It’s Shipper Month at Zap2it. Throughout February 2015 we’re exploring TV relationships, both the ones viewers see on screen and those that fans form with their favorite characters and couples, and how it affects what they watch.
The term “shipping” has only come into the TV vocabulary in the past decade or so alongside the rise of organized Internet fandoms and social media. But of course, meant-to-be couples and heated love triangles existed long before that.
Let’s take a look back at a time when fans had their favorite couples, but didn’t have Tumblr and Twitter with which to express their love/frustration/obsession. The years in question are roughly 1990-2000, though some of the ships straddle the line on either end because darn it, most shows do not fit neatly into airing only during the 1990s.
With no further ado, the Top 10 pre-Internet ships in chronological order:
1. Sam/Diane vs. Sam/Rebecca, ‘Cheers’
Sam Malone (Ted Danson) had two very different leading ladies in his life as the bartender on “Cheers.” Snooty Diane Chambers was his first love interest, but when Shelley Long left the show in 1987, Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley) was introduced as a brash lead who could not have been more different than Diane. They both provided a good foil for Malone, though ultimately he ended up with neither. Fans of this show have always been divided between which leading lady they prefer. So, are you Team Dam or Team Ram?
2. Agent Cooper and Audrey, ‘Twin Peaks’
There was definitely a spark between Agent Cooper and the young Ms. Horne, but it never really came to fruition. Actress Sherilyn Fenn said in a long-ago interview that she thought the show took a dive when the Audrey/Dale relationship cooled off and blames co-star Kyle MacLachlan, who she says thought Audrey was too young for an FBI man to be dating. There has also always been a rumor floating around that it was actually MacLachlan’s then-girlfriend Lara Flynn Boyle (who played Donna Hayward on the show) was the one who objected to the Cooper-Audrey relationship.
Either way, the undeniable chemistry between MacLachlan and Fenn set fans’ hearts aflame — and now the question remains, what will they do in the “Twin Peaks” reboot coming to Showtime? Audrey isn’t 18 anymore.
3. Dylan/Brenda, Dylan/Kelly and Kelly/Brandon, ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’
“Beverly Hills, 90210” bad boy Dylan McKay was hot and heavy with Minnesotan transfer Brenda Walsh for the first two seasons of the show, much to her parents’ dismay. So when Brenda was sent on a trip to France in Season 3, Dylan took up with Kelly Taylor, and a fan feud was born. Which girl did he belong with?
Dylan ultimately chose Kelly, and then she became the center of a love triangle following a romance with Brenda’s brother, Brandon. In that situation, Kelly first chose herself, then chose Brandon, then eventually chose Dylan in the series finale. The reboot of “90210” revealed Kelly and Dylan were no longer together but share a son named Sammmy.
4. Mulder and Scully, ‘The X-Files’
Perhaps the sexual tension to beat all sexual tension. These “X-Files” investigators started off platonic, but as is often the case on TV, they grew closer and closer until they finally entered into a romantic relationship — a status the follow-up movies maintained, as the “secret ending” to “I Want to Believe” shows them off in a tropical sea somewhere.
5. Angela/Jordan vs. Angela/Brian, ‘My So-Called Life’
Yes, yes, most fans of “My So-Called Life” were Team Jordan and were completely devastated when he hooked up with Rayanne. But there was also a contingent of fans who rooted for the poor, lovestruck, pining Brian Krakow — especially after The Letter. Is there a more heart-crushing TV moment than when Angela found out Brian wrote the letter and still rode off with Jordan, while Brian just stood there on his bike, alone in the street? There is not.
6. Ross and Rachel, ‘Friends’
Was there a buzzier couple in the mid- to late-90s than Ross and Rachel? Before the “Friends” writers turned Ross into a ridiculous doof, everyone was rooting for him to get the girl he’d been in love with since childhood. They were each other’s lobsters and so, in the series finale, Rachel got back together with Ross, doofiness and all.
7. Doug and Carol, ‘ER’
Doug Ross was a womanizing boozehound when “ER” started, but nurse Carol Hathaway was the strong, kindhearted woman who tamed him. Fans were never happier than when George Clooney popped up in a surprise cameo to welcome Carol to Seattle when Julianna Margulies left the series — and they were still together at the end, when both
made unbilled apperances in one of the show’s last episodes.
8. Buffy/Angel vs. Buffy/Spike, ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’
This one sneaks into the Internet age, but it definitely began back when debates were being had on landline phones. Passionate “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fans have kept the show alive online more than 10 years after it went off the air, aided by the comics started by creator Joss Whedon that continue the show’s canon. Opinions are fiery on both sides of this debate. Which ensouled vampire is Buffy’s one true love, Angel or Spike?
Well, in the comics, she’s with Spike, and Angel’s off fighting evil forces alongside Faith. Sorry, Bangel fans. At least no one’s Team Riley, right?
9. Joey/Dawson vs. Joey/Pacey, ‘Dawson’s Creek’
By the end of “Dawson’s Creek,” it had become clear to fans that Pacey was Joey’s OTP. But in the early days on the creek, fans empathized with Joey’s crush on her best friend and were also quickly intrigued by Joey and Pacey’s kiss during their extra credit project. The love triangle didn’t fully ramp up until Season 3, but the seeds were planted early in the show’s run. Eventually, the right man won Joey’s heart when she ended up with Pacey.
10. Carrie and Mr. Big, ‘Sex and the City’
This was an interesting one, because Mr. Big was definitely a case of the fans rooting for the flawed bad boy who was maybe not the best choice for the heroine to make. But what was nice about Carrie and Big is that “Sex and the City” explored their relationship in a very realistic way — commitment-phobia, infidelity, more infidelity, time apart to mature and grow, then finally coming together on the same page when they were both ready.