Sexual tension: TV's top 'Will they ever?' pairs
Is there anything more sweetly romantic and deliciously titillating than watching two people who adore each other dance the dance of the awkward as they try to conceal their pulsating desire for one another? It is a dramatic device as old as theatre itself that lends a thrilling air to comedic and dramatic narrative, and keeps audiences on the edges of their seats.
Television has given us some memorable examples of unresolved sexual tension in a diverse array of star-crossed lovers, whose private storylines have simmered beneath dramas and sitcoms. Their stories have driven us wild with frustration and kept us tuning in lest we miss the episode where they finally consummate their relationship. We know that to do so would ring a death knell for the show, but our need for a happy ending almost makes it worth it.
Mercifully, most of the would-be couples listed here retained the sense of allure which has made them legendary. The ones who gave the audience what it thought it wanted sadly broke the spell. Here's to some of the unforgettable leading ladies and men who charmed and frustrated us with their sighs and longing looks, and who remind us of the importance of fantasy.
1. Moonlighting – David and Maddie
The chemistry between Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis as detectives Maddie Hayes and David Addison in the 1980s rom-com crime series is the stuff of legend. Shepherd's feline sexuality and Willis' stomach-melting smirk was a match made in TV heaven.
2. M*A*S*H – Hot Lips and Hawkeye
With her robust sexual magnetism and smart way with a sassy put-down, Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan (played by Loretta Swift) was the heroine of the Korean War's US Army hospital. It might have been unrequited, but there was a definite connection between her and "Hawkeye", Benjamin Franklin Pierce (Alan Alda). Until Grey's Anatomy, 33 years later, surgery scenes had never been so sexy.
3. The Office – Dawn and Tim
Let's forget for a moment the otherwise excellent US version of Ricky Gervais' landmark mockumentary series, in which these reimagined characters fell properly in love, got married, had children and then were left to extract laughs from the drudgery of their incredibly normal and predictable lives – like that was ever going to work – and remember the original incarnation of the hapless young employees of Wernham Hogg Paper Company in Slough. Lucy Davis' lovely, wry secretary, Dawn Tinsely, trapped into a depressing life trajectory with her fiancee, high-school boyfriend Lee (Joel Beckett), is a gorgeous partner in office crime for cynical loner Tim Canterbury (Martin Freeman). Their missed opportunities and painfully unspoken words are beautifully tragic.
4. The X-Files – Scully and Mulder
Ah, Scully and Mulder. Their surnames alone are a byword for illicit workplace relations. Gillian Anderson's lustrous Celtic beauty matched with David Duchovny's all-American straight man made for some delicious teasing along with the alien hunting. It didn't matter that we didn't quite catch everything Mulder mumbled – his relationship with his colleague, and their opposed stances on whether there might be anything out there at all, turned what would have otherwise been just another supernatural crime show into a killer.
5. Law & Order: Special Victim's Unit – Olivia and Elliot
Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) is a married man, and so any animal attraction he might have for his work partner, the mysterious, tough-as-nails Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), could only ever be vaguely insinuated on this serious American crime show. While we can gleefully speculate about whether or not they wanted to take their intensely close professional relationship to a physical level, the camaraderie they forge in the course of their horrific and traumatising work is something far more interesting and devastatingly romantic.
6. Two and a Half Men – Rose and Charlie
Although not technically unresolved, as they were eventually alluded to have slept together with disastrously funny consequences, the interaction between predatory girl-next-door Rose (Melanie Lynskey) and predatory batchelor Charlie Harper (Charlie Sheen) is notable for the undeniable chemistry between two characters who, for reasons of social constraint and snobbery, could never be together. Never mind that they were perfectly matched – he an extravagant narcissist and she a born worshipper.
7. Gilligan's Island – Ginger and the Professor
Sultry Hollywood siren Ginger Grant (Tina Louise) set Gilligan's Island alight with her melodramatic throwaways, always tongue in cheek. It was a highlight of any episode to see her reduce the straight-laced Professor Roy Hinkley (Russell Johnson) to a jibbering wreck.
- Sydney Morning Herald