Brenda and I are back to tackle a new debate topic. Previously, we discussed whether Kensi and Deeks should get together, focusing on what was best for them as a couple. Now that they are ALL IN, we’ll look at whether a united Densi is good for NCIS: Los Angeles the show. Brenda will take the position that of course it is, and I will attempt (completely contrary to my true feelings) to argue the opposite. Brenda, please get us started…
Brenda: In our prior debate we established my desire for Deeks and Kensi to be together, so I am very “Humbug”-happy!! The question today is why this is good for the show, and not just for the fans who have been clamoring for this. The most compelling reason for this necessary progress in their relationship is character growth and development. In any long-running series there is and must be growth and change on the part of the characters. It is part of what keeps the show interesting as we see the impact of the characters’ experiences on their lives. My other favorite show, The Big Bang Theory, has evolved from its “four nerds and a pretty girl” premise. All the guys are now either married, engaged, or dating. The evolution of their relationships was closely connected to their characters’ development. The Season 8 storylines that would have been implausible in Season 1 are fascinating now because of that growth. They have been rewarded with passionate fans and high ratings.
Karen: I agree that character development is a desirable goal with any television show, and Densi being together is the obvious next step in their thing. But for every show you name that successfully moved their single characters into relationships, I could probably come up with one that struggled. The classic example is Moonlighting, where the characters’ chemistry fizzled once they got together. Moving two will-they-or-won’t-they characters into the yes-they-did category is a risky move at best. I’d like to think that the amazing chemistry of Eric Christian Olsen and Daniela Ruah wouldn’t stop even if their on-screen relationship became more settled. But “settled” connotes a stability that would seem to take at least some of the drama away. For those readers who aren’t as old as I am, let me use a more recent example: New Girl. When Jess and Nick got together it didn’t just make them as a couple dull and sort of annoying, it seemed to sap the entire show’s energy.
Brenda: This is a common concern, cited even by people who weren’t around to watch Moonlighting!! However, that show was already on a decline, perhaps because viewers like me tired of their drawn out relationship. More contemporary examples of relationship success, on the other hand, include Bones and Castle.
The idea that “together” equals a “settled” (i.e. boring) relationship is a TV cliché. The NCIS:LA writers are phenomenal and certainly capable of more than a perennial will-they-or-won’t-they dynamic. There are many issues after the beginning of a relationship (e.g. moving in together, marriage, kids!?!). Focusing solely on unresolved sexual tension becomes a bit one-note after a while and can itself lead to fizzle instead of sizzle. People don’t pine for each other for five years without having sex! They move on, one way or another. Though we may, at times, feel stuck in certain parts of our lives, we don’t want to see our beloved characters perpetually stuck. We want growth, development and expanding of horizons that create previously unimagined possibilities. Like maybe they DO get married!
A successful and long-lived series requires new sources of interest and drama each season. The clear move forward in “Humbug” is a sign the writers have acknowledged the fans’ desire for a solid Densi relationship and that they are not feeling bound by ancient TV history.
Karen: You are right that there is great potential to move the Deeks-Kensi drama from will-they-or-won’t-they into new and exciting directions. One worry I have though, is that this group of writers isn’t all that well suited to making that happen. Is there an established adult relationship that we have seen well and regularly depicted on NCIS:LA, or on NCIS for that matter? Sam and Michelle are great, but we have rarely seen them together. Is the fact that Deeks and Kensi are together together going to fade away into the background, or are these writers capable of showing the next steps forward in their relationship? Do they have a plan for what happens next? One of the things that led to Moonlighting’s downfall was that once the writers began to get the two leads together, they seemed to lose confidence and took the stories in different directions, away from the screwball fun that had made the show special.
Brenda: It is a fair question whether action writers will be interested in writing the romantic relationship stuff. The ratings for “Humbug” and the encore of “Merry Evasion” (another critical Densi moment: “Go for Santa”) provide a major incentive to go in this direction if it attracts viewers and increases ratings. I couldn’t help but wonder whether the fall ratings loss was solely time-slot dependent or also related to the step back Deeks took in “Three Hearts” when he returned Kensi’s knife. There was much discontent with the subsequent Season 5 episodes and frustration with the lack of progress in Season 6 prior to “Humbug.” The current writing group is large, with additions this year who have written incredible episodes. I would hope there would be at least one person within this group who had that comfort level with romantic writing, and if not, that the ratings bump would give them incentive to go find one!
Karen: Yes, ratings for “Humbug” were strong, but keep in mind that there was no competition that week from the other networks. And even if lots of people tuned in for the big Densi development, we can’t know whether those people will come back to see Densi as an established couple. There’s a reason fan fiction writers like to focus on the culmination of the will-they-or-won’t-they stage of the relationship: because that is the time when the characters’ chemistry is at its highest. The advantage of fan fiction, though, is that the writers can tell and retell the same basic story in different ways over and over. On TV, it only happens once and then it’s done. (Well, hopefully it only happens once- another path the writers could choose is repeated break-ups a la Ross and Rachel on Friends or Sam and Diane on Cheers. And I really don’t want that for Densi!)
The longer they drag things out between these two, the more romantic it becomes. Look at how unbelievably excited we all were at a single kiss in “Descent,” let alone the declarations about being bold and the two kisses of “Humbug.” Keeping them apart, and slowly moving them forward, has been old fashioned and romantic. In the end their relationship is all the richer for the winding path they’ve taken together, all the while keeping the sexual tension pretty high.
Keep in mind that NCIS: Los Angeles could run for another six seasons. Its storylines need to take a different trajectory from your average show. I’m not saying I want something like JAG or The X-Files, where the characters don’t get together until the very end of the series, but the showrunners do need to “respect the pace,” and make sure they don’t peak too soon.
Brenda: I agree with the need to plan for relationship and series longevity. However, they don’t need to look too far to see how that can backfire. Tiva on NCIS remains a sore point with fans that cannot be rectified since Cote de Pablo has left the show. This is another reality with long-running series: not all actors remain for the duration. Viewers were stunned last year when Will Gardner was killed off The Good Wife and only then did fans learn that the actor wanted to pursue other endeavors. As strange as it seems to think one of our team would want to leave a hit show, it happens, and would truly be the worst case scenario as the similarity to NCIS/Tiva would be set in stone and haunt any future franchise relationships.
A Densi pairing achieves the best of both worlds for the fan base. Now that they are “all in,” the pro-Densi people are satisfied (ECSTATIC!!) and likely don’t need or want to see nothing but Densi snuggles every episode. (We’ve got Sweet Lu for that!!). No one is expecting an action show to turn into a soap. My only non-CBS favorite show, Bones, is a great example. We rarely see Booth and Brennan in their bedroom, but the episode usually ends at their house, often with their daughter and sometimes a romantic innuendo thrown in. They clearly have a hot and solid relationship but the show remains focused on forensic pathology. Likewise, Sam and Michelle’s relationship is referenced, but not a focus. All-in Densi satisfies fans who want them together as well as the fans who want less will-they-or-won’t-they and more focus on team cases. All the fans are happy and the writers move on to new sources of drama.
Karen: Ah, I think that’s exactly what I’m worried about- that the writers will lose the drama of will-they-or-won’t-they and not know what to replace it with. Could Kensi ever get pregnant like Brennan on Bones? Her dangerous job seems to preclude that. She could work in Ops, but then we’d lose that wonderful Densi partnership. She can’t be a stay-at-home mom like Michelle- she’s a star, not a recurring character. And of course there’s the teenage boy demographic to keep happy, so there may be limits to how much domestic Densi we may get. As you mentioned, it may become part of the background. To me that seems like a loss in terms of quality Densi moments every week.
Brenda: In the end, the numbers tell the tale: Twitter explosion, winning their time slot, the ratings bump over last year’s Monday nights. It seems even Kyle Harimoto, who wrote “Humbug,” was surprised by the outpouring on Twitter. There is five years of pent-up demand for this OTP (a term Andrew Bartels claimed to have learned on Twitter post-“Humbug”!) If they write happy, together Densi, the viewers will come!
Karen: Unfortunately Twitter activity does not necessarily equate to ratings success. And to have the UST finally satisfied for this OTP may result in a longer term drop in viewers. Bones, for example, appears to have dropped in ratings about the time the two leads got together. NCIS:LA beat Castle the last time they went head to head, with a non-Densi-centric “Reign Fall.” Is that because having Castle and Beckett together is causing that show to lose steam? The good news for NCIS:LA is that Densi is only one element of its success, so bringing these two characters together is unlikely to have a big impact on ratings either way.
What impact will #DensiBOLD have on the long-term success of NCIS: Los Angeles? Brenda and I enjoyed trying to figure that out. What do you think the showrunners should do with Kensi and Deeks now that they are “all in”? Tell us in the Comments, and let us know if we missed any good arguments!