For me, it all started with Ned and Nancy. Nancy Drew was an independent woman (girl) but she still made room in her busy sleuthing schedule to let Ned hang around and bounce clues off. He was the best type of book boyfriend.
Then came Moonlighting (1985-1989). Maddie (Cybill Shepherd) lost her money to a cheating manager and only wants to sell the failing detective agency run by David (Bruce Willis). Instead, he talks her into keeping and running the business, thinking she’d be a silent partner. He realized quickly, he was wrong.
I loved the romantic tension in this story. Both David and Maddie used the attraction between them to get their way and sometimes, the viewer even fell into believing the promise of more.
Bones (2005-present) also presents a mix of male/female lead characters. Temperance Brennon (Emily Deschanel) is logical to a fault, and her partner, Sealy Booth (David Boreanaz) is the emotional one. Watching these two dance around their possible relationship while they solved the murder case gave viewers a different insight into the characters and their strengths and weaknesses.
Now, Bones is grittier than Moonlighting. Where Maddie and David were chasing cheating husbands, Bones and Booth are determining who murdered the body found in the basement of the local pub. With the help of a team of science nerds usually confined to the inside of the Jeffersonian forensic lab, you never know what piece of evidence will blow the case open.
For several seasons, Bones and Booth denied their attraction for each other. When Maddie and David gave into the desire, it killed the conflict in the story. In my opinion, Bones stayed interesting because the story wasn’t only focused on the romantic tension. Now, they struggle with larger relationship issues like childcare or career decisions. Decisions the rest of us deal with every day.
Castle (2009–present) is another couple based detective show. Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) needs Detective Kate Beckett’s (Stana Katic) access to crime scenes to develop new plot lines as a novel writer. Beckett, in the beginning, feels saddled with the responsibility of keeping a civilian safe. However, as things progress, the viewer feels the conflict between the two grow and like any good romance, the story is best when he’s pushing and she’s running away. Or vice versa.
Now, their relationship has been called out into the open in the last few seasons. And true to form, the closer they get to their happy ever after, the more walls get thrown in their way. Last season ended with Castle rushing to their wedding. I’m thinking the show’s writers are trying to avoid the Moonlighting curse. But they may have painted themselves into a corner.
Then there’s the twist on Sherlock Holmes and Watson, in Elementary (2012-present). Here Watson (Lucy Liu) started out as Sherlock’s (Jonny Lee Miller) sobriety counselor, a job the highly skilled surgeon took on after one too many disasters in her medical career. As a romance writer, I’m in awe of the clever way the show’s writers got the hero and heroine in close confines together, and a way for them to have to interact in an adversarial manner. Conflict flies in the first season. And when it’s time for Watson to walk away, the viewer almost believes she might just leave.
Instead, Watson becomes Holmes’ intern, learning the craft of investigation. Could it have been the excitement of the chase that brought these two together? Or is there a bit of attraction that may float to the surface sooner than later? I believe in true love, so my money’s on the couple finding each other. Season three is just beginning and I’m watching my DVR to make sure I get my Elementary fix.
This season, I’m intrigued by the new show, Forever. Again, we have a male/female role but with a twist. Henry (Ioan Gruffudd) lives forever. A curse that most of us might wish for, but he struggles with his plight. And Jo (Alana De La Garza), the female detective that partners with the British medical examiner brings stability to the show. Add in some adorable quirky characters like the coroner assistant and Henry’s elderly son, Abraham, and you have a delightful show. One that I hope stays around.
The romance is very light so far in the show. The plotting is focused on solving the mystery, by following the clues and watching Henry put together bits and pieces. The show is promising. The topics they investigate surrounds around the living forever theme. In one episode, they were studying a codex with layers of ancient text. Abraham, the son, runs an antique shop. Another focuses on a wonder drug that helps people live longer. For a show that circles around death, the story is positive and interesting.
Sleuthing couples are better with a good mystery to solve. Otherwise, it’s just a happy ever after story. And once they reach that, the Moonlighting curse is in full effect and the show’s audience is ready for the next romance-turned-murder-mystery team.
And it all started with Ned and Nancy.
What are your favorite detective couples?
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USA Today and New York Times best-selling author Lynn Cahoon is an Idaho native. If you’d visit the town where she grew up, you’d understand why her mysteries and romance novels focus around the depth and experience of small-town life. Currently, she’s living in another small, historic town on the banks of the Mississippi river where her imagination tends to wander. She lives with her husband and four fur babies.