The New York Times has an article today about the trend of new television shows to portray marriage in a rather dim light. After reading it, I’m almost tempted to turn on the TV. I’m not a TV snob; I just don’t watch it often. I’ve never seen an episode of ER, pre-or-post George. The Tribe has not spoken to me. Ever since Katie Couric left the Today Show I stopped watching, which used to be a tea-and-toast indulgence before I left for work. Sometimes I’ll catch a home improvement thing on BBC America. Last year I was addicted to Bravo’s Project Runway and thought Santino should have won even if he was abrasive…and they made a dress out of plants…how cool was that? But I’m too antsy to sit still. Now, mind you, I can lie down on a bed with a book for days.

But getting back to the article. The author Alessandra Stanley cites Scott Baio is Single…and 45, Mad Men, Californication and Tell Me You Love Me as being particularly gimlet-eyed when it comes to commitment, marriage and sex. And the latter is the problem—TV shows seem to indicate if you’re married, you’re not getting any. This is an old construct, from the twin beds of Ricky and Lucy to sad-sack Raymond begging Debra. They all must have had sex at some point though; there’s Little Ricky and the three baby Barones running around. But kids are big lust-killers. As a character from one of the above shows says, buying Cheerios isn’t hot.

There’s a reason romance novels end when they do. Real life tends to be less glossy, more messy. Alpha heroes may morph into Betas, or even Psi-chos. It’s hard to be insouciant when you’re scrubbing the toilet and wondering what to defrost. Partnership in real life requires constant compromise and balance, particularly for women. We’re expected to be domestic and dynamic in our jobs. Dirty in bed. Guys feel the pressure too.

Here’s Ms. Stanley’s chipper closing paragraph:

You’re born alone and die alone. Framed by silence, secrets and solitude, these modern relationships suggest you also love alone. It’s depressing to look too closely at the inner workings of any marriage. Viewers are advised to keep in mind that wedlock is a little like Churchill’s definition of democracy: an institution that is the worst, except for all the others.

Who are your favorite TV, book or movie married couples? Please tell me there actually is a Happily Ever After!