and King, Michael Patrick.)
2.) Sam/Diane – Cheers (the first time, season 2)
Talk about a sucker punch. It’s one of the greatest scenes in all of television, and one only tends to remember the funny parts: The slapping, the nose pulling, the line “This is it. We’ve sunk as low as human beings can sink.” It’s hilarious, until it isn’t, and that’s how they get you. Also, simply as a piece of TV history, it’s incredible. An almost 10 minute scene between two people, with that much intensity? Can you imagine if a show attempted this today? (I wish one would, actually. I miss those scenes.)
and, drum-roll please…my number one TV break up:
1.) Ross and Rachel – Friends (the first time, season 3)
Could it be any other way? This episode is, IMO, one of the best of the series, and perhaps one of the best in all of television. Everything works, from the Ross/Rachel banter (“A mistake? What were you trying to put it in, her purse?”), to the hilarious scenario of the rest of the gang getting stuck in Monica’s room (“Do you think I need a new walk?”), to the intensity played by all the cast when the inevitable happens. Half of the show is basically a mini-play, and it never gets old. It also never gets any less sad, even though we all know Ross and Rachel get together in the end.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the whole thing, but here’s the crux of the piece.
So…depressed yet? Ready to toss Valentine’s Day out the door? Or are you forever a Charlotte, always believing in love?