Welcome to “What’s Good,” where we break down what’s soothing, distracting, or just plain good in the streaming world.
What’s Good? Kissing. On television and in movies. Between two people. On the mouth. With intensity, passion and consent. That’s it. That’s all I want. Is that too much to ask for? Just in time for Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to take a slight detour from our usual What’s Good format and focus on the good — and the bad — of onscreen makeouts. Not only is good kissing hard to find on TV these days, the shows that are known for hot romance are a) overwhelmingly white (save for Bridgerton), b) don’t have enough kissing and c) still mostly lacking good, quality, NOW-THAT’S-A-KISS kisses.
The Good Kissers: I want to be clear here that this extremely serious piece of pop culture analysis is not about love scenes. That’s a whole other discussion. This is about a good ol’ fashioned kiss — preferably between two pairs of lips and after multiple scenes or episodes, if not seasons, of sexual tension. There is nothing better than a built-up, bone-tingling kiss between characters who are meant-to-be and have finally gotten their shit together long enough to lock lips. Some hall-of-fame examples: Olivia and Fitz in that blind spot in the oval office on Scandal, Nick and Jess’s first (and steamiest) kiss in the hallway on New Girl, Jane and Rafael in front of a white bench with literal rose petals falling from the sky on Jane The Virgin, pretty much any time Dwayne Wayne and Whitley kiss on A Different World and a honourable mention to The Good Wife’s elevator scene with Will and Alicia that lives in my head rent free. All of these shows delivered good — no, great — kiss scenes but none of them are still airing, so we are left looking to the current TV landscape to fill the horny hole in our hearts.
I took an informal Twitter poll asking which shows on TV have the best kissing and some of the responses I got were Outlander, Normal People, Emily In Paris and of course, Bridgerton. These are mostly solid answers. The first two (Outlander, Normal People) have the market cornered on aroused Celtic white people and are not lacking in good, long (the length of a kiss is also very important), intense makeout scenes. The final two (Emily In Paris, Bridgerton) may include lots of kissing, but it’s mostly quantity over quality. Both are missing one key ingredient for a good onscreen kiss: chemistry. Smushing together the faces of two extremely attractive people does not necessarily make for a good kiss — no matter how stupidly fine Lucas Bravo is. That’s why Amazon’s Sylvie’s Love (if I’m being honest, I’d watch two hours of Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha making out) and Netflix’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before franchise (crazy how Lana Condor and Noah Centineo invented chemistry) are among my picks for the best onscreen kisses in recent memory. Also, they get extra points for not saving their kisses until the end of the movie for no good reason (see: every corny Christmas rom-com and the first two High School Musicals).
On television, it’s harder to find scintillating smooches, specifically between people of color or non-straight people. I’m always yelling about how we need more Black love stories on screen so if you’re looking for hot kisses between hot Black people, Joelle and Reggie on Dear White People do it for me every time, DWP’s Lionel and and Michael also come through with some good makeouts and even though Insecure’s Lawrence is mostly a wasteman, he and Issa are oozing with chemistry — I’m still team Daniel though (those Season 1 and 2 kisses are undefeated). I’m also all about the Spencer/Olivia/Layla love triangle on All American. And for some kissing that will turn you on as much as it will make you tear up, look no further than Ralph Angel and Darla on Queen Sugar.
Now, I’m not saying that Black people are just better kissers (please note that the first Black Bachelor Matt James and his eyes-open weird ass technique is not the representation we signed up for), but I am saying that our luscious lips give us an edge over the competition. Case in point: shout out to a great kisser and no-lipped king Ben Covington from Felicity, but Tracy and Elena were the best kissers on that show, hands down. Yes, most of my best kiss references are from the early 2000s. In that spirit, I have to give Grey’s Anatomy its props for not only giving us some of TV’s greatest kisses (Meredith and Derek after the fake prom in an exam room, Cristina and Burke’s first kiss in an oncall room) but for also delivering plenty of kisses where Black women (Bailey and Maggie) are loved on properly.
Was It Good For You, Too? One of my favourite kisses in television history is from Dawson’s Creek when Pacey kisses Joey for the second time and counts to 10. After Joey launches into an unexpected speech about how lying next to Pacey made her feel alive, he says, “You can’t say something like that and expect me not to kiss you, so that’s exactly what I’m gonna do... in about 10 seconds” giving her ample time to refuse. As a pre-teen, this was about the sexiest scene I had ever seen. Who says consent isn’t sexy? Some other very good kisses that are also a lesson in the allure of mutual attraction and agreement: when Ashley Banks first sweetly kisses that kid who wanted to blow in her ear on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air — hey, at least he asked first — and on Euphoria when Rue suddenly kisses Jules and then immediately apologizes. It’s not the pair’s best kiss, but the tentative first attempt lays the groundwork for some beautiful moments in future episodes. I also have to give a nod to Nadia and Guzman’s first kiss on Netflix’s Spanish teen series Elite: she goes in for the kiss first and he hesitates, searching for a nonverbal confirmation that she’s sure. It then turns into an electrifying kiss that is so good, Guzman smiles partway through and the duo forgets they are in a room full of people. Um, I just revisited that scene and I’m going to need a moment to recover.
Bottom line: good kissing makes every show better and if you, like me, are constantly yelling at your television, JUST KISS ALREADY! or if you’re just looking to add some spice to your viewing experience, choose any of the aforementioned good kissers. Plus, now that the future of onscreen kissing is in question as Hollywood adjusts to COVID protocols, we gotta take all the kisses where we can get them.
Things That Are Also Good:
• The bittersweet ending of the To All The Boys franchise, To All The Boys: Always And Forever, is so good that I’m crying right now just thinking about it. And yes, there is so much great kissing.
• Somehow, I fell down a Superstore binge hole and I swear if Jonah and Amy don’t kiss soon, I’m… probably just going to keep watching until they do.
• You know what would be more satisfying than watching two will-they-or-won’t-they characters finally make out? Defunding the police.