He loves her, she loves him, he loves her
This is a tired and clichéd trope, for sure, but it’s also an extremely reliable way to create tension among a show’s characters. Any drama that has any sort of teenager presence will inevitably invoke the love triangle. It can get wearying watching one character toggle back and forth between two love interests, but it also gives us something to root for.
It’s our human nature to pick a side, and the love triangle gives us an opportunity to pick a favorite and hate the other person for their existence. The entire ‘shipping phenomenon centers on the concept of hoping two characters get together to the exclusion of another. We love love, and we don’t like it when anybody interferes with it.
Although love triangles totally exist in real life, I don’t think we devote as much drama to them as we see on TV. My attention span is so short, I just don’t think I have the bandwidth it takes to sustain a three-way love connection. Plus it seems like it would so emotionally exhausting – all the let down and disappointment. I get enough of that from my regular life. Why would I want to invite more of this type of shenanigans into my already complicated love life?
No matter how clichéd this trope is, it’s never, ever going away. There will probably never be a time in our shared TV experiences where people begin a relationship and are presented with the gift of absolutely no interference, whatsoever. But who would even want that, anyway?
Examples: The Vampire Diaries, Beverly Hills, 90201, True Blood, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer