In Defense of Shipping, TV Doesn’t Have Enough Romance

Over the weekend, “The Bear” viewers on social media separated into two camps: people who ship Sydney and Carmy – that is, want them to be together romantically – and people who don’t. The latter are pretty mad that anyone is in the first group to begin with. Off the top, I’ll come clean that I am also anti-Sydney-Carmy romance. While Ayo Edebiri and Jeremy Allen White have incredible chemistry, I think the show is about how their connection comes to life in the restaurant instead of in a romantic context.

However, as the weekend and discourse went on, I found myself mentally defending Sydney-Carmy shippers. Some said that to watch the show and hope for the characters to get together romantically is to watch wrong. Shipping two characters, they said, means your brain is poisoned by romance. But the problem, I think, is not that people are silly for shipping Sydney and Carmy and looking for romance on “The Bear.” The problem is that TV doesn’t have enough romance to begin with.

There’s nothing wrong with liking romance.

The Sydney-Carmy romance comes right after another prestige comedy shipping war wrapped up this May. Quite a few “Ted Lasso” fans thought that the only reasonable way for the show to end was for the titular Ted to end up with Rebecca, the owner of the soccer team he coached. Again, I was not rooting for this couple (and I don’t think the show was pointing in that direction). But oddly, “Ted Lasso” season three was a romantic graveyard, so I can’t blame people for looking for signs that weren’t there.

“Ted Lasso” broke up its main couple, Roy and Keeley, in between seasons. They made moves toward reconciling at the end of the season, but the show didn’t commit to their romance in the final episode (and don’t even get me started on the wasted opportunity of the Roy/Keeley/Jamie throuple, or the bizarre, meandering plot that saw Keeley dating her company’s main investor).

Elsewhere, Colin came out of the closet, but we saw zero romance between him and his boyfriend. Ted’s own dalliances with Rebecca’s best friend Sassy were written out. Rebecca and Sam’s season two relationship was never even discussed, and Rebecca’s ultimate boyfriend at the end of the series appeared in just one episode. Coach Beard got married to a girlfriend who was frequently painted as downright abusive. There was no explanation given for “Ted Lasso”‘s hard antiromance turn in season three, but it definitely confused and divided fans.

So outside of young-adult series, it’s very hard to find romance on TV right now. “Abbott Elementary” is executing a perfect slow burn between Janine and Gregory, and there’s, of course, “Bridgerton” (and its spinoff series “Queen Charlotte”). But the other major releases of the past year? “Succession” is antiromance. “The Mandalorian”‘s main character (despite his thousands of horny fans) does not have a whiff of a romantic relationship. “The Last of Us” is full of deep, nonromantic relationships, but fans will have to wait for season two for Ellie to get a love interest. “Game of Thrones”‘s main thrust wasn’t romance, but it did have couples to root for, which isn’t quite the case on the prequel series “House of the Dragon” (where basically everyone is related). Of course, all these shows have shippers, but they’re working with the bread crumbs the series leave in their wake.

Ultimately, a lot of people view romance as silly. Romance, they think, is not deep or serious. Even people who devour romance novels often only share their love for them while calling them “trashy” in the same breath. But romance – feelings, connection, love, heartbreak – are serious, important things that deserve just as much consideration and appreciation in stories as any other part of life.

There’s nothing wrong with liking romance. A good romance is delicious. It’s dreamy, it’s cathartic, it’s hopeful, it’s fun. With a dearth of good romances on TV, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for people to ship people in other TV shows that aren’t “supposed” to have romance. And what golden rule says that characters on “prestige” shows can’t find love, too? In real life, romance often crops up when you least expect it. Why not on TV?

As for “The Bear,” the cast and the crew of the series have said Sydney and Carmy aren’t going to get together. Edebiri said in August 2022, “I don’t want to rain on anybody’s parade, but I don’t think so. I don’t think so. And Jeremy has said this, too.”

But of course, there have been lots of shows where romantic plans changed through the seasons because of the chemistry of the actors. “Friends”‘s best couple, Chandler and Monica, happened because the writers thought everyone would get bored of Ross and Rachel. And on “Mad Men,” Jay R. Ferguson and Elizabeth Moss’s chemistry as Stan and Peggy led to the characters running off into the sunset together in the series finale (one of my personal favorites).

So maybe “The Bear” cast and crew will change their mind about Sydney and Carmy. Maybe they won’t. Either way, Sydney and Carmy shippers aren’t wrong for enjoying the journey.