Arts & EntertainmentThe EnvelopeTelevision

Prime-time couples turn up the heat

Primetime Emmy AwardsNashville (tv program)

"Justified" couple Boyd and Ava Crowder, "Parks and Recreation's" Andy and April and "Nashville's" Scarlett and Gunnar share distinctive kinds of chemistry.

Emmys 2013

Prime-time couples turn up the heat

Actors Walton Goggins and Joelle Carter from the FX TV series "Justified." (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

'Justified' couple Boyd and Ava Crowder, 'Parks and Recreation's' Andy and April and 'Nashville's' Scarlett and Gunnar share distinctive kinds of chemistry.

By Glenn Whipp

May 16, 2013

You think you have relationship problems? Try keeping a romance going in the face of a potential mob hit or music business career pressures or perpetual arrested development. These three supporting TV couples steal our hearts — and their scenes — every moment they're on the screen. Ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no valley low enough, ain't no river ... well, enough with the geography. Here's how they keep the love fires burning.

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Boyd and Ava Crowder | 'Justified'

"Justified's" Kentucky criminal charmers Boyd and Ava Crowder share the same surname, but that's only because Ava was briefly married to Boyd's abusive brother — before she killed him off-screen in the show's 2010 pilot episode.

Goggins and Carter portray a complicated couple in the FX drama. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Murdering a man's kin might not typically be the quickest way to his heart, but midway through the FX series' current, richly satisfying run of episodes, Boyd (Walton Goggins) was bending down on one knee, offering Ava (Joelle Carter) a diamond ring and professing his love over a box of cash.

"He's telling her they're not like other people, and it's true," Goggins says of the complicated couple. "They're both products of violent backgrounds who have rarely, if ever, been touched in their lives. For them to find each other, someone to nurture them, to listen to them, has given them license to believe that anything is possible."

Boyd and Ava's aspirations in "Justified's" fourth season run counter to their humble Harlan County roots, which further bind them but might also prove to be their tragic undoing, given that their means of achieving the American dream involve drug dealing and running a whorehouse.

But for a few minutes in the season's ninth episode, while touring a beautiful "storybook" Clover Hill estate with a real estate agent who thinks they might be better served looking at a starter home that's a "little further down the hill," Boyd and Ava glimpsed what their lives might look like if their dreams came true.

"Seeing them in that house, for a moment everything was right with the world, and you could grab onto the possibility of happiness," Carter says. "You could picture them pulling into that long driveway in Boyd's truck."

Adds Goggins: "Upward mobility had never crossed Boyd's mind before he met Ava. Unfortunately, having each other isn't enough. They want to break through this economic and social glass ceiling. Seeing the consequences [of their unsavory dealings] ... well, it broke my heart."

Andy and April | 'Parks and Recreation'

No one working on NBC's "Parks and Recreation" would have romantically paired Chris Pratt's lovable doofus goofball Andy Dwyer with Aubrey Plaza's disinterested hipster April Ludgate when the comedy began five seasons ago.

So Plaza took it upon herself at the end of the first year to give the writers a little nudge, adding a line to a group scene that indicated — with as much enthusiasm as April allows herself — that the young intern was willing to stop rolling her eyes long enough to focus her gaze on Andy.

Actors Aubrey Plaza, left and Chris Pratt, from NBC's "Parks and Recreation" (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

"I take full credit," Plaza says in a flat tone, sitting with Pratt near her character's desk on the "Parks and Rec" set. "I willed it to happen."

That one line of improv ("I totally get you") led to a second-season episode that put Andy and April alone in the office exchanging spit (takes) and before too long, the characters were throwing a "fancy party" and impetuously marrying in front of their friends and co-workers.

"They do things without any thought, and it works for them, which is not the way it works in the real world, you know," Pratt says, laughing. "I'd say that's part of their appeal."

Chemistry counts too, with Pratt's puppy-dog enthusiasm and Plaza's deadpan cynicism giving the couple a distinct dynamic that, again, probably wouldn't survive the harsh light of day but works wonders for the show's comic energy.

"With them, love is the most important thing," Plaza says, "and as long as they love each other, it doesn't matter if they live in their friends' basement."

"Yeah, that's it!" Pratt adds. "Keep the expectations low and that equals happiness all the time! Just set the bar low and live life with a big smile on your face."

"And make all your decisions based on how hilarious it would be if you did it," Plaza says, finishing the thought. "'How funny would it be if we just got married?' OK. Done. Next?"

Scarlett and Gunnar | 'Nashville'

Clare Bowen, left, and Sam Palladio in "Nashville." (ABC)

"Nashville's" songwriting partners began the series attached to others, but the sensitive Gunnar (Sam Palladio) had it bad for Scarlett (Clare Bowen) from the get-go. So it wasn't really a question of "if" but "when" for these two, though Scarlett's timing in sealing the deal raised a few eyebrows.

"I think a lot of viewers were like 'whoa!' when they first sleep together," says Palladio, who plays the courtly cowboy. "Like, 'What's she thinking? His brother's dead. He's just come back from the morgue. And this is when you're going to make your move?'

"But sometimes you find yourself making some bold choices when life throws you a curveball," Palladio continues. "Moments of passion happen at unlikely times."

Compared with the slick, two-timing Avery (Jonathan Jackson), Scarlett's ex, Gunnar is a model boyfriend. He supports her career — even if it means going solo — and stands as Scarlett's biggest cheerleader.

"That's a big part of what real love is, really wanting what's best for somebody," Bowen says. "It probably helps too that they were friends from the beginning."

But since the music business isn't known for producing stable relationships (Fleetwood Mac, anybody?), it'd probably be wise to wait on opening a wedding registry for these two.

"No, the track record isn't good," Palladio says, laughing. "Creative clashes and romance is usually a recipe for disaster. But the connection is there. I'd like to think they could make it — at least for another season."

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