On 'Abbott Elementary', 'The Bear' and 'Will They? Won't they?' storylines: NPR

The chemistry between Janine (Quinta Brunson) and Gregory (Tyler James Williams) has simmered for three long seasons. Abbott Elementary.

Gilles Mingasson/Disney


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Gilles Mingasson/Disney

Season 3 last week Abbott Elementary came to a close, and the one thing every viewer had predicted would happen since the pilot episode premiered finally happened: nerdy, awkward teachers Janine (Quinta Brunson) and Gregory (Tyler James Williams) got together. Really, really. Getting there only took an untold number of awkward flirts, resulting in direct-to-camera looks of embarrassment, a drunken one-off kiss (in season 2, during a work conference), and several spectacularly failed attempts at dating other people . while denying or downplaying their romantic interests in each other.

Certainly, many fans have found joy in the resolution of this long-delayed real-life duo; If so, I'm genuinely happy for you. But call me the “will they-won't they?” grinch – I'm mostly relieved that the convoluted storyline can finally (hopefully!) come to an end. The writers' insistence on making them the best Jim-and-Pam by Abbot has long been the least interesting element of this smart and consistently funny series, and as utterly charming as Brunson and Williams are, even they couldn't keep the perpetually unresolved sexual tension between their characters from spiraling out of control in Season 3. (The episode where Jacob and Gregory try to go on a double date and Gregory gets distracted by seeing Janine out with school district representative Manny, maybe it would have been less annoying if it hadn't been such a similar repeat of several previous storylines.)

Of course, this is TV Writing 101, one of the oldest tropes in the playbook. Some shows have found clever ways to mess with it, like with the deeply intimate yet platonic working relationship between 30 Rock's Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy – anyone who actively advocated being A Thing plucked that desire out of thin air, because there was zero an amorous chemistry develops between the two. (The writers continually joked about this expectation, such as when the couple accidentally got married in season 5.) Before they were unceremoniously canceled, Happy endings opened with Alex and Dave's broken engagement, which provided plenty of “won't they get back together” fodder, a la those classic Hollywood remarriage comedies like The terrible truth.

Single living It actually manages to combine two different versions of this trope in satisfying ways: the flirtatiously antagonistic Beatrice-and-Benedick vibes shared between corporate climbers Maxine and Kyle, and the crazy puppy love of TV's original Awkward Black Couple, handyman Overton and office manager Synclaire. In both cases, the show confronted the simmering tensions early on; Max and Kyle sleep together in Season 2, making their ongoing love-hate dynamic much funnier throughout the rest of the series, and Overton and Synclaire make it official in Season 1, allowing them to explore other silly hurdles and milestones during their courtship .

It's easy enough to imagine a version of it Abbot that took a page 30 Rock, and gave us a fruitful platonic friendship with Janine and Gregory. But when we watch a lot of TV, we growl in disappointment because it seems we are vastly outnumbered, or at least not as outspoken in our annoyance as the champions are in their excitement. Law and order: SVU fans have been rooting for Benson and Stabler to get together for 25 years, and recentlyalmost got their wish. And I'm already exhausted by the corner of social media that insists on 'don't ship just Carmy and Sydney' The bearbut alsoJeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebirithe real actors who portray them.

What's cooking between Sydney (Ayo Ebebiri) and Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) in The Bear?  Dinner.

What's cooking between Sydney (Ayo Ebebiri) and Carmy (Jeremy Allen White). The bear? Dinner.

Chuck Hodes/FX


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Chuck Hodes/FX

But like Janine and Gregory must Be more than just friends, Abbot has the opportunity to inject next season with some inspiring coupledom hurdles. They are both richly drawn characters with distinct personalities and flaws, navigating the challenging and chaotic ecosystem of public schools. It was wonderful to see her learn how to channel her do-gooder energy more efficiently and how he broke free and accepted that a job as a director is not yet in the cards. Now that they're both feeling a little more confident, we hope they follow in the footsteps of their Awkward Black Couple predecessors Overton and Synclaire, and that the show opens them up to less hackneyed storylines together.

This piece also appeared in NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter so you don't miss the next one, and get weekly recommendations on what makes us happy.

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