While watching a recent episode of Privileged, in which the billionaire-playboy-next-door-turned-perfect-boyfriend won the heart of our heroine while her sweet and supportive best friend settled for the next best thing, I began to wonder: With so many shows serving up both the exemplary good guy and the brooding bad boy, is there some sort of pattern as to who comes out on top?
Now I’m not saying that Will is exactly a “bad boy” and lord knows Charlie has his share of flaws, but they serve as good examples of the dichotomy of male television characters. With a few notable exceptions (Wesley Wyndam-Pryce anyone?), Television history is made up of the men who broke hearts, the men who put them back together and the women who had to choose between the two.
The complicated Mr. Big won Carrie Bradshaw’s love while Aidan Shaw (the good guy against whom all TV good guys are measured) got his heart broken. 90210 bad boy Dylan McKay didn’t need any help with the ladies. Rory Gilmore may have moved on from uber bad boy Jess but she spent most of the series with the thrill-seeking rich boy whom she chose over her sweet friend Marty without a second thought. I find myself repeatedly cheering for Grey’s Anatomy’s McSteamy and Alex Karev over dopey sweet George O’Malley and let’s not even start on how much further dangerous vampires Spike and Angel got with Buffy than innocent nice guys Riley and Xander. Felicity never felt for lovely Noel what she felt for irresponsible Ben, there are very few Veronica Mars fans who prefer Duncan to Logan and there’s a reason those guys who broke out of Fox River have such a following.
But then again, on the other side of the coin, geeky sweet Seth Cohen ended The OC by marrying the hottest girl in school while his tortured and tough best friend’s love stories shone much less brightly. By the end of Popular, principled Harrison had both Brooke and Sam fighting over him. How I Met Your Mother’s awkward Marshall and sappy Ted attract a quality of woman out of the reach of their womanizing friend Barney. Kind and supportive Jim won Pam from her rough-around-the-edges fiancee Roy on The Office, Ugly Betty loved nerdy and sincere Henry far more than sarcastic and suave Gio and all 3 of those sweet and silly FRIENDS guys did pretty well.
So I suppose the jury’s still out. Maybe the distinction isn’t even a fair one; after all, while McSteamy set his friend’s broken nose, George was completely ignoring his friend’s feelings and while Ted was flinging himself at the wrong girl, Barney was honest to God falling for the perfect one. Personally, I think the true winner of this epic duel will be revealed when Kate FINALLY chooses: Jack or Sawyer.