In Defense of Tortured Sitcom Relationships

Get this: According to a new study, those of us who prefer watching sitcoms to reality TV have a more cynical view of love. The study claims that reality TV depicts a more realistic view of love, but I can’t imagine how they came to this conclusion. Real people don’t find love by getting flown to a mansion with 24 other people and competing for a complete stranger’s affections. Real people are out there living our lives, talking to our friends, going to bars, just like in sitcoms, we just do it in smaller apartments with less funny quips and hair that isn’t always professionally styled.

Nevertheless, the theory is that comedies give us a more negative view of love: “Sitcoms, unlike dating shows, paint a flawed view of love,” writes the Huffington Post’s Jessica Toomer of the study. “Rarely do relationships last on shows like The Big Bang Theory or HIMYM and when they do, they’re far from perfect.”

Last I checked, love was flawed; no person or relationship is ever perfect. If I’ve ever had any objection to television portrayals of relationships, it’s that they’re too perfect. Yes, the Ted Mosbys and the Carrie Bradshaws and the Mindy Lahiris go through a lot of failed relationships, but those are just stopping points on the journey to their final destination of true love. Even if it takes a while and involves improbable plot twists or abrupt changes in character, they always end up with The One they were Meant To Be with.

Sitcoms haven’t made me a cynic, they’ve turned me into a sap. If I want to feel cynical, I’ll watch a “reality” show about twelve girls competing to win the love of a guy pretending to be Prince Harry. If I want to feel inspired, I’ll watch one of my favorite episodes of HIMYM, “As Fast As She Can.” In it, Ted comes across an ex, Stella, the woman who left him at the altar. He’s given the opportunity to completely ruin her new relationship, and instead he helps her out and ensures she’ll find happiness with her new boyfriend. At the end of the episode, Ted laments that he hasn’t found The One yet.

That’s the quote I turn to when things seem rough—when I haven’t met anyone even remotely intriguing in months, when I figure I should just throw in the towel and move to an apartment that allows more than two cats—to remind me that whoever he is, he’s still out there.

So go ahead, tell me sitcoms are why my love life sucks. Tell me they’ve given me unrealistic expectations about meet-cutes and getting back together with exes and how cute 20-something guys should be. But don’t you dare say they’ve turned me into a cynic.

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