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On the tube: Thrill of the tease

Friday, February 12, 1999

By Rob Owen, Post- Gazette Tv Editor

PASADENA, CALIF. - Love is a many splendored thing, but on TV it seems best left unconsummated.

 
  The 10 Most Romantic Couples in TV History


According to TV Guide editors and executives from cable channel Romance Classics:

1. Diane Russell (Kim Delaney) and Bobby Simone (Jimmy Smits), "NYPD Blue."

2. Catherine (Linda Hamilton) and Vincent (Ron Perlman), "Beauty and the Beast."

3. Lucy (Lucille Ball) and Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz), "I Love Lucy."

4. Luke (Anthony Geary) and Laura Spencer (Genie Francis), "General Hospital."

5. Bobby (Patrick Duffy) and Pam Ewing (Victoria Principal), "Dallas."

6. Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) and Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar), "The Wonder Years."

7. Cliff (Bill Cosby) and Clair Huxtable (Phylicia Rashad), "The Cosby Show."

8. Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) and David Addison (Bruce Willis), "Moonlighting."

9. Hope (Mel Harris) and Michael Steadman (Ken Olin), "thirtysomething."

10. Ralph (Jackie Gleason) and Alice Kramden (Audrey Meadows), "The Honeymooners."

   
 

When Ross and Rachel became more than "Friends," the show took a creative turn for the worse.

When David and Maddie finally got together on "Moonlighting," the spark was gone.

When Buffy slept with her vampire boyfriend, he turned evil.

Chris Carter vows to keep up the sexual tension by never allowing FBI agents Mulder and Scully to get intimate.

But intimacy between TV show stars with undeniable chemistry doesn't have to lead to disaster, says Glenn Gordon Caron, executive producer of "Moonlighting."

"We messed it up and the audience lost interest," Caron said in a recent meeting with TV critics. "I honestly thought with 'Moonlighting' we had an opportunity to do something no one had done in a while. We just didn't get it right."

Caron appeared as part of a panel discussing "TV's Most Romantic Couples," a new special airing Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on Romance Classics (available to some customers of TCI, Adelphia and Armstrong cable services). Romance Classics will have a sneak peek on its sister network, American Movie Classics, all day Sunday, making the special available to more cable subscribers.

Love on the screen doesn't always mean the end of passion or the end of a television series.

"The business of being a human being is always interesting if you do it right," Caron said. "When you don't do it right, people get bored and they stop watching. I think that's the only real rule."

Patrick Duffy, who played Bobby Ewing on "Dallas," pointed out his series began with the ending of Bobby's pursuit of Pam (Victoria Principal).

"The opening shot was the pursuit was over and they were married," Duffy said. "The romance was then, considering all the years they were on and off, an 11-year romance, post-pursuit."

Ron Perlman, who played the beast to Linda Hamilton's beauty on "Beauty & the Beast," said whether or not a coupling destroys a show depends on how the relationship was constructed in the first place.

"If the foundation of the relationship is built on distance and mystery and something gothic, other than meeting on a prescribed physical plane, and you mess with that, then you're in big danger of ruining the chemistry upon which the success was built," he said.

Perlman's show was canceled not long after Vincent and Catherine consummated their inter-species relationship, but there were other extenuating circumstances.

"We had presented a relationship that was in the most romantic terms possible," Perlman said. "By dint of the fact that they were two different species coming together, [it] necessarily needed to take place on a level that was something other than physical. When we introduced that, we were really playing with fire... That, coupled with the fact that Linda left the show after two years, was our demise."

Caron said chemistry between the leading characters is more than good writing, it's a spark between the actors, such as Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis.

"Writing exists in a vacuum until it's performed. And not everyone can perform," he said. "Every day we did 'Moonlighting,' I kissed the ground that we happened to get these two people at this particular moment to do this particular piece of text."

Danica McKellar, who played Winnie Cooper opposite Fred Savage's Kevin Arnold on "The Wonder Years," said chemistry surpasses good acting.

"Fred Savage and I have worked together on a few different projects ... with writing that isn't so great necessarily, and it's still there," McKellar said. "I'm sure it has something to do with the familiarity. Sometimes you meet someone and there's something that happens and you don't know what it is, but you fire off of one another."

McKellar said her character was originally intended as a guest star in the first episode, but the writers were so impressed with the chemistry between Savage and McKellar that Winnie became a series regular.

"[Chemistry] is a little bit of magic," she said, "and I actually like the idea that there's a little bit of magic that exists sometimes."

That magic can sometimes be good, sometimes bad, but if there's a spark there ...

"People always ask me, 'Did Bruce and Cybill really get along?' " Caron said. "The truth is, it was like a marriage. There were times they didn't get along. There were times when Cybill didn't get along with me. But there was a lot of passion and it was very felt."

McKellar said she and Savage became like brother and sister during their "Wonder Years," and sometimes that relationship was filled with friction, but it helped the performance.

"That actually fueled it sometimes, because there was this other thing happening," she said. "There was more tension, more sparks could fly. It's hard to describe, but it was never a detriment to the performance."

Anthony Geary, Luke of Luke & Laura fame on "General Hospital," said there are times when he and co-star Genie Francis "have had to endure each other through romantic scenes.

"But I'll tell you this: a kiss is like throwing a punch," Geary said. "I can throw the greatest kiss in the world, but if you don't take that kiss well, if your partner cannot make you look like that is the greatest kiss in the world, you're nowhere."



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