Okay, it is entirely possible that only Popka and I have actually seen the TV show Agatha Raisin. But don’t worry, if you haven’t seen this then you have seen something similar where the authors created a Perfect romantic lead for the heroine and the end result is just really really dull.
Agatha Raisin! Okay book series turned into a really GREAT show thanks to very good casting of our heroine. The lead actress, Ashley Jensen, is fabulous. You know her from Ugly Betty, Accidentally on Purpose, Extras, and various other stuff. She is over 40, she has a great way of delivering a line, and she also has a charm about her that you can’t resist.
The set-up for the show is classic fish out of water. Our heroine is a tough city PR exec who takes early retirement and moves to an idyllic country village. Where she is cautiously welcomed by the very nice vicar’s wife, the lowerclass single mother cleaning lady she hires, and the handsome young cop who has a slight crush on her. And then there is a murder and she starts being nosey and fearless and insulting of the locals and solves the crime.
Here’s the problem with the set up, which is a problem that comes up ALL THE TIME in these kinds of narratives, the predestined love story. Agatha is spunky and attractive and we want good things for her and we identify with her, so of course we want her to find love. And the show picks out the person she will love right in the first episode, the very handsome retired soldier who lives next door. Problem is, he’s SO BORING.
The show didn’t write a character, they wrote a love interest. He’s handsome, he’s brave, he rescues her. But he isn’t INTERESTING.
This is something that I think is way more common with the genders the other way around. Super boring perfect female love interests are every where. But the thing is, when the protagonist is a man, the love story is given much less focus in the narrative. If our Police Hero hero is with a boring wife, who cares, the marriage is barely mentioned and she’s only onscreen for 10 minutes. If the protagonist is a woman then, in an accurate reflection of the reality of a woman’s emotional life, the love interest takes a far greater role in the narrative. And a boring love interest turns into an anchor that drags everything down.
In the case of Agatha Raisin, I can still wholely recommend the show! Yes, the love interest is boring, but he also isn’t around much. It’s like even the writers got bored with him. But they can’t let go of the True Love Forever idea that he represents and just allow the show to go where it wants to go.
Agatha has great chemistry with the young cop, with her old friend the rakish impoverished nobleman, even her loyal cleaner. She does not have great chemistry with Handsome Man that was destined for her.
Chemistry is sparks, right? And sparks come when two opposites rub against each other. If one of the people is just perfect, there’s nothing to rub, if that makes sense. It’s all smooth and perfect and ultimately frustrating and just DULL.
This is one of my pet peeves, when authors try to make characters do things they don’t want to do. I understand the instinct to plan it out, but plans change!!!! And then you have to just lean into it. And that’s where the magic happens. Chandler and Monica in Friends, Kajol and Shahrukh in Baazigar, even Jamie and Claire in Outlander. None of them were planned exactly, but the two characters were created separately from each other, a scene was written between them, and something interesting started happening.
This is also why rom-coms are just so dang difficult!!! With a novel or a TV Show, you can change horses midstream pretty easily. But with a contained movie by the time you start filming, you have to be really really sure of your central couple because there are no backsies (unless it is a movie like Baazigar that was filmed in bits and pieces and they started shoving in more SRKajol stuff).
And now back to Agatha Raisin. This is the new kind of TV show that is filmed like a rom-com. The whole structure is around a central romance that is determined before filming even starts. Worst case scenario is obviously How I Met Your Mother which is still so INFURIATING in how it stuck with the original ending idea far far beyond logic that I can barely talk about it. Agatha is pretty bad too, but I have hopes they are actually going to admit a mistake and stop. They tried the couple fighting, they tried the couple flirting, they tried the couple in love, they tried the couple broken up, and finally they tried the couple living and working together. None of it worked. There was no chemistry, no matter what they did, no matter how they constantly rewrote the hero character into a new direction. And finally at the end of the most recent season, they backed off and took a break. They had the two characters just sit down together and say out loud “this isn’t working, it feels like you have more fun and are happier away from me than with me, why are we trying to force it?” It was such a satisfying moment of narrative! To have the characters speak for the writers and just say “yeah, this isn’t working”.
Okay, even if you haven’t seen Agatha Raisin, have you seen other things where the love interest hero was so perfect he just became DULL and you lost interest? Or have you seen things where the author was smart enough to just let romance develop organically? Or, rarest of all, have you see something where the chemistry was absolutely perfect right from the get go (Cheers, Grey’s Anatomy, Potentially Bridgerton, etc.)?